Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Progress? Not Today

I wanted to post a quick update here today. I started getting sick on Monday, and laid around sick all day yesterday. My energy level dwindled to nearly nothing by last night; however, after force-feeding myself in spite of absolutely no appetite, my energy level has partially recovered. Hopefully as the week progresses, so will the recovery of my energy level.

I really want to get Little Bit's closet painted so we can actually use her closet. After that, I would like to get her and The Boy's rooms rearranged and cleaned out so I will not have to worry about stuff from those rooms continuing to migrate into the rest of the house. The next step is to get the master bedroom closets and The Boy's closet painted so they can be used.

Once I get all of the closets prepared for use, hopefully I can get a lot of stuff out of the middle of the floors and get started on finishing the laundry room. By then, it should be spring so I can paint the outside of the house, but I have to entice my hubby to wash the siding, haha! I love to paint but I cannot stand washing siding. I think maybe we need to make a deal, but that will be another day!

Have a great day!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Turning Over a New Leaf

This blog has been plagued with long posts in the past. This is no longer acceptable so I must turn over a new leaf. It is my desire to post short, poignant articles about our latest shenanigans. Today will be the first of those posts.

Life has been busy and challenging with three kids involved in three different (elementary, middle and high) schools, and a house with more issues than the most messed up person on the planet. We have encountered a lot of funny or discouraging or even some downright sad situations, but more importantly, we have encountered them together as a family. We have laughed and cried together, been bull-headed and gracious to one another, but this year has brought us closer.

We still have not painted the living room, the laundry room is only in the tearing apart stage and the kitchen has not changed one iota, but we have done the important things: new windows, new roof, new insulation in the attic, ceiling fans in bedrooms, vent fans in bathrooms, rewiring where needed, new light fixtures inside and out, new faucet in bathroom, and even new toilet seats. Everything that we have focused on have improved the safety and livability of the house.

I have made some minor improvements inside but not as much as I had hoped. Now I think I have enough interior stuff on hand to keep me busy for the year. After all, I am also keeping up with my blogs, writing a novel and being Mom to three great children. I have had to rethink what is most important in life, but that doesn't mean that I have this down yet.

As a matter of fact, just yesterday, I was "on the rampage" so to speak. I let everyone have it, they all were very obliging as I spoke my mind, and then I fell into bed last night exhausted. I woke this morning with a little less stress and a stronger idea of what I'm doing. Now if I can somehow reconcile yesterday with my faith - oh, yeah, I think there was a little element of repentance in there for not being so nice to my family. They all forgave me, and I have been able to forgive myself, and now I have a few things to finish around here.

If I've learned anything over the past year, I've learned the importance of first things first. My youngest daughter and son have rooms that are so messy that it seems they are always struggling to find somewhere to put all of their stuff so it has this lovely tendency to migrate into the common areas. As I write this, I'm shaking my head at the unbelievable nature of how we get this under control as long as I stay onto them, but the second I let my guard down, it starts to suffocate me again.

At any rate, today, I am finishing my blog posts and going to head into their rooms with them to organize and straighten everything, to remove unnecessary items (ie TRASH!) and make sure they have a system that works for them. Until next time, wish me luck!

Monday, July 16, 2012

An Island To Myself!

Well, it’s been nearly three months since my last post here, and as such, this will be a very, very, very long post. I cannot make any excuses this time except life, a birthday party, preparation for end of school activities and the culmination of those activities, including a fifth grade graduation, and then summer with kids home and us trying to figure out our new routine together with trips to the park and the library while trying to work on my novel and this house with very little success on the house. This is the first year I have been home during the summer in three years, and the children are a little older with different passions than were present so long ago. Now that it is nearly the end of July we are finally settling into a routine and before long, we will be back to our school year routine. I’ve heard that they grow up in the blink of an eye, and that saying sure is proving accurate in my life. While there is a lack of excuses, there are certainly plenty of things that have been happening in our little dump of a home that is feeling more like home and less like a dump every day, although it hasn’t always felt that way over the past three months.

Since I last wrote, the living room has been put on hold in favor of some other projects that are finally coming together. We managed to put a ceiling fan in Little Bit’s room, and that project brought about many challenges. Just before my hubby installed the fan, our neighbor mentioned that he had seen bats flying into the attic through one of the gable vents so my hubby went up into the attic to check it out. Fortunately he saw no indication of bats and he stapled hardware cloth to the inside of the gable vents to ensure the bats couldn’t get in. While he was up there, he discovered that while our oldest daughter’s room had adequate insulation over and around her room, Little Bit had virtually no insulation, and one of the ducts feeding to her room has been crushed. He still needs to contact the heating and a/c guys to get them to come fix that because they told us they had fixed it so that she would have adequate heating and air into her room. Without that particular duct, she only has half the necessary heat or a/c that she needs to keep her room comfortable. We paid them to ensure all ducts were adequate and to fix any that were not, so they were negligent in that aspect. I hope he will have no trouble when he calls them, but I doubt he will. They have been really good to work with so far.

So my hubby crawled out of the attic and informed me of the lack of insulation. He also told me that he found frayed, bare electrical wires up in the attic, a major fire hazard that had to be repaired at once. He went to get the necessary items to fix those and wanted to pick up insulation while he was out. They were completely out at the home improvement place he went to so he ended up buying it from the other one in town later after he had repaired the wiring. He also finally installed the ceiling fan and put the insulation in once the fire hazard had been taken care of. It seems that we have run into problems at every turn in this house, and at some point, I stopped laughing and became downright depressed. I hated the house that I once saw so much potential in.

From January to June, the only things I had gotten done was to put together storage shelves for the living room and a pantry for the kitchen, scrape the garage floor, prime and paint the garage ceiling and walls and finally got around to painting the attic storage adjacent to Little Bit’s room in May. The lack of vision was really getting to me and I just couldn’t figure out what else to do with the house. I had a desire to spackle the living room, and did put spackle on the walls, but I came to a hole in the wall behind the entertainment center and decided that I need more drywall tools to repair that wall. Then I thought about one of the walls in the living room and realized that this is the back side of the wall in the kitchen that I want to cut a huge hole in to open up the kitchen and make it more functional with the rest of the house. I just couldn’t figure out everything I wanted to do in the kitchen, but I knew that if a hole was going to be cut into that wall, I needed to get that done before painting the living room; otherwise, I would have to come back and refinish that wall. Since there is plenty to do, and I don’t want to have to do the same work twice, I put the living room on hold. That’s when I decided to do the attic storage area, and it turned out well. Now I need to put stuff in there to store, and that is something I am going to work on in short order.

In addition to not knowing what to do with the kitchen, we finally got a third quote on the windows and front door because my hubby had to have that third quote. The guy who gave us the quote is a contractor who does just about anything you need, including gutters that we also need so he quoted those as well. The contractor was beyond helpful as he gave us a lot of useful information. I had apologized for the odor in the front entryway, explaining that sometimes it becomes so pungent that it almost makes me sick to my stomach, and my hubby said he usually didn’t smell anything. The contractor then told us that he actually did smell a musty smell and it was probably from a lack of a moisture barrier in the crawl space and then asked if we had one down there. My hubby told him we didn’t and the contractor told us that they could put one down but it was a simple job so we could save money if we did it ourselves. He then went on to tell my hubby what to do. He seemed to understand that we are on a limited budget and quite handy so he wanted to help us out with the more difficult things and offered us some advice on the easier things we are capable of in order to save us money in the long run. I appreciated him not taking advantage of us. My hubby is now planning to put a moisture barrier down at some point.

I have to paint the surface of the eaves before the gutters can be installed. We spent several weeks trying to pick out colors. My hubby likes to mull over things and consider every pro and con out there. I prefer to just make a decision and go with it. After two weeks of hemming and hawing over exterior colors, we went on a drive around town to look at other houses. While we were out, he told me that he thought he might want to get tan or beige gutters, so I told him that if I’m to pick out house colors for the eaves, I need samples of the gutters so I can match the color to the gutters. We must have went back and forth for a while and I finally said, “I’m not going to discuss the house colors any further until I have some gutter samples so I can match colors. I cannot pick out colors until I have those samples, and until then it is pointless to discuss house colors because I’m just getting angry.” We didn’t discuss it any further that day, and for his respecting my need for silence on the subject, I am forever grateful!

After a couple of days, I asked him if he ever got in touch with the contractor to get some gutter samples and he said, “I got to thinking that maybe we should just go with white. It’s an easy color; if we have to sell, it will not turn people away; and we can go ahead and get the work done sooner rather than later. I also got to thinking that we should just go ahead and get the windows installed now and then get the gutters put on after we have a chance to paint the eaves.” I expressed my overwhelming joy that we finally came to a conclusion on the matter and immediately picked out several colors I thought would work for the siding. I put them aside until the other day and I picked out two colors. My hubby and I looked at them together and came to a final decision, one we both agreed on without argument. I’m so excited I can hardly contain my emotions.

In addition to this little victory, I have another even more exciting victory. Remember I mentioned that I eventually quit laughing about all the crazy stuff we were encountering and became downright depressed and almost resentful of the house. Well, I found an island that changed my life. When I first saw the island, I really liked it and wanted to get it once I got the kitchen redone. I mentioned it to my hubby and his response surprised me. He said, “How many styles of islands are out there?” I told him it was a limited number in our price range and he said, “Well, if you like it, why don’t you go ahead and get it. Then you can at least use the storage in it.” Brilliant!

I asked a good friend of mine to go with me to pick it up, and that was because it would not fit in my car. With all of my loathing not being able to accomplish much, this was something I had to do on my own, without my hubby’s help. Of course, I had to ask for help along the way, but doing so did not make me feel weak. It actually empowered me that I didn’t have to rely on my hubby to do everything in this house. I think the reason I felt so discouraged was that everything I intended to do on my own, I ended up having to have help from my hubby. As an aside, there is another story here so I’ll share that briefly now.

I wanted to remove the built-in shoe rack in Little Bit’s closet. There is one in most of the closets in the house, but this being the smallest closet, I thought I’d start there. I couldn’t even figure out how to get it out and my hubby removed it. He then had to finish out the floor and put in trim on the wall. Now I just have to finish the closet with paint and by staining the new floor board. My hubby also finished out the floor in his closet. He decided he would finish all the closets for us over time so I am quite thankful to him, but this thankfulness only came about because of the island: the island I need to finish the story about, the island that revolutionized my life and my home improvement outlook, the island that turned my bitterness to thankfulness.

With my friend’s help, and her big Ram 3500, we managed to go to the store, get the strong guys to load it into the truck and bring it home. My oldest two children (age 13 and 10 with the physique of adults) helped us unload the giant box into the house. My friend had never actually been to my house and she immediately started raving about the beautiful features and the potential and how she wished she could get her hands on a house like this. She didn’t realize she was actually encouraging me, but she was. That had been my attitude when we looked at the house and even after moving in, and I had lost sight of my vision. I felt that vision coming back as she described things she would be able to do with this place. I hadn’t even put my island together and already it was a huge blessing to me.

I decided not to work on the island that night because it was July 3rd, and we were planning to watch the fireworks…from our front yard! This was the first time we were able to partake in the city’s festivities from the comfort of our own yard without driving a long ways, parking and having to walk. Next year we will probably plan to go to the park and participate in all the festivities at the park and then walk home in time to watch the fireworks. Anyway, the next day, I didn’t put the island together because my hubby was home, and this was “my” project. I waited until the following day to begin to work on the island. I did well with putting the parts together until I attached the back brace to the left side panel. One of the holes for one of the dowels was not drilled out completely or had a plastic burr covering the hole or something. I could not get the dowel in with my bare hands so I figured I could tap it in gently with a hammer. I tapped it and it went in slightly but not very far so I tapped it again (with very little force behind the hammer) and the entire dowel went through the outside of the end piece. I wanted to cry. My island was ruined, my project had been a failure, and I suddenly felt like I just couldn’t do anything right and this entire house idea was a mistake. I was feeling so down that I finally realized I was beating myself up and prayed that God would help me out of my funk.

Immediately the idea popped into my head to call the 800 number and explain what happened. I was hoping they could send me another piece, especially since the hole had not been drilled properly. If it had, I would have never used a hammer to try to put the dowel in. So I called, and the woman I spoke to was extremely pleasant and understanding, explaining that I shouldn’t have to live with a damaged island and told me she wanted to help me. I was on the phone with her for about 25 minutes. She finally figured out that they couldn’t get parts for the island, but told me I could take it back to the store and she would alert the store that I would be coming in. Otherwise, she could get me in touch with the customer relations department who should be able to get me in touch with the actual manufacturer who could get me the needed pieces. She transferred me to customer relations per my request, and the man who answered sounded like he hailed from the other side of the world, as in India. He barely spoke my language and I was so afraid that this was going to turn into a fiasco quickly so I prayed again and asked God to give me His strength and patience that I didn’t have. There were a couple of times that I didn’t really understand the guy and I actually asked him patiently to repeat himself. After being on the phone with him for about 15 minutes, he finally said that he didn’t have the phone number for the manufacturer but he had the name and I could just Google the name of the manufacturer. I said apprehensively, “Ooookaaaaayyy?” and he told me to hold on a minute. About 30 seconds later, he picked up the phone and had the manufacturer’s name and phone number.

Success! Or so I thought until I tried to contact the manufacturer. I called the number the guy had given me, went through the automated menu and sat on hold for 15 minutes. The phone suddenly went to silent white noise so I knew that my phone had not died but that their automated system had malfunctioned. I knew that was the case when I got the busy signal noise. I hung up and called back only to receive a busy signal. I tried again and went through the automated system once again. Then I was on hold for 5 minutes when the phone cut off again just as it had before. I tried to call back only to receive an automated response stating that they were closed and to call back during normal business hours of 8am to 5pm. I looked at the clock and it was 5:00 pm. They were now closed and I would have to wait until the next day, Friday, to call. Aaarrrrrrggggghhhhhhh!

I called back the next morning and got right through. I may have waited five minutes on hold and then a woman picked up. She asked what part I needed to order, took down my personal information and gave me a confirmation number with no request for payment. She told me it would ship out Monday via Fed-Ex and would take about a week to get here. Well, that Monday she was speaking of was last Monday. I went for a run with my younger two children on Wednesday morning because it had finally cooled down from the 102 degrees we had been experiencing to more normal upper 80s/lower 90s. It was a great run that was cut short when we found a box turtle on the side of the road that we had to return to the creek so it wouldn’t get run over. Over by the creek we found a bright yellow softball that had initials written on it so we returned it to the softball field and finally made it home. As we were running up the road, we saw the Fed-Ex truck in front of the house. Our area has been experiencing a lot of pop-up summer thunderstorms and she was getting ready to put the package into a plastic bag when we got to the top of the hill beside the truck. I told her that she could save her bag and brought my island piece in the house. It had been 2 business days from when I ordered the piece. Impressive.

I worked on the island Wednesday and was putting the finishing touches on it Wednesday night when I encountered a major problem. There was something seriously wrong with one of the drawer slides. I couldn’t get the drawer in all the way in. I decided I was too tired to do anything else, and besides, the company was closed. The next day I got up and planned to call to get another slide sent to us, further delaying putting the island together. All I could do at that point was laugh because if I didn’t, I was going to cry. Instead of calling the company, though, I realized that the old end piece had two slides that were perfectly fine: I already had the extra slide that I needed. I quickly removed the good slide from the defective side piece, removed the defective slide from the good side piece and had it replaced in a matter of minutes. Still, the drawer would not go in. I looked at the other slide, and it was also defective, but lo and behold, there was another good slide on the defective side part, so I switched those slides out and ta-da…the drawer went in and it slides. We had an island.

That day, my oldest daughter helped me put the island into the kitchen and fill it with items that had been stacked on the baker’s rack threatening to fall off at the slightest breeze. The island, "my" island, was beautiful in the kitchen, and we moved the baker’s rack to the foyer almost as if we were ceremonially clearing the room for the island. It was almost as if the island needed to be an island to itself. The baker's rack fit perfectly in the foyer, and we were able to keep just a few pretty items on it to make it look decorative instead of just functional. Once that was done, my daughter decided to organize the pantry since it had become extremely disorganized. She is unbelievable with organization, and I thanked her for her hard work. We went and bought storage boxes to lump together similar items, such as a box for all chocolate and candy items, a box for dry beans and rices, a box for all of the gluten-free flours and gluten-free baking necessities, a box for all the canned fish, a box for all the nuts and dried fruits, etc. When we got home, I helped her organize the entire pantry. That night we both fell into bed exhausted. We had worked hard all day long and it was quite rewarding. The island, “my” project had been a success, I had done it by myself with the resources of a few helpful people along the way.

But that is not the end of the story of the island. By getting the island into the kitchen, I was able to return my microwave and coffee makers (my hubby and I each have one) to the kitchen counters because I now have a food preparation surface in the kitchen that frees up the little bit of counter space I had been using. After I moved the microwave and coffee makers off the laundry room counter where they have been since we moved in, I saw the potential of the laundry room that had been lost in the clutter. I figured out that I can replace the countertop and the cabinet hardware, paint the cabinets and the walls, remove the door to the room that is never shut and has a broken glass panel, and the laundry room will be a beautiful room. The place where the door with the broken glass panel is swung open, there is a wall that is the perfect size for the “pantry” that is really a sturdy plastic cabinet. It looks really nice and I intend to keep using it, especially now that I have put all the food in handy-dandy boxes that can be carried to the kitchen as needed. Eventually, I will be able to relocate those to the kitchen cabinets once I finish remodeling in there.

Envisioning the kitchen without the pantry suddenly became a little easier by getting the baker’s rack out of the kitchen. Suddenly the kitchen has started to take shape. Of course, it all started with the island and borrowing a kitchen remodel book from the library, one of the many treasures associated with our weekly library trips. I now have a great plan for the kitchen. I even took the time to draw it out sans actual measurements to get the basic idea of the plan, and my hubby liked it. He smiled as I told him about it, didn’t voice any real concerns except the part about putting the window between the kitchen and living room, and then only to voice his opinion that we need to be careful to ensure we provide enough support before we remove the studs in the wall since the studs are the support system in that wall. I was a step ahead of him with the plan to install a support beam above the window, which is why I intended to only put in a window rather than knock out the entire wall.
Besides, by only putting in a window, I can put in bottom cabinets with a countertop. Those cabinets can only extend halfway across that wall because the only a/c and heating vent to the room is located on that wall near the corner. By extending the counter past the cabinets over the vent and around the corner, I can create a breakfast bar in the corner with a couple of bar stools that can be stored under the counter when not in use. I plan to put open shelves above the breakfast bar on the short wall. I also plan to put some open shelves on the walls on either side of the windows over the sink. It will give us shelves for our everyday dishes to be displayed and open the small kitchen up. I have a few other ideas for the kitchen that I will share later when I finally get around to that project. I finally am excited about these home improvement projects.

Hopefully I can figure out how to upload pictures on here by the time I get around to doing these projects because I would love to share before and after photos throughout the projects. I would also like to have photos to back up explanations of the work. For now, I’m enjoying my kitchen with its minor improvement, the island! After all, the island has taught me that even when I encounter challenges, I can overcome them and do not have to be destroyed. I know that at first, it was really strange being able to use my coffee maker and the microwave without having to walk around the corner to the laundry room. They are right there in the kitchen, all within reach of the refrigerator and sink. Oh the little joys my island have brought. This island, while an island to itself, knows how to share joy, and if my island can do that, so can I. I suppose, in some way, I've always been an island to myself. But my island has taught me to find joy and share it. In that sense, I am an island to myself. But for now I have to go take the kids to the library since it’s Monday.

Happy Home Improvement!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Time for Living Room Spackle

I am finally ready to start working on the living room in this dump. Over the last couple of weeks, I have been working hard on the garage when I haven’t been running kids here and there, cooking, cleaning or writing my novel. Let’s also not forget to add sleep into the equation as well as planning a birthday party for my little soon-to-be seven year old princess.

So I got the garage walls primed (with the help of my two older kids) and painted, and then my hubby helped me prime the ceiling and I painted it with ceiling white. While my hubby and I were putting the primer on the ceiling, my little princess came out there and said, “Wow, Mama, I didn’t know they had yellow ceilings!” I had to laugh because the difference between the yellowed ceilings from a room that had been smoked in and the bluish-gray tint of the primer was quite drastic. I was amazed at how white the ceiling turned out when I finally finished painting it.

So at some point in there, it was time to prime the baseboards and the crown moulding. I filled my paint cup and started to put primer on the baseboards in the corner. I stopped suddenly when, oh crap, I realized that I had forgotten a very important step. I needed to vacuum the floor under the baseboards so I wouldn’t get foreign paint chips, lint, dust, etc. in the primer on the baseboards. I went and got the shop-vac and set to work. Not long into the process, I realized that the vacuum could only suction so much from under the baseboards, so I pulled out my handy-dandy little hand broom and started to brush with enough force to inflict injury while holding the end of the shop-vac tube next to the broom to suction up anything that came out. That worked for the first half of the room where there was mostly paint chips and dust, but when I got to the back of the room where the people before us had their furniture, I had to brush and then suction back and forth because there was so much stuff under the baseboards.

Now I would like to add a disclaimer here: if you have a weak stomach, I suggest you skip this paragraph because the stuff I brushed out from under those baseboards was disgusting. I found cigarette butts; two dimes; old, rusty nails; dead bugs; live bugs; a shriveled up worm coated in some sticky, tarry substance that looked and smelled like old feces; tons of carpet fibers and lint also covered in that nasty substance; glass shards of all shapes, sizes and colors; splinter of wood; and a paperclip. Most of the items had at least some of that sticky, tarry substance on them. And yes, for precautionary purposes, I was wearing a pair of nitrile gloves.

So an hour and a half later, I finally finished this brushing and vacuuming process, and it was time to prime the trim. The only problem was I felt like I needed a shower so I could actually put the primer on. I do not have a weak stomach, but that almost did me in. So I took a shower and finished putting the primer on. By the time I finished priming and painting the entire room, I felt so accomplished that I wanted to celebrate. But that feeling of accomplishment waned when I realized that I had forgotten to finish painting the door! The original paint on it was really bad not to mention the cigarette smell so I had already primed it. I finally finished painting it Saturday morning.

And now it’s time to start to spackle the living room. This ought to be fun!

Happy Home Improvement!