Tag Archives: house

More progress and random news

The living room’s mostly done.  There’s new paint on the ceiling and all four walls, our furniture is mostly in, it just needs some smaller accessories and art on the walls.  Frank and his dad pulled out more shrub stumps from the crazy-overgrown junk from in front of our house and I planted a zebra grass in one spot and about 60 tulip and daffodil bulbs.

Over our kitchen sink there used to be a light fixture.  At some point in the distant past, the previous owners decided they didn’t want it, or need it, and took it out, taped up the wire ends, and duct-taped the light box.  The switch remained in the wall, and much to my delight, when I installed a mini-pendant lamp there with a funky red shade, it all worked!  Yes, you’ve heard it here first — I’ve moved on from dimmer switches to entire light fixtures.

I discovered at Lowe’s today that they sell special conversion kits for recessed lights wherein you can change them into mini-pendants without any rewiring.  I am intrigued by this, as our master bath’s main lighting is two recessed lights (the previous owners were obsessed with recessed lights…. there are no fewer than 29 recessed lights throughout the house, just counting off the top of my head.  No, 30.  I forgot one in the kitchen.)  I am generally not against recessed lights as a rule, but in a bathroom, as your main lighting, they are not entirely flattering.  I would love to do sconces at each side of the medicine cabinet, but with floor-to-ceiling tile in that bathroom the effort would not be a simple one.  So, making the two recessed lights into pendant lights could make the light in there much more useful for things like makeup application (because I do that OH so often…. ).  The position of the recessed lights would make so the pendant lights would hang just to each side of the medicine cabinet — it could work.  I must measure.

We’ve come up with another potential fix to make the kitchen more tolerable — replace all the beat-up, warped, and broken hinges and drawer sliders so that the cabinets actually work, install some pull-out shelving in the lower cabinets, and a blind corner shelving thing for the crap corner cabinets that I hate.  And replace the cooktop because I loathe it with the fire of a thousand suns.  I’ll still have to look at beige, beige and more beige for the next few years, but at least I will be able to open a drawer without starting to speak in tongues.

34 recessed lights.  I forgot about the three over the tubs & shower stall, and another one in the downstairs bathroom.

So — random news.  My brother may be moving down here.  Yay!  And to ease the transition and save him some money and whatnot, he’ll probably live with us for at least a couple months.  He’s strongly considering going back to school for graphic or media design or something like that, and wants to do that in NYC, which isn’t far from us.

Also, my friend Amanda is still pregnant.  However, that situation is supposed to change any day now.  I’m so excited for her and her husband!  And I am going to visit them after the arrival and will play postpartum doula for a couple days to just generally make their lives easier and as uncomplicated as possible while I’m there.

The in-laws left today for a month in the Czech Republic.  And now I must end this post, because writing that made me remember that I promised my mother in-law I would email their rental car company to let them know that their first flight was delayed and they were going to miss their connecting flight from Amsterdam.  Good night!!

Home, glorious home

We are moved in.

Surprisingly, trumpets did not blare when it occurred.  It felt like they should have.

It was just such a long process to get to this point, and we’re so far from being settled in, even though we’re technically habitating here now.  (Is habitating a real word?  It seems like it should be.)

Our bedrooms are mostly put together, save a couple stray boxes and no artwork on the walls yet.  Lane’s room has a full wall of tackboard that I want to cover with fabric, but right now it’s just tackboard and isn’t very attractive.  Jake’s room is more of a playroom since his crib is in our bedroom for the time being.

The kitchen… ahh it is the bane of my existence right now.  I hate it.  I don’t even feel like hate is a strong enough word.  The cabinets were refaced in about 1984, so they have that oh-so-chic beige formica look to them.  I am sure at one point it looked quite stylish.  They are cabinets and drawers without handles, and thus have a clicky mechanism where you push on the drawer or cabinet to open or close it.  Not so horrible, in and of itself, but add in that half the clicky mechanisms are broken, the hinges on half the doors are busted so they don’t hang straight, and that my ‘habit’ of resting myself against a kitchen cabinet subsequently opens a cabinet (because of course I choose to rest against a non-broken clicky mechanism door) and this kitchen drives me batty.  And take note — I said that the kitchen was refaced.  The original wood cabinetry is still behind all that glorious formica.  Since this house was built in the early 50s you’d assume that there would be some pretty good craftsmanship in that original cabinetry, but then you’d be making an ass of you and me.  It’s shit, to put it bluntly.  Drawers stapled together, not dovetailed.  The drawers, for whatever havoc time has wreaked upon them, simply do not slide without brute force.  And the corner cabinets are those lame cabinets where you have to practically crawl into them to access any of the contents, vs. being lazy-susan-ified.  So I hate the kitchen.

Problem is, we don’t really have it in the budget to do a refurb like we’d REALLY like to do a refurb.  When we bought the house we sort of planned that a new kitchen would happen in the 5-7 year time frame.  But that was before I discovered the kitchen is complete shit, where the only redeeming quality is the nice dishwasher and the presence of a working garbage disposal. We do, though, maybe have a plan.  We’re thinking maybe we replace JUST the beige formica cabinets right now… keep the beige formica countertop and the beige tile floor (notice a theme?), and get us some stock cabinets (maybe IKEA?) to tide us over for a few years, until we’ve saved up the bones to really pimp out the kitchen.  And maybe by doing so the full kitchen remodel gets pushed to the 7-8 year time frame.  We’ll see.

And beyond the kitchen, there’s the hot water issue.  Mainly, that when you turn on a cold water tap anywhere in the house, you get hot water for about a minute before you get cold water.  Well, first you get sort of lukewarm water, then hot water, then finally cold water.  Google has helped me diagnose the problem as a backflow issue from the hot water heater.  Apparently, situations can happen where turning on the cold water will reduce the pressure in the cold water line, and thus, as physics would have it, hot water will come up the pipe that feeds the hot water heater, and get hot water into your cold water system.  Google also tells me that it is something that an “anti-siphon valve” should fix, so hopefully I can find us an honest plumber who’ll fix it for what should be not too much money.

Luckily, though, when I’m about ready to pull my hair out, I take the kids and get into the acres-deep jetted bathtub in the shiny, swanky new bathroom and somehow that makes me feel a whole lot better about the house.  Now I just have to find time to do it without two kids climbing on me.  (Heh… somehow I managed to spend the last 40 minutes bitching about my kitchen though.)

Selectively embracing research

We’ve been staying with Frank’s parents for the last week and a half while we beat our own new house into shape.  It’s coming along, and I think we’re actually going to sleep there tomorrow night.  Yay!

One thing I’ve noticed about my mother in-law lately is how she only selectively believes “research”.  Mostly, if something goes against the firmly-held superstitions old wives’ tales beliefs she has, then the research is simply dismissed out of hand.  If, however, she gets junk mail that says eating cream cheese is good for your kidneys, then she would find a way to incorporate cream cheese into her next twelve meals, and insist we all eat it too.

I cannot convince her that:

Cold feet do not cause colds. She makes Jake wear slippers every minute he’s in her house, because he might walk on the tile floor in the kitchen and his feet would get cold, and then he’d get sick.  Even when it’s 80 degrees out, like today.

Sitting too close to the TV will not cause brain damage. Maybe a little temporary eye strain, but it will not give you cancer or brain damage.  She firmly suspects being too close to a TV can cause a variety of ills.

Men determine the gender of babies. She understands the basic science, I think.  But she still insists that the mother must have something to do with it, too.  Like with enough will, their cervixes can block out all Y-chromosome sperm or something?

The slippers thing is the most exasperating.  I don’t really fight her on it.  She buys the slippers for my kids, and puts them on their feet.  And it’s not like it’s detrimental for them to have warm feet.  But I never insist that the kids wear them against their will.  But she’s crazy-insistent on it sometimes.  Because, if they got a cold (assuming even for a second that having non-toasty feet is virus-inducing) it would be the Worst Thing Ever.  But then in the next breath will imply I’m overprotective because I insist the kids use car seats (even in Aruba, where they’re not even required so why would I bother?!?) and didn’t want to use the crib they saved from when Frank was a baby, with every modern crib-safety violation on the books.  These are things that could be the difference between life and death, and I’m silly.  But slippers to prevent a sniffle are requisite.  I don’t get it!

Transient

We finished moving out of our apartment today.  Frank and I packed up the swarm of little things that don’t make it into boxes at first, and then don’t make it into boxes again, and all of a sudden you’re surrounded by oodles of things that used to live on shelves and in drawers and on tables, but then the shelves and drawers and tables are gone and you are overrun.

Lane even helped this morning.  Despite my mother in-law’s desperate pleas that we leave Lane behind with her, because she’d only get in the way.  But Lane and I had a very grown-up talk where I explained that we were going there not to play, not to make a mess, but to pack the last of our things up and clean, and mostly she was cooperative and helpful.  Of course, I gave her her own bottle of (mostly diluted with water) Windex and a rag, and told her to spray stuff and clean it.  She cleaned the refrigerator, and windows, and bathroom tile, and actually left stuff cleaner than it was before she touched it, which is highly unusual.

My goal was to be done with all the packing and moving and cleaning by about 6:30 today.  And, despite two insane thunderstorms – one this morning, and one this afternoon, we only finished an hour later than planned.

Thus, we are now without a home of our own.  We are staying at Frank’s parents’ house, which, have I mentioned, is right next door to our house?  Tomorrow begins the epic voyage that is getting our new house to a point where we can comfortably reside there.  Nothing too over-ambitious: some painting, a bit of wall-to-wall carpet removal, oh, and the demolition of the bed that we discovered during the walk-through  is actually built into the master bedroom.  Like, the wall-to-wall goes right up the sides of it.  Oh, joy!

We’re in debt again. Yay!

Before closing on our house today, we had zero debt.  No credit card debt, no student loans, no car payments, no mortgage.  It felt good.

Now we have a mortgage.

But we also have a house.

This feels better.

Night off

We sort of have the night off tonight.  The kids are staying overnight at the in-laws, as we are CLOSING ON OUR HOUSE TOMORROW.  Can I get a “woo woo”?  I’m too excited for words.  Plus, my mother-in-law is a pretty considerate person when she wants to be, so she got movie tickets for Frank and me to see Mamma Mia.  I think we both probably would have preferred to see The Dark Knight, but a free movie is a free movie so I’m not complaining.  And Mamma Mia was entertaining enough.  Except Pierce Brosnan cannot sing nearly as well as the movie tried to convince you he could.

So we saw the movie, and are now enjoying a romantic evening of sitting on the couch and looking at our corresponding laptops.  Frank’s doing actual work — you know, the stuff that’s buying us that house tomorrow.  I could be doing actual work, like editing some photos I took last month to sell as stock but I apparently would rather blog about gas prices and put a blue clay mask on my face (which startled Frank quite amusingly).  We’re also watching The Daily Show/Colbert Report replays.  I do think this is my favorite hour of TV, even when Big Love is in season.

Tomorrow morning, we have to hit the bank and completely drain our savings account to pay our down payment and closing costs.  Maybe I’ll make Frank do that and I’ll go to the gym.  Then lunch with the in-laws and kids, then we’ll walk next door to our NEW HOUSE and do the walk-through, then go to the closing.  AND THEN, HAVE I MENTIONED, WE WILL BE HOMEOWNERS AGAIN?!?!

Woo woo!

Sticky

We’re on about day ten of stickiness.  Even though it hasn’t been super hot, the humidity just will not go away, and the forecast doesn’t bode well for me not sweating all over myself.  Oh well, life could be worse.

We went to see Wall-E today.  Two big thumbs up from me, and the rest of the family really liked it too.  I loved the storyline — it was really thought-provoking in terms of conservation & consumerism, and delivered a sobering message without being preachy.  It definitely reframed some of my thoughts around what I might “need”.  I’d been ruminating on that as it is, as Lane has started noticing advertising and marketing gimmicks and I’m trying to show her them for what they are.  Does she want that tube of toothpaste because she thinks it will make her teeth really clean, or because it will taste good, or is it just because it has Diego on it?  Yes, the Aqua Globes on the infomercial are cool, and yes we do have plants, but our watering can works just fine, we don’t need hand-blown glass globes to automatically deliver the perfect amount of water for up to two weeks!

In trying to help Lane see through this mental clutter, I’ve started to realize how much of it I have, and how I sometimes fail to see around the obstacles that the media has planted in my mental path.  I’ve spent a long time really digging Burberry plaid.  Why?  I do find the pattern visually appealing… but do I like it more because of the illusion of status it might convey?  Probably.  I drive a Honda Odyssey right now.  We bought it with the intention that we would take care of it and it would be driven until it simply could not be driven any more.  It boggles the mind how many times people have called that into question — do I really want to drive a car into the ground?  What if it lasts another ten years?  Do I want to be driving a 15-year-old vehicle?  Part of me does cringe at that… ugh.  But why do I cringe?  Is there anything fundamentally flawed about loyalty to a vehicle that continues to serve its purpose, that being to get me and my family and my stuff (some of which I probably don’t need anyway) from Point A to Point B and back again?  Why should any part of my brain worry about the impression someone might get because I don’t have the latest model?

We are in the process of buying a house.  This whole foray brings up a related set of values and perceptions.  Frank and I were contemplating buying a 3 bedroom ranch, and my in-laws (people who are not generally the keep-up-with-the-Joneses type) were convinced it simply could not be big enough for our family.   First of all, it was more than big enough for us.  Maybe not for all our ‘stuff’ too — but that could be rectified via a garage sale, Craigslist and Freecycle.  Regardless, my brother and I grew up in a 3 bedroom ranch that wasn’t any bigger than the house Frank and I were considering, and my childhood house was probably smaller.  Before we bought the 3 bedroom ranch, my family and I were in a 3 bedroom cape cod, which was DEFINITELY smaller than the ranch we bought when I was 13… and while it may have lacked for space (especially in the closet department) we survived.  The house we are now under contract on is definitely bigger, a 4 bedroom raised ranch with a living room and family room and roomy master suite with two closets, and a dining room and huge deck and big backyard.  We decided to buy it not because it was “more house” but mainly because it was very close to my in-laws’ house.  That it is bigger and more updated is simply a bonus (until I start thinking about the bigger mortgage that comes with it.)  Yet a part of me still feels a big oodgy when I mentally compare it to other people’s houses.  How does it compare, and how will others compare their house to mine?

This rat race, it is a hard habit to break.  And it seems so fundamentally pervasive in our culture.  It must tie somehow to some mental process, some functioning of the human psyche that served us well for survival when we all were hunting and gathering and trying to avoid saber-toothed tigers lest we become an entree.  Perhaps it helped to ensure our survival, if we always strove to collect more berries than the people in the next cave.  But it’s time to draw the proverbial line in the sand.  I’ve collected enough berries.