It seemed like a good idea at the time

Home sweet money pit

Adam and I bought our house in December of 2007. It had been on the market for over 100 days, and come down about $100k in price. (I know this seems impossible today, but the house earned it’s lower price with 100% weird drop ceilings, cheap wood paneling and even shag carpets – plus the attractive pink color we all know and love so well. But it is a great house with a great layout in a great neighborhood with great “bones” so we figured we could live with (and eventually fix) the paneling/drop ceiling/shag carpet issues.

Drop ceiling, wood paneling

During our initial home inspection we were told to keep our eye out on a few things. The cast iron sewer pipe had to be replaced immediately. (They did that before we moved in. It literally shattered into pieces with one blow of a hammer. Thank goodness it wasn’t in use!) The roof probably only had 10 years in it. (We replaced the roof about 8 years ago.) And the wood surrounding the windows was rotten, and needed to be replaced before water got into the walls and made a serious issue of damage and mold.

Our house has, depending on the way you count, 36 windows. We replaced six of them with new construction Anderson windows when we did the attic project and brought that area down to studs. Several of those are on the porch, which is an entirely separate construction mechanism and disaster (and is a 3 season area, so not as critical). That leaves us with 25 crappy windows to attend to. They’re so bad that several of them cannot even be closed all the way.

The familiar face of the living room

After we finished the attic project, Adam and I agreed that our next major project would be the windows. There would be no other projects permitted to take precedence. (Well, we finished the floors and Adam is working on bookcases, but those were smaller in scope.) Then this summer, I got enough free time for a few weeks to actually tackle my gigantic backlog of things that need to be done. (So big.) And on that list was “find a contractor for the windows”. So I called up the guy who did the attic project, and lo and behold he was available in a few weeks and his quote was exactly what I was expecting, and I know his quality and reliability. So we paid the first third, ordered the windows and congratulated ourselves on taking care of this albatross hanging around our neck for a decade. While we were at it, we figured we’d also take care of the living room. It was in desperate need of love, with the worst of the drop ceilings and the cheapest of the off-white wood paneling. Plus insufficient outlets for a 21st century family. It’s an annoying project, but not a big one for a contractor to add onto existing work.

So much space!

The reality really started hitting the weekend we needed to completely clear out the living room. I don’t know about you, but I’m not what you would call a minimalist. My house doesn’t exactly have room to easily host all the furniture from another room, especially not stuff like the couch. So we crammed coffee tables in corners, pretended passageways were walls for the entertainment set, and decided that our couch was ready to be someone else’s basement crash couch (it’s very comfy, but also very badly faded at this point). The rest of house felt full to bursting as the dining room echoed strangely.

Wow, that wall paper!

Suddenly I realized – Adam couldn’t work in the dining room while they were doing demo on the living room. At least temporarily, he needed to move to the attic. And then the reality started really crashing down on me: every room in the house would be disrupted for this project, sequentially. We might have two rooms out at the same time. (Right now both the living room and the dining room are unusable.) During a pandemic. As the good weather begins to turn to unreliable weather. With midday really noisy sections. While EVERYONE IS HOME ALL THE TIME. AND WE CAN’T GO ANYWHERE ELSE.

Even our outdoor space is messed up


Anyway, I’ll be glad when this project is over. (Anyone want to take bets on when that will be? It was supposed to be a 4 – 6 week project, and it started September 15thish. I’m thinking it’s done by Thanksgiving….)

My mom has been on my case about not providing an album with updates, so I’ve attached a link to the album below. I recommend you enjoy the pictures like “cat in a dusty room alone” and “view of porta-potty from dining room” or “what we found in the walls this time”.

Putting down and picking up

I’m finishing some major bodies of work in my life this week. Today is my first day at a new role within my company. It’s a big change – new team, new office building, new industry. I’ve been working towards it for quite a while, and I’m very excited. I spent quite a bit of time doing *both* jobs (which makes you feel like you’re doing neither job well) so the concept of doing just one job has me slightly giddy.

Also, it’s my first day on the new job and I’m currently on a plane heading to a meeting in California. So I think it’s gonna keep me busy.

This weekend also marks the completion of another great task I’ve undertaken. We will be installing our new pastor. (You’re invited by the way. Wear red.) As you have likely heard me complain, I’ve been running the “next step in hiring a new pastor” process for well over two years now. It’s going to be a wonderful thing to get to switch from thinking about what work God wants us to do, to doing the work God wants us to do. It’s going to be a fantastic celebration.

People have been asking me, “So what are you going to do with your free time?”

AHAHAHAHAHAH! You’re so funny, people!

You see, I’ve been pushing off all the things that could be pushed off for quite some time now. But not all things that are pushed off can be ignored indefinitely. At some point you have to actually do some of them. And a few of them are feeling quite urgent now, while others just finally got to the top of the pile.

Chief among the new things I’m starting is – finally – our long-delayed attic project. The money has been saved. The plans have been drawn. The toilet selected. The tile agonized over. The contractor picked. The dumpster arrives next week. Which means that the attic needs to be empty like the week after. Empty empty. And maybe the vast linen closet too, with its mysterious Narnia-like depths. I never thought I was a hoarder, but attempting to clean out my attic is making me think I might have slight hoarder-like tendencies. I’m counting on the strength of last-minute-panic to help me get through it all in the one the day before we have the installation service for our new pastor. Right after I land from my California trip. And rehearse the installation music.

I’m dead meat. I know I’ll make it because I always make it. I’m just not 100% sure how.

These days are just packed!

I’ve tended autobiographical over philosophical lately – my apologies if you prefer the deep posts. I’m still having deep thoughts, but a lot of them are about work. Many others are about church, and are still… unformed and not ready for sharing. That leaves us with summer, kids and home renovation.

The big news of the week was that we have absolutely 0 insulation in our dining room. One of the first things we did when we bought this house was to hire some people to come in and blow in insulation in our hundred year old walls. They carefully peeled up the aluminum siding (you can still see where – it’s like crumpling paper in that you can never quite make it look like it did), drilled holes in the wood and blew in some insulation. They talked about how we must’ve had nothing in our walls, because they put in way more insulation than they expected.

Welp. I don’t know whether somehow they overlooked the dining room – which has been one of the coldest rooms in our house despite its interior position – or if they were complete fraudy fraudsters, but Adam peeled back one of the lathes in the exterior wall to fix something on a window, and noticed a complete lack of insulation.

The wall, looking down. Those are Adam's fingers.
The wall, looking down. Those are Adam’s fingers.

We debated what to do next: literally plaster over the problem, or do a full demo of the exterior walls. I was all for being an ostrich, but Adam knew this would haunt him forever and so proceeded to demo the walls so we could reinsulate. Or, you know, insulate for the first time.

Fun fact! Drilling holes and adding no insulation does not make the room warmer.
Fun fact! Drilling holes in the wall and adding no insulation does not make the room warmer.

It set us back a week and about $200, but now that room had better be the coziest in the entire house. It’s been caulked and insulated and vapor barriered and dry walled. About an hour ago, Adam and I moved all the leftover drywall, off cuts and insulation to the attic – which is the location of our likely next project. (It was a lot. Also, heavy.)

Very artistic effect.
Very artistic effect.

Now we’re on to the next phase of the project: taping & mudding. (Followed by sanding, sanding and sanding. Also sanding. There are quite a few flaws that have to be addressed.)

While Adam was doing all that, I sometimes helped him when he needed an extra body, but mostly have been doing everything in the house that is not wall-related. On Saturday, I took our two boys plus two boys from the home across the street that is also undergoing extensive renovations (honestly, it’s because our neighborhood is such an amazing place to live that we’d all rather pour money and effort into the houses we have than upgrade to new ones) to Boston to play in a great park. I was thinking how even a year ago, I wouldn’t have dared to go solo with four kids on the T. But these ages – two 6 year olds and two 9 year olds – are so awesome! We had a blast.

The Charles River
The Charles River

It was such a perfect and glorious late August day. The temperature was perfect. The humidity was perfect. The kids were perfect. And the college students had not quite yet descended on the city. We dined that night – outside in the perfect weather – with a good friend who had taken pity on the dining-roomless in the neighborhood.

Other things that happened this weekend included a massive farm share. (I forgot all the melons – and my Farmer Dave bag! – at the pickup. I’m kind of wondering if it was Freudian because what do you do with that many melons?) A bajillion loads of dishes. Most of the laundry. I went shopping for foundationals and ended up with a really cool wizard bathrobe in that super soft material they make things out of this day that feels so great it must cause cancer. A tour of my office (my kids wanted to show off for their friends). Another good friend taking the boys to help prevent video-game related brain-rot. We wrapped it all up with a trip to the beach, where the waves were absolutely amazing and the temperature of both water and air were perfect and they took down the parking cost sign just as we pulled up. I forgot my camera and took no pictures I can share, but here’s one I hope I can engrave in my heart.

Thane is still a little wee for enjoying boogie boarding as much as the rest of us, so he worked for a while on a sand castle, but then got entranced by looking for shells. Good Harbor beach has very few, but what few there were he found. I watched him search, my feet digging into the sandy shore. Just off in the breakers, Adam and Grey were catching wave after wave together, and sharing delighted grins as they fought the waters to get back into position to ride once more. But Thane. He does not walk, that child. He does not run. He dances. He prances. He skips and hops. I watched him move along the shore, eyes sharp for the glint of a buried treasure. He’s stoop to pick it up and then swirl around. He’d sway back and forth as he wandered up the strand. Once his hands were full enough, he’d run back to me. He’d just hit full stride, a satisfied smile on his face from his discovery, when he’d come to a full stop – having spotted something. He’d bend carefully down to pick it up. (Then bend down again to pick up what he dropped the first time he bent down to pick up item A.) Then, treasures obtained, he’d skip across the sand to me, until the next treasure caught his eye in a few paces.

It was so joyful – every movement of his body expressing delight and satisfaction. It was so very Thane. Someday he’ll learn to walk instead of hop, and that day will be a sad one for me.

No greater treasure
No greater treasure

I added more pictures to the renovation album!.

We cannot get out

Gee, what shall I talk about? Sports I care about are all in a hiatus. I haven’t taken any great hikes lately (for some reason) nor gone on any crazy road trips (for some reason). All I’ve done – in living memory it seems – has been to be at home.

Spotted on my walk to the post office today - Do you see the car?
Spotted on my walk to the post office today – Do you see the car?

I was not designed to stay at home, folks. I think we’re ALL happy that I’m a 21st century woman with major scope for my energy outside these four walls.

But home I’ve been, with my patient husband and two sons. For the first weekend snowstorm, we reveled in the low expectations of a “State of Emergency” blizzard. The second and third snowstorms were lost epic Minecraft marathons. By the time the fourth blizzard came, I needed a better plan. It was time… to improve.

I’m sure your home is perfect in every way – a flawless execution of your design vision, taste, and perfectly fitting antiques picked up on a whim at a charming roadside store on your last drive up the Maine seacoast. MY home is a 120 year old pink colonial whose last major design upgrade came in the ’70s, when the prior owner installed (bad) panelling and (ugly, non-matching) drop ceilings in every room. It’s the kind of house where when you peel up the beige carpet, you find gold sparkly linoleum. (True story.) Although Adam and I have put thousands of dollars into the house, almost all of it has gone into glamorous things like electrical upgrades, a new roof and blown in insulation. (We do know how to live the high life!) We still have the paneling, but at least it’s painted white now? And the drop ceilings? Well. You learn to live with things.

But some of the rooms don’t require a major capital investment to look massively better. They just require attention and work. You know, time. And focus. Those rarest of commodities. (It’s hard to have time and focus during a Minecraft marathon!)

The "before" - I swear I didn't make this look worse for comparison purposes. It really usually looked this way.
The “before” – I swear I didn’t make this look worse for comparison purposes. It really usually looked this way.

Saturday morning, I was barely recovered from my 16 straight hours of sleeping post GI bug. The flakes were scheduled to start their blizzarding in the afternoon, and I knew they’d lock us in place for several days. Everything that had previously been going on that weekend was cancelled. But in my convalescent state, I knew I had 4 or 5 hours in which to do whatever was going to be done outside the home for the weekend.

It was time for … IKEA.

Traffic was light. We got there fast. We checked the boys into Smaland, carefully checking the height. (I swear it was just yesterday I checked to see if they were BIG ENOUGH YET and now Grey is almost TOO BIG. WHAT?!) We had a list, and we got the end table. We checked out the shelving units extensively, cursing my somewhat cursory measurement that morning. “Well, I measured 55″ but I’m sure 57″ will be fine…” We finally both agreed that in our heart of hearts there was one unit we wanted. We wrote down the names and numbers, reclaimed our boys, ate Ikea meatballs, and threaded the Labrynth of Cheap Goods on our way out. (Grey was hilarious. He kept exclaiming how something was so cheap he could buy it. I mean, mom! I could buy that bowl! I could use my allowance and buy that bowl!)

Two able-bodied adults were able to wrangle the flat packs into the cart, then into the car. I tossed several packages of meatballs into the car and peeled out of the parking lot just as the first flakes few.

We managed to get the core put together and the room cleaned out before Adam turned a funny shade of green and disappeared. The next morning, while I was out shoveling for two hours he was putting the drawers together. And when I came back, we had an all new mud room. (*BING*)

The "After" - we do have drawers for that last spot, but that's where the outlet is! I didn't measure that part.
The “After” – we do have drawers for that last spot, but that’s where the outlet is! I didn’t measure that part.

But our frenzy of home improvement was not yet spent! On Monday, we each grimly took a small child into said small children’s bedrooms and asked them whether they actually wanted each and every genre of object in that room. (I mean, it turns out that 98% of my eldest son’s toys are Legos, but still). We wrested order out of the chaos that is the room of a 9 year old. We have piles of books and toys in the hallway, ready to go to new homes. There are actual open surfaces. Amazing.

There are still some things to be done (See also: massive pile of toys and books, realization that potatoes might do better in dark cupboard instead of on top of fridge). But overall our trapped tenure has at least been productive!

Grey's room cleaning was supervised by an authority figure. In a sunbeam.
Grey’s room cleaning was supervised by an authority figure. In a sunbeam.

Out with the old, in with the new!

It’s never looked so clean!

So while my mother-in-law is visiting, my husband and I are doing our standard “we-have-help” move and doing some home improvement. And by “we” I mean “him”. Namely, we’re going to turn our front porch (aka junk-dropping-zone) into a livable, usable three-season space with a high-bar and stools. Previously, the porch was no good for, you know, sitting on, since any time you sat on it you couldn’t see outside the windows. Not useful. Not porchlike. So instead, sleds, snow-shoes, bubble-stuff and bags of clothes to donate bred there in unholy admixtures. It was never a good introduction to the house.

I’m thrilled with the change my husband is so laboriously working on!

However, in the cleaning up phase of porch-life, I’m sending some things to consignment/Craigslist, and I thought I’d give you first dibs. Please let me know if you would like any of these.

A hand-crafted, vintage maple bench, circa WWII (no maker’s mark). It is 59″ high, 54″ wide and 22.5″ deep. This was purchased at a Warwick RI antique store in 1996. $300 (You will need to help me with travel logistics!) It looks like this was a converted head-board.

2 side tables, solid wood. ($30)

4 hand-painted Arabic-design wood folding chairs from Al Khobar in Saudi Arabia, bought roughly 1980. Completely unique. ($100)

Feel free to share if you think the links would be of interest to any of your friends!

OK, ok, so the paint color wasn’t what I was hoping it would be

My mother-in-law just left after a ten day visit. The usual thing for me to tell you about now would be which room got renovated/painted/completely redone/stripped to the studs. In past visits, we’ve redone the bathroom, repainted several rooms, removed the carpeting in the entryway, painted the basement floor, added a psuedo closet to my bedroom, and indubitably a few other home improvements I’ve forgotten about. In fact, this might be just about the first trip she’s made here where nothing has gotten painted.

I took this picture from the couch while playing Fable III because I was too lazy to stand up and get a real picture.
I took this picture from the couch while playing Fable III because I was too lazy to stand up and get a real picture.

We did, however, buy new curtains, a new bookshelf (as yet unassembled), throw pillows, remove the living room carpet, and make plans for the complete annexation of the living room and dining room walls. Also, I have been excoriated on the color in the living room which my husband TOLD me wouldn’t work and doesn’t work. I was going for restful green and got off-puce. Ah well.

In other thrilling news, my generation of appliances is failing. My theory is this… you build a new house and you buy all new appliances. All your appliances last a multiple of ten years. Washer and dryer: 10 years. Oven: 20 year. Furnace: 40 years. Etc. You can tell which multiple by finding the 10 year increment after the warranty runs out for. Example: if you have a 10 year warranty, your appliance will likely last 10 years and 2 days. That means that, for the most part, you have 10 years of appliance peace and happiness. Then, in a 3 month period, the majority of your appliances will fail. Here’s a rundown on my appliance health as of three weeks ago:

Hot water heater: bought last year with 11 year warranty to try to outsmart 10 year issue
Fridge: too small, light broken, need to replace load bearing wall to upgrade
Oven: beeps and flashes F10 error message after it is turned off
Washing machine: would not agitate unless you thump on the lid after it fills up – declines to spin
Dryer: Not bad
Standup freezer: ancient and running perfectly, thanks
Dishwasher: older than me and does not actually clean dishes. Effective for spreading grease evenly between glasses.
Furnace: lalalal! I can’t hear you! I’m sure it will be fine for another 30 years! (Thanks, not going to worry about it. I spend all my time worrying about the roof instead.)

Anyway, I finally hit the boiling point with greasy dishes and soggy clothes. I spent one weekend researching and buying, and my husband spent the next weekend installing.

They can stack too!
They can stack too!

I bought a new washing machine, dryer, and dishwasher. I do wonder if I should have bought the dryer, but it seemed foolhardy to buy just the new washing machine and leave the old dryer. So far I’m pleased. Actually, of the three I’m least pleased with the dryer, which I feel does an inadequate job of, you know, drying. And also does not have an “earshattering” setting for the buzzer, which is convenient when you’re a floor away. Also, I had to buy completely and 100% new soap for all of them, since they are clearly too good, to modern and too important to use my old, lousy soap. So there.

Adam saving us $150 by plumbing the dishwasher himself. Also: increasing Grey's vocabulary with some key phrases.
Adam saving us $150 by plumbing the dishwasher himself. Also: increasing Grey's vocabulary with some key phrases.

The dishes are done. The laundry is done. The shopping is done. The boys rooms are clean. I can finally relax! And it’s only 9:45 on a Sunday – that’s early for relax time! I might actually, you know, read a book!

This thesis-less post brought to you by the day “Sunday”, Ikea, and the appliance department at Best Buy.