Saturday, November 01, 2008

11/1/08 Rainy Day

I've been waiting for a rainy day for months! I love the idea of curling up in front of a fireplace with a good book. Even though the reality of that is completely lost (hello? 6, 4 and 2?), I still like the idea.

I'm entering the next emotional stage in remodeling: regrets -- suddenly being struck with things you wonder if you shouldn't have done differently. It's like just getting on the road for a big trip, and your mind (well, my mind) instantly starts taking inventory of what you left behind. It's like I just can't be happy without having something to regret. Should we have done fixed showerheads instead of bar-type? Shouldn't we have done complete grilles instead of one row on the sliding doors? Should we have put the kitchen closer to the backyard as our architect had originally suggested? Shouldn't we just have moved?.

And we're still 4 months and many, many tens of thousands of dollars away -- quite early for second-guessing and regrets!

Then I'm oddly comforted by relatively minor decisions. We were forced to replace the floor of the front porch (the old one was damaged). Seeing the new one, we just decided last Friday not to paint it, but rather, to clear-coat it. It's vertical-grain fir, and it will make the entryway stunning. Not very farmhouse-y, but beautiful.

Well, what the heck, while I'm looking at pictures, here are a few more. Sheetrock is up! It completely changes the house.

Remember walking through the old swinging door in the dining room, into my dysfunctional cave of a kitchen?

Now look.

This hall has become one of our favorite things in the house, and it was suggested just a few weeks ago by our next-door neighbor. The arched entryway was going to lead to a built-in bookshelf, but we switched that bookshelf area with a door entering the guest suite. The original design made a lot more sense until you actually stood in the space, and our architect agreed happily. It now leads straight through the guest room into the West yard, which we had limited access to before.

Hang an immediate left (from photo above) and you enter the new kitchen (through the open entryway on the right in the photo below). This is the view of the new kitchen with your back to the backyard.

You'd be amazed how difficult it is to come up with a tile design for that oh-so-central arched niche! If you're me, anyway.

Our guests will be very comfortable with a bench in the guest shower, and two niches to set all their doodads into. White wire shower holders are permanently vanquished from this house! I'm insane about built-in spaces, and showers without ample places to set things down drive me crazy.

The guest suite isn't just out of the goodness of our hearts, though, lest our far-away family feel pressured to negotiate crowded airplanes. The local demographic strongly favors additional living quarters for multigenerational families. We didn't do it just for resale, but that helped justify the decision to add a bathroom here.

Standing in the kitchen, this is what I'll look out at much of my time. Of course, it'll be painted, and our contractor (left) and his electrician (center) won't be there.

Actually, the electrician isn't a subcontractor, he's an employee of the company. Many of the guys working onsite are direct employees. I like the extra contact and control and investment you get from that. The electrician in particular takes pride in his work and has grown to like our house, and us I think, so it's more than just a faceless jobsite to him.

I wasn't going to spend any time blogging tonight. But that never works. Looking at photos of our work-in-progress helps relieve anxieties about things we should have done differently. It reminds me that it's our home, that we'll live there again someday, and it's more than just a serious time, energy and money sink. I spent most of the afternoon cooking, another new comfort, that makes me feel at home wherever I am.

And the first rainy day back in our new house will be spent curling up in front of one of the fireplaces with a good book...7, 5 and 2 notwithstanding!


Friday, October 31, 2008

10/31/08 Halloween!!

Despite feeling intense pressure to complete many remodeling tasks, I was not going to miss Julian or Gabriel's class Halloween parties or parades today.

First, Julian's class party. Allison didn't seem to mind having this ball bonked on her forehead.

The whole (pre!)school gathered together to perform several songs. I was impressed, the teachers did a great job preparing them. From the outside, this seems so hokey, but when your kid is in there, it's the most adorable thing you've ever seen.

(Julian is all the way on the left.)

I stayed as long as I could before dashing off for our weekly jobsite meeting.

I wasn't going to be late to Gabriel's party! I arrived just as the boys were done changing in the neighboring 2nd-grade classroom, as the 2nd-grade girls changed in Gabriel's room.

I'm happy to report that by first grade, the plethora of princesses gives way to witches and other characters, only for the boys to take over with single-minded costume ideas. All five of these Spidermen are in Gabriel's class.

This girl unwittingly demonstrates Gabriel's lack of stature in his class. So far, he doesn't seem to notice, even if she does stand a full head taller.

The scene at the school: grades 1-5 do a costume parade. Gabriel is on the right of the leftmost blue post, with the tall girl behind him.

I just couldn't seem to get a photo of him without this girl in it. She was always right behind him. Hmmm....

And again.

I took Gabriel with me from school, then to a bookstore where he picked out a few books to read while I ordered bathroom vanities. He picked out two Captain Underpants books, and had his nose buried for hours in them. Not a peep from him while I ordered three bathroom vanities, then re-ordered one when I discovered a too-long lead time.

The boys love Captain Underpants books, though I'm not crazy about all the dinner-table potty-talk it motivates. Is this a boy thing? Are there any girls into Captain Underpants? I sort of have my answer, as little sister immediately demanded Gabriel hand over the book when she saw it, and cried and screamed angrily in protest for about 10 minutes in the car. 10 very loooonnnnng minutes.

Then of course, the BIG payoff: trick-or-treating! Our borrowed neighborhood was buzzing with groups of trick-or-treaters and numerous houses lit with Halloween decorations and friendly neighbors. Our home neighborhood, on the other hand, is like a graveyard around Halloween time. Hmm, which one has that right?

Katrina lasted for exactly one house, which unfortunately had an attractive fountain, and she "expressed" her Opinion, with the usual vociferous vocals and my refreshed football-hold skills, about abandoning the gurgly little pond. Fortunately, we were only a few steps from home, where I unceremoniously dumped her on Dad, who was manning our rapidly emptying Halloween candy giveaway basket. Then the boys and I methodically cleaned out the rest of our neighbors.

This Halloween was a very welcome break from the stress and pressure of keeping our project on track. And the best-kept secret in the scrapbooking world is that Halloween is the most fun event of the year to scrapbook. I'm not missing this one!


Thursday, October 30, 2008

10/30/08 4!

A birthday song for Cousin Remi -- coming from an unexpected source. He worked hard practicing this!

4 is great! I wonder what it's like knowing that your youngest is headed to kindergarten next year. Seems so far away and so close at the same time. Happy Birthday Remi!

Oh, painful, painful. I thought we were all set on the kitchen niche design, but apparently some of the accents I/we picked are too Italian-Villa style, cute as they are.

What do I know for style? And do I have the nerve to stand up to people I'm depending on making this all look right, and who do know about style? Can I insist on sticking to something wrong? Nope, I don't have the b*lls. Those accents aren't Craftsman-y, to be sure.

So, back to the tile store again today, with patient Anna the kitchen designer. All I had in mind was a simple design for the arched niche above the cooktop, a focal point, without a specific bullseye, but nothing fancy or concrete. This should take 10 minutes! But not when I'm on the job. Nope, it gets turned and twisted and mangled into a 2-hour ordeal, and in the end, the poor kitchen designer is more confused than I am.

At least these are the colors we'll use (not the darker rectangles or the (sniff) carved ones); just the olive green and the lighter cream color.

And I'm supposed to deliver all the tile choices and layouts tomorrow. The pressure to deliver the many overdue and outstanding choices is intense -- I'm in genuine peril of holding up the project. But tomorrow is Halloween. I have two costume parades to attend, and I'm not missing those under any circumstances.


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

10/29/08 The Scientist

The mom of two schoolmates of Julian's commented that her girls tell her from time to time about playing with Julian. Nice to know, because he volunteers nothing about other kids and little about school itself....except for one thing: science.

"If we throw those things away then the sun will get so hot and burn up the earth."
"Sound travels in waves and then it reaches your ear and you hear it."
"The badder gets all full of pee and then you have to empty it."
"French fries are a fat food."
"You eat food and then it goes down a tube to your stomach, but I forget what the tube is called."

It intrigues me that these are the things that he talks about. Occasionally he'll mention something about a classmate, like one whose shared "Indian sweets," but if he says anything at all, it's usually a fairly well-thought-out statement about the earth, body, nutrition or whatever he's been learning about. And much of it is from his regular class; only specific things (like body parts) come from the Science Explorers class.

Ironically, Gabriel's homework isn't driving us as crazy lately, because it's past the dorky introductory stuff. It's been a lot more straightforward, not as open-ended, with clearly defined tasks. We all like that a whole lot better. Not that I'm opposed to searching around the house for real-life examples; I think that's great -- sometimes. But for as much homework as he gets, it has to be independently performable. The past two weeks, it's all been about adding coins and very basic time-telling, both of which Gabriel is very well versed -- thanks to his allowance, and numerous clock timeouts in his room when he was younger!

I heard an actual conversation today between Julian and Katrina. She repeats everything she hears, and she declares and observes things all the time with increasing grammar. But for the most part her conversation hasn't been much more interactive than automatically saying "No!" to everything. Today, however, she and Julian just about discussed things in a book she brought in the car. He pointed out things in the book, helped her count flowers, talked about the characters' names. She asked questions, tried to count, and also pointed things out or made comments about things he pointed out. It was very sweet.

I watch these interactions and marvel at how this must shape her. She's never known life without her older brothers, and they dominate her environment. No one makes her laugh harder or scream louder. She has Gabriel as a guide, and Julian as a playmate. What a lucky, lucky girl.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Another one for Bonne Maman

OK, OK, you're probably all getting tired of hearing -- literally -- of each tiny incremental step Gabriel makes in the long journey toward piano proficiency. His playing in this clip is very amateurish, but Dave and I were both blown away when we heard hime playing it. Other than a few minutes of direction from his first piano teacher (one lesson) months ago, we've never heard him play this. He worked hard on Monday, a day off school, to figure this out from the pre-programmed recording in the piano. I had to sneak up on him to get this clip though.

It brought tears to be eyes to hear this beautiful piece, haltingly played, but still coming from the fingers of my firstborn boy.

10/28/08 All remodeling, all the time

It's staggering. SO much time is needed -- even if I took two weeks off work, I couldn't get everything done that needs to be in order to prevent delaying the project.

As it is, I just discovered that a nasty old aluminum window we'd decided to replace got put back because I hadn't ordered a new one, it fell off my radar entirely. And we haven't even found what sort of door/window to replace the dining room door with.

The living room fireplace has been demolished! Now I have to pick a slab (granite, maybe!) for the seat, and some sort of tile to go around it. We'll have a cabinetmaker make a mantle and some shallow built-in bookshelves along the sides.

Insulation is up - we have walls! They're fuzzy but do an amazing job of changing the feel and sound of the house completely.

Picking tile is such a guilty pleasure -- there's so much beautiful stuff to be had, so many gorgeous colors and textures and patterns. I'm not sure I can pass up this cute swirly design around the family room fireplace (not the living room fireplace in the photo above).

Katrina...unbelievable. She's been lasting a lot longer when we get home now, so more and more her dinnertime has overlapped with everyone else's -- a terrific trend. More and more she rejects her old standby foods, but she's just started to demand -- not request, but DEMAND -- food she sees on my plate. Fine with me! Today it was cauliflower. She'd point to it and ask again and again and again, then when I'd put the fork up to her mouth, she'd push it away, deeply offended, and venomously spit out, "DON'T LIKE THAT! DON'T LIKE THAT!!" Then she'd demand it again, and we'd go right back around. In the end, she did eat a few bites of it, a big step. I don't know what goes through her head, but I do admire the little bugger's spirit. When she doesn't look like she's about to pop a vein, that is.


Monday, October 27, 2008

10/27/08 Radio News

Driving to pick up Julian and Katrina this afternoon, I heard an NPR story about a stabbing victim in an Angolan jail. Gabriel was horrified: "Oh my GOD! He didn't live past 23?!" I thought OK, he has to know about bad things at some point in his life, and tried to explain the story to him in soft terms. The idea that someone would kill someone else on purpose was a new one to him. As usual, he took it in stride.

The next story was about Jennifer Hudson's nephew's body found in an SUV. I squirmed. Maybe this is just a headline. "He was found shot along with his...." OK, not liking where this is going "...her nephew Julian was 7 years ol...." CHRIST! Stop already!

Music time.


Sunday, October 26, 2008

10/26/08 Party #2

Another party this weekend. I brought Katrina, not sure how she'd do at a popular inflatable-play-structure place that really doesn't work for 2-year-olds, but she had a great time bopping around. Julian, who wouldn't go into jump houses at all until a year ago, had a fabulous time. I really like seeing him enjoy group settings without his domineering older brother.

The cake is always the crowning event, especially this cake. Another stunning creation from a 2004 Las Madres mom.

Though I still reel on and off from migraine symptoms today, at least the dark cloud of depression lifted. I went running this evening on some levees bordering salt ponds on the outskirts of the bay, and it really struck me how normal that felt, and how very good normal feels.

I'm getting out of the habit of cleaning up dinner right away. Instead, I've been going into the family room and finding Katrina hidden deep inside the layers of mess, and just hanging out with her. She (usually) happily chats and includes me in her world of coloring or reading or playset play, and I enjoy the focused time with her. I have such a love-hate relationship with age 2, but it's a full-on love affair with her.