Sunday, August 21, 2016

A Series of Unfortunate Events

Don't get me wrong. 90 percent of our remodel project has gone fantastically. And the majority of the big work, the stuff that really matters like laying a foundation, framing, electrical work, etc., has been done flawlessly and on time.

But in all projects some rain must fall, and the last three weeks it's been pouring. And unfortunately these final "touches" have everything to do with the creature comforts of why we took on a remodel in the first place, so they are hard to ignore.

It started with our kitchen backsplash tile, which I saw installed for the first time as the tiler was putting the final piece into place. I walked in and stared in utter astonishment -- were my eyes deceiving me?

"How do you like your tile?" he said, expecting a positive response.

"It's beautiful!" I replied. "'s not the color I picked out."

"Oh, ha ha, people say that to us all the time."

"No really, I wish I were kidding. It is not the tile we picked out."

Within 30 minutes the two people who had spent an entire day tiling our entire kitchen began the work of ripping it all out before it set and took the drywall with it. I felt badly for this small business owner to literally un-do an entire day's work, not knowing if he would get paid for it or not. It hurt all of our hearts to see that gorgeous tile in a trash can, all that beautiful greenish-gray tile, when we had selected white.

Turns out that the store we had purchased the tile from mislabeled the sample. Our designer ordered the right color, assuming that "Whisk Me Away" meant white since that's what the label said on the sample. I had set the white tile out the night before, but, in a fit of neatness, Wayne had put it away, so they didn't have a piece for comparison.

That same day our electrician informed me that the lights we had selected to hang vertically alongside our mirrors in our master bathroom were only meant to be hung horizontally. Plus...they were as bright as a fucking lighthouse lamp. He hung one up just to show me -- I can't imagine how someone could see past the brightness of that light to see their reflection in a mirror.

Back those lights went and a re-order for more appropriate light fixtures was on task.

The tiler got to work tiling our bathroom while waiting for the re-order of the correct white kitchen tile. Then the plumber came to put in our faucets -- finally, we would have a working master bath!

But alas, the faucets were set too low, the nozzles hung into the sinks themselves and the turn knob could not be turned before hitting the countertop. The beautiful tile work around the faucets was ripped out, the dry wall taken out, and the plumber raised the plumbing up and all was re-done again. Only this time the tile is not QUITE as perfect as the same time it was laid, and we can kind of see where the tile had to be taken down for this fix.

Throwing away more beautiful tile.
At least the SHOWER is ready to use! Except...the glass shower door hasn't arrived yet. And we still don't have mirrors. So we can use the toilet in our master bath, but then we have to walk to the original bathroom to wash our hands and brush our teeth, and the four of us are in a familiar bathroom battle.

Finally, the shower door arrived along with the mirrors, and the faucets were re-installed in the new, proper location. A working bathroom! I couldn't wait to take a shower in our OWN bathroom! Except...why doesn't the water drain? Not a single drop of water made it down the drain -- I had to stop my shower early or risk an overflow onto our bathroom floor.

A shower full of water.
Did you know that plumbers do an air test any time they install new plumbing? That makes sure that there are no leaks in all of the pipes that are laid. When they're done with the air test, they're supposed to take out the plastic stopper that keeps the air from escaping the plumbing during the test. And when they don't, well, then you don't exactly have a working shower.

Then this past week we were startled to get a text from our girls informing us that water was pouring into our kitchen through a recessed light. The water was from Marissa's bath in our original bathroom, NOT the new bathroom. What?!

Turns out that the construction work against the back of the original wall had displaced tiles in our original bathroom, so there was nothing keeping the water from running through the floor and out our new kitchen ceiling.

The radiator was drained, moved away from the wall and the tiler was called back again so he could fix the files underneath said radiator that had broken during the construction project.

Broken tiles (plus nasty dirt) in our existing bath due to construction on the wall behind it.
Our circuit breaker that controls our oven and frig goes off at random times, apparently due to an electric current fluctuation in the frig model itself. Fix is in order.

Our newly corrected bathroom faucets apparently STILL don't meet code. Being worked on.

Our hood vent for our oven was delivered with two massive scratches down the middle of it. The hood vent sat in our basement unopened for 2 months before they went to install it and found the scratch. We are waiting for a replacement. Seriously, people.

By this time our project manager was pretty pissed with the number of things that weren't going right at the end of this project. And for as nice and understanding as Wayne and I can be, we were rather pissed, too.

We appreciate the work all the crews have done in our house, but we just want them to leave and not come back.

Once it's all working, that is.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016


Our family has had to get used to constant change since this spring. For the most part I think we've adjusted well - the girls shared a bedroom beautifully for nearly three months. We learned to live without running water or a sink. We adjusted to eating in a variety of places: the Desk Kitchen, the patio table, now standing around an island because we have no chairs.

What better way to embrace chaos than to plan a surprise birthday party for our still-being-remodeled house?

The party was entirely planned by her big sister Lindsey. After sharing a room with her for three months she knew her well and planned a spa party put on with her friends. There were four stations: pedicures, manicures, facials and make up stations. Lindsey told Marissa that she was hosting a spa party for her own friends, so it didn't seem unusual for Lindsey to be planning and scheming.

Wayne took Marissa out for lunch as a special daddy-daughter treat, since he had been traveling over her actual birthday a few days earlier. While she was gone Lindsey and I frantically prepared -- I got groceries, Lindsey set up the spa stations and drinks in the kitchen.

When Marissa got home Lindsey led her into the kitchen to show her the spa set up. All of Marissa's friends had arrived by then and hid behind the island, then jumped up and yelled "SURPRISE!" And she was!

Marissa had a fantastic time getting her nails done, a facial, pedicure, all of it. We learned that some of her friends aren't quite as "girly" as Marissa is and didn't take advantage of the spa stations, but they seemed to have a good time anyway. We had gluten-free chocolate mousse cake which was divine!
Cake cutting.
It was supposed to rain that afternoon which was concerning,  since all the activities had to happen outside. At the time our living room floor was covered in paper, our dining room filled with furniture and our basement was our storage area where everything else is stored! Thankfully it turned into a beautiful afternoon and everyone could enjoy the great outdoors.

Marissa was very surprised and grateful for her party.

Friday, July 29, 2016


Self portrait. 
When we had concrete poured for our new patio, she wondered how the ants and worms felt when they tried to reach the surface only to find concrete in their way. The thought worried her.

She has instant love for every dog she sees being walked on the street. She would probably feel that way about cats too, but most people don't walk their cats.

We once saw a homeless man in frigid weather holding out a sign asking for help. She asked what it meant to be a veteran (because that's what his sign said) and why we hadn't stopped to help him. How do you explain to your children the social injustice of poverty and safety nets that aren't wide enough to catch everyone? I did my best, and there was silence in the back seat. I turned to look and she was crying, tears silently rolling down her cheeks.

You've never met an 11-year-old with a bigger heart.

She is happiest and most herself with her music, making videos, singing and dancing. If you can sneak a peek without her knowing you're there, you will witness pure joy.

She is chronically messy, yet meticulously organized. She brushes her hair religiously every day but has to be reminded to wash it.

Take a moment to look her in the eyes while she's talking and you'll be distracted by their depth. Are they grey? Green? Brownish blue?

She is our Marissa, and she is eleven.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Machine Shed

If you stop and listen, really listen, you can hear the life that once was there.

A tractor starting up, its long, slow crank to life. The clanking of tools. A command yelled over the sound of work. Perhaps a word of frustration. 

At the end of the day, the doors would pull shut and relative silence would fall over the machinery, interrupted only by the small scuffles of cats chasing mice, or birds in the rafters.

The machine shed is mostly empty now, or at least more empty than it's been in a long time. Favorite tractors have been hauled away, to be cherished or used by other family members. Cars that were in good working order are living their second or third life with someone else. 

Two cats remain to keep the mice population down. They are friendly and still call this shed home. Perhaps they will stay when the new owners come, and continue their useful lives for a new family.

Soon the final pieces will be hauled away, and the shed will be quiet and empty.

Monday, June 06, 2016


I walked to the lake and to the fishing dock to see the sunrise.

By the time I arrived the sun was up but clouds were obscuring it. I decided to wait to see if it would eventually break through the clouds.

My watch said the time was 5:56 a.m. I decided to absorb the morning until 6:00, then would walk home.

I watched the sun in an epic battle with the clouds. It looked brighter, then darker. Rays of sunlight escaped and colored the entire sky, then were obscured again.

Puffy clouds floated close to me, occasionally lit from beneath by the rising pink light, other times dark with the remains of night.

Fish jumped. Seagulls dove. Ducks fluffed their feathers, and geese chased each other across the lake.

It was beautiful, peaceful and quiet. I filled my lungs with air and my heart with gratitude, then looked at my watch to see if it was yet 6:00.

It had just turned to 5:57.

I was in awe at all I had seen in one small, little minute.

How much more slowly life would go by if we only took the time to enjoy it.

Friday, June 03, 2016

Learning Not to Judge Others

Photo credit
While we are sprucing up much of the house, other parts of it that will remain untouched need a little work as well. The doorknob on our bathroom gets more and more jiggly as time goes on. I fear that one day it will come off in my hand and I'll be stuck in the bathroom. Wayne's tried to tighten the existing one, but it is old and tired and the screws won't hold any longer.

Wayne bought a glass doorknob that looks like others in our home, and started working on replacing the doorknob. He easily got the old one off, but the new hardware didn't fit with the original hardware in the door.

The girls and I were preparing to go shopping just a few blocks from our house. Wayne decided he had to buy a new cylinder that would fit the door, but before leaving for the hardware store, he jumped in the shower and shut the door.

The door with no doorknob.

We were about to leave the house when Marissa noticed that there was no doorknob on the door and that it was tightly shut. "How's Dad going to get out?" she asked.

Um, yeah, he isn't.

I inserted the cylinder and used the doorknob from the outside to open the door.

That would have been awkward -- we would have gone shopping and he would be locked in the bathroom -- naked -- with no way out and no phone to call anybody. I wonder how long he would have lasted before he would have bust through the plywood separating the bathroom from the addition, out of sheer frustration.

An hour or so later, we are in the dressing room at Athleta and Lindsey is trying on some items.

My phone buzzes and I read a text from Wayne:

Where are you guys? I'm locked in the bathroom.

I respond that we're close by and we'll leave shortly to let him out. I then go to the dressing room door and say, "Lindsey, we have to go, Dad's locked in the bathroom."

"Again?!" she replies rather loudly.

I bet all the people in the dressing room that day thought I married a super smart guy. I have to give him credit for bringing his phone into the bathroom before he started working on the door.

The girls left the store immediately to head home while I bought the items they had chosen, then walked home alone. As I get closer to our house I spy Marissa on the sidewalk walking toward me. I yell, "Did you guys get Dad out of the bathroom?"

"Yep," she says, "He's out. At least this time he wasn't naked."

And this is why you should never judge people based what you overhear them say.

The accursed doorknob.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Learning and Living Through Remodeling

Our remodel project sped along for a month with very little impact to our family. Sure, we couldn't use the backyard, or enter the house through the side door, but for the most part we lived in the home as we always have.

This changed when our kitchen was demolished about a month ago.

The shell of our old kitchen.

Our new "kitchen," aka desk.
Not only do we not have use of a water source on the first floor, but our house is cut in two by way of tarps over the kitchen doors. For the first week, in order to do laundry in the basement we had to go out the front door, back in the house through the side door and down the stairs to the laundry room. Talk about airing your dirty laundry.

The path to our laundry room from the side door of the house.

The first week we had take-out nearly every night. That got tiring. And expensive.

I spent a weekend morning at my sister's house preparing slow cooker recipes that could go from freezer to slow cooker, and prepping spaghetti sauce that could be frozen and used in small batches. Winner!

We accepted an invitation to dinner at my sister's house, and had a divine and relaxing evening, visiting and eating food she had prepared. Such a treat!

The girls had to move into a bedroom together while Marissa's old bedroom is converted into our new master suite.

 So what have we learned?

1. Gratitude. I am grateful that we have the resources to take on this remodel, to make this home our dream home. Nearly every evening I come home from work to a pleasant surprise. Oh look, they took out the kitchen cabinets! They put the arch up in the new entryway!

2. Appreciation. The crews working on our home have a very high work ethic. The framing crew in particular was incredible to watch. The speed and skill at which they could frame a window was amazing. I remember struggling for hours to put together a dumb shelf in shop class -- they framed a window and a wall in 30 minutes. All of the experts who come through our house do their work with efficiency and skill, and I am humbled by their talents.

3. Neatness. It only takes two items out of place in our "kitchen" to make the whole space unusable. Sure, the girls' shoes are left all over the floor because there's no room in the closet they are sharing, but for the most part everyone understands that they need to pick up after themselves so we can all live in the space.

4. Creativity. I learned how to cook pasta in a microwave, we've improvised a pantry out of a dresser, and discovered all the kitchen essentials aren't really essential when you don't have a kitchen.

5. Tolerance. The girls are getting along in their shared room better than I had expected. I hear them chatting together at night, and they negotiate the use of a favorite lotion or book. While I know Marissa will be excited to move into her new room, I suspect that both of them will be a little sad and miss the camaraderie of sharing a room.