Friday, March 13, 2009

The Milestone

Did I say the house is not a jobsite anymore? I counted five trades at the same time today -- painters, kitchen installers, floor guys, tile guys, and electricians. Plus the GC and GC's foreman. And the homeowner.

It should have been six trades -- our heat guy didn't get the message and didn't arrive today. Neither the upstairs nor downstairs heat works!

Please bow your heads and take a moment to honor a truly major milestone in this projecT: the porta-potty has been taken away! This moment was sufficiently momentous as to warrant a photo.


Lots to prep for the open house Sunday, and then it's a big scramble to pack and move in. The house is the best it'll ever be right now -- gleaming new, empty, the tiniest flaws immediately repaired. I'm not the sort to be fussy about a perfect house -- my philosophy runs along the lines of "the house works for you, you don't work for the house." I respect shoes-off policies in other homes, but it doesn't at all fit us. Still, the first ding, the first furniture mark, the first crayon graffiti, will sting. For a few more days, it's still a showpiece, but after that, it shifts to "home."

3/13/09 Triple Trouble

There are times, as we wrap up the biggest construction project we'll ever take on in our lives, that I wonder: was this really necessary? Did we go overboard? Couldn't we be perfectly happy in the 1800 sq.ft. 4BR house we've been living in the last 9 months?

Ultimately, perhaps. But it's dawned on me recently that the physical configuration of the eating area has caused real problems. Annoyances, we've known all along, but "annoying" long ago tipped over into "problem."

There simply isn't enough room in the eating area for a family of five. The table that fits only seats four, and we have to seat the boys across from each other (and they still kick at each other under the table). If I do manage to sit down during dinner, Dave and I can't talk at all because the boys make so much noise yakking loudly to each other. Sitting them next to each other is unthinkable.

It's often worse when Katrina is at the table, since then they bug her constantly, but then, there's no chance for Dave and I to sit at the same time anyway. Breakfast isn't so bad though.

As a result, dinners are stressful ordeals that Dave and I both just bear down and endure and can't wait until they're over. Family dinners keep families together? Where? It will be really really nice when we have a place to banish foul-mouthed loud gross little boys -- and soon, girl.

I had to spend most of the day at the house today, to keep an eye on the contractors my kitchen designer used for the kitchen installation. These guys weren't managed through our general contractor, and the difference is remarkable. These guys fit every contractor stereotype: late, uncommunicative, unprepared, try to get away with the bare minimum, heel-dragging, excuses. So I stayed all day to keep an eye on the guy. Sure enough, he expected only to have to install glass, and I made sure he didn't book out before I showed him the other items.

Not that hanging around our soon-to-be home is all bad....I'd forgotten how much I liked just being there. There are a lot of spaces, a lot of levels, a lot of views. That also means a lot of projects, and I gladly spent the morning making a tiny dent in the massive landscaping problem we have now. It's been a very, very long time since I've spent the better part of the day outside, working on the grounds, at our own home. It felt really good.

We're bracing ourselves for a very very busy next few days!


Thursday, March 12, 2009

3/12/09 Back to Outback

Our house was thoroughly, completely cleaned today by a crew of about 6 people -- this makes it officially a HOUSE, not a jobsite!

And we passed final inspection today!!

This means there will be all sorts of work going on tomorrow there. The kitchen guys are supposed to finish up, neither upstairs nor downstairs heat works, lots of light fixtures to replace now that we've met and passed code, and numerous other doorstop-level details.

But I couldn't resist taking a peek and some photos after picking up our little brood. While they waited in the car, Dave and I ran through the house and checked it out.

The kitchen, minus cabinet glass, but otherwise complete.

(I sorta wish the backsplash had more oomph, but I can't take my eyes off that niche.)

The family room, viewed from the kitchen. Notice sunlight streaming in? That's why we did this.

One view of the guest suite. We have grandparent guests staying for a week next month, so they'll test it out for us!

Now, all this is leading up to: by the time we were done buzzing around the house, it was almost 6pm. So we booked it to Outback for dinner on a whim. I'm happy to say we can do this now, despite not having one accoutrement with us for a 2-year-old with us. Not that we use a lot at home anyway -- bibs, sometimes, if Katrina allows it, but sippy-cups and such have long since been abandoned. Most restaurants have what we need.

(One of my best toddler-restaurant survival tricks is to ask for an empty coffee mug, which all restaurants have. I pour some milk out of the styrofoam, lidded, strawed kid-cup and into a coffee mug, and she drinks out of that. Coffee mugs are heavy and stable and very difficult to knock over. The light styrofoam, especially with the straw to catch on reaching arms, are a sure-fire bet to get knocked over.)

We've been to Outback many times, but tonight the boys were mildly curious about the Australia thing. Gabriel asked, "Is this an Australian restaurant?" Like asking if Man Bo Duck is a Chinese restaurant. Then Julian asked, "Is this Australian butter?"

Incredibly, as we were gathering to go, a lady at the table next to us caught our attention and said severely, "Ma'am -- your children --" Uh-oh, I'm gonna get it now. Katrina was getting a little punchy and loud, signalling our time to exit. "Your children were so well-behaved!" Katrina, for once, didn't have us pacing her around the restaurant and outside, indeed, she was funny and delightful.

OK, this entire post was supposed to be about the Australian butter question, but it ran away with me.

Today was the last day I commute from our rental house to work. Next week, Dave and I are both taking the entire week off work. I think the grand act of putting our lives back in place deserves that.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

3/11/09 The Baker

I performed an unnatural act tonight -- I went to a mall. That's because I performed a very natural act, procrastinating, and don't have time to order gift baskets in time for the open house this weekend.

I stopped by Williams-Sonoma to pick up a second mini-muffin tin, as I use mine a lot, and I often need a second tin. While checking out, the friendly salesman said cheerfully and slightly apologetically, "While you're here, do you need some paper liners that fit in this tin?" I shook my head, not bothering to look up. "Or maybe some cupcake mix?"

I raised my eyes and looked at him squarely. "M i x?" He hesitated, unsure if my flat tone came from ignorance or contempt, and started to say, "yeah, like if you want to m a k e...." My wilting gaze cut him off, he stopped, then burst out laughing, understanding. "OH! A scratch baker!"

And then we had a nice chat about the pros and cons of various bakeware. It was fun, and sort of validating. I like bringing reality to theory and when I have a riveted, fascinated audience to hear my compulsively detailed pro-con lists. He'd never heard of a very basic flaw in their ultra-adorable train pan, for instance (a pan I love): most consumers of train cakes are kids. But if you put frosting on a train cake, it covers all the detail. And kids want frosting on cakes!

I really have come a long way as a baker recently, in no small part because of our remodel project. I've baked something different, and often something I've never made before, every Thursday night to bring to the construction crew on Fridays. This was partly fueled by a personal challenge to use every scrap of fruit that entered my house, though don't pat me on the back for not being wasteful -- this meant many energy-sapping hours of a 350-degree oven. It was a great outlet to experiment and try new methods and recipes. I wouldn't dream of serving the guys Duncan Hines on Fridays.

So now, I stash a few mixes for emergencies, but if I'm in a time crunch, I'll buy a whole cake. If I'm really baking, then what's the point of a mix? And now I can rescue twice as much fruit, and waste twice as much energy, flour and sugar, in my two ovens.


p.s. Our front porch, almost done -- still some tape on the door, the doorbell button is missing, and those horrible code-passing flood lights on the walls need to be replaced after final inspection....but I just love this. This is one of the best views of the house. We hadn't planned to replace the old painted porch floor, but we had to, and I'm so glad.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

3/10/09 The Medical Mistake

Last night, I got a message from the medical foundation where I'd gone to Urgent Care for my awful sore throat. The culture for strep came back negative, and I didn't need to continue taking the antibiotic they'd given me in case it was. Good, 'cause that stuff was nasty.

Tonight I got another call, following up, checking to see how I felt. I think that's the most shocking thing -- I'm not a regular patient there, but they called to follow up? Fascinating. I commented that I hated the antibiotic, I was glad I didn't need to take it. "What?" the nurse asked, "you tested positive for Strep-A."

I don't know, either I misunderstood or the nurse who'd left a message was reading someone else's chart, but this person double-checked and confirmed with the doctor: positive for strep. That explains that -- I'd had sore throats as a kid, and whatever I had last week was no ordinary sore throat, it was really, really, really painful.

Speaking of medical mistakes, Katrina has resumed her nightly dinnertime tantrums, pleased by nothing. The storm usually blows over suddenly; we just never know when it will. Tonight some brown basmati rice pilaf did the trick. Even after she's done tantruming, she's very demanding, never satisfied with the first choice of spoon or cup. Occasionally, she'll demand my attention just to tell me something: "MommyMommyMommyMommy..." [ I turn my head to face her ] "...I'm going to eat my RICE!"

Tonight she did that again: "MommyMommyMommyMommy..." and I went up to her and asked what she wanted. She rested her head against me and said, "I love you, Mommy."

I was absolutely blown away.


Lax Tax

Whee-haw, can I just gloat: taxes all done and filed and paid tonight. That's my Dad's taxes, our personal taxes and now, my corporation's taxes too.

I'm proud of myself, I did everything myself (I always do the personal, but now there's the business too), and I think I've figured out how pay myself from my corporation and Uncle Sam and keep it all kosher. We'll see when the tax man comes a-knocking next year. Meantime, no CEO-bashing, 'cause I'm all about excessive executive pay!

I still have some quarterlies to file with the state, but for the most part, I can let this go and concentrate on moving. And, Dave got all our address change stuff done too. We're ready to move now.

Please hold onto something so that my huge sigh of relief doesn't blow you over.

Monday, March 09, 2009

3/9/09 Daylight Savings Time

Literal, absolute-thinking Gabriel can't accept Daylight Savings Time. Yesterday when I'd mention the time, he say with great consternation, "NO IT ISN'T!" and then insist it was actually an hour earlier. "So WHAT if the clock says 7:00?" he'd say. "You still know it's really only 6:00." He thought it would be a mere matter of informing the teacher to get the school to reset the time.

But I really had to laugh this morning, when he said that it also wastes energy to have to turn on the lights in the morning. My mother will certainly chuckle at that too, because as a kid, I too was very offended by a daylight savings time change that forced us to get up earlier. That daylight savings change was made early, brought on by the energy crisis of the 1970s. I so hated getting up earlier -- still do -- that I wrote an angry letter to President Nixon, informing him of the error in his energy-saving logic: "...we get up and TURN THE LIGHTS ON!" Clearly he hadn't considered this unintended consequence and needed me to enlighten him!

One very fundamental difference between having babies and schoolkids is that daylight savings time that results in getting up "earlier" is a good thing with babies (Katrina was zonked well past the-new-7am), but it's a bad thing when you have to get kids to school on time. Unless, that is, the school changes its ways based on an angry letter from a know-it-all kid.


Sunday, March 08, 2009

3/8/09 Ping-pong playdate

With moving and a big open house coming up, what better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than setting up a ping-pong table? Finalizing taxes, changing addresses, organizing and packing belongings -- who needs it?

My friend Laura offered to help me assemble the table, a baffling generous offer. I can't fathom having that kind of time right now, but she had second purpose: a playdate to keep her busy boy busy. It worked for me too, because the boys were dragging their heels about spending another afternoon at the house, but as soon as they heard Lance would be there, they were all over it.

So Laura and I built the table while the boys swung logs at the big dirt pile, chased each other, jumped off stepstones into a big mud puddle (a game that inexplicably got named "dinosaur chocolate"), and swatted balls into our neighbors' yard. Something tells me the neighbors might miss those nice quiet air compressors!

We got it done and then it was time to test it out.

I figured out how to keep things going: each boy takes turn hitting the ball 3 times, with me retrieving and bouncing it for them. They're all far, far away from actually keeping a rally going, or even hitting the ball back if it comes their way, but they had a great time trying. Even with their flailings and silliness, it looked to me like Julian was granted some talent in hitting and aiming the ball.

I really do think we're going to have fun with this. But who said this is for the kids? *I* like to play and I'm tired of not having a place to! Maybe not at an open house party in a muddy yard, but it was as good an excuse as any.

Now I really do have to get to those taxes.