‘Til Dust Do Us Part

OK, first things first. Not actually using a blog post to bitch about my marriage or signal its demise. Things may not have been pretty here lately, but 1) my husband isn’t to blame for 100% of the crankiness in our house lately because plenty of that is mine, too. And 2) I don’t think any couple goes through a major house renovation and is totally thrilled with their partner the entire time, so even though we haven’t exactly been ourselves lately, I’m pretty sure we’re pretty normal still.

And we’re going to have to keep on keeping on because the end is still not close enough in sight to be reassuring. The kitchen is getting there with floors scheduled to go in tomorrow and cabinets all set and just waiting on pulls and molding. The beam and a door frame need wrapped/stained, and the old trim Ben is refinishing still needs to be done so it, too, can rejoin the kitchen/DR here soon.

What is killing our progress (and my sanity) is that the counter tops are, at best, going in May 3. That’s still almost two full weeks away and a Friday, so even if they go in that day, what are the chances of the plumbers and electrician getting here to get my sink and cook-top up and running? Any why the delay, you ask? I have no idea. We got them in motion weeks ago but apparently didn’t get on the install schedule fast enough because now we’re stuck waiting (and waiting and waiting) and will most likely hit a solid EIGHT WEEKS with no functioning kitchen in our house before we are said and done. Holy. Eff. P.S. “I have lots of swears in my head right now that I would like to say you to” may now be heard on a bit of a loop around here, in case you want another indicator of how we’re holding up.

Of course, nothing else is done either because this whole thing is one giant Rube Goldberg machine where one piece can’t happen until the one that proceeds it is complete. That means the basement laundry and bathroom still need work (bathroom more so with flooring and vanity and fixtures still awaiting install), and the old laundry room that is meant to be the new play room hasn’t even been torn into yet. And did I mention we for sure need a new driveway?

Yep.

What. A. Mess.

Speaking of mess….waiting for me as soon as I have a place to put any of the shit that has been squeezed out of three major parts of my house amidst construction chaos, is my store room.

img_3528You see, my store room resides in the basement right next to all the new construction which meant Round One of work left a shit show of saw dust in there when doors didn’t get closed during work days. SMHx1000.

Then came Round Two with the demo of the lath and plaster of the old kitchen and dining room, which meant actual balls and clumps of debris rolled down the walls and into, you guessed it – my store room.

Then you add in duct work and plumbing that needed to sneak through the store room, as well, and HOLY. EFF. All the dirt. All the dust. All the swears.

So, friends, I ask you here, as we near the end of month five of this insanity…how am I going to do this? I realize it’s probably going to take me most of the summer to unearth img_3529all this grossness which sucks because it is covering all of the kids’ clothes bins and such that we actually need now that the seasons are changing, not to mention all the kitchen stuff and just general life stuff that a storage room holds, but seriously. It needs major cleaning and I am going to have to touch every single item in there to get it done. Do I channel Marie Kondo? Do I organize for a future garage sale? Do I toss a match and just walk away from everything?* For real. Please give me your best cleaning tips. We’re gonna need them.

*like the title of this post, you must realize this, too, is hyperbole. Things aren’t that bad. But we are drowning in dust that buried our sanity long, long ago. So much so that we now mix metaphors and don’t even care. We need ways to fix it!

img_3570

Advertisements

Time to Adapt

For the record, we never knew that our house reno would take this long. I mean, once you start, you’re at the mercy of the project and have to ride whatever twists and turns (and over the cliff moments) that come, which is never a known entity for any renovation, but still. There is no way we could have predicted this much time from start to (still not) finish(ed).

The great news is: major progress has been made in the last two weeks. Plumbing that we’ve been waiting on for months got knocked out in three majorly long days for the new plumbing crew, AND the overall wait turned out to be most fortunate because we discovered last week that our new main floor shower was – no freaking joke – leaking. Actually, it wasn’t and then it started and the new crew had to reset the drain put in by the old crew and HOLY HANNAH. I am so glad more progress wasn’t done downstairs so we could see and address that shit as quickly as possible.

We’ve also had drywall happening which in itself is a freaking PROCESS, but we’re getting there. Most of the basement to this point is rocked, and the kitchen got the green light Tuesday afternoon for paint, so that’s what we’ve been doing, with the help of my mom, the last two nights. One more coat to go tonight, but here is the south wall of our new space:

img_3447

What you’re seeing is the small door to the hallway/bathroom/etc. and the large opening between the dinning room and living room. And if you’re thinking that that paint color looks awfully familiar, you’d be most correct because it is the exact same as our kitchen was when we bought the house! I have always loved that gray/brown that I didn’t pick, and because the new space is so big, I decided we should just go for it and do the whole darn thing.

After tracking down the old paint cans in our basement and discovering that the paint color is called “Elephant Gray” I had no doubt it was right for us and our sweet Elephant babe, Wilson!

Side note: don’t be freaked out by the different colors on the wall – those are just funny shadows thrown by the temporary lights. And, sorry to say it, but the brick isn’t staying visible. As much as I love it, I need the cupboard space that will go in front of it more than the visual element of it. Darn it.

Second side note: we bought way too much paint because clearly we are not used to painting new, smooth walls! LOL Any ideas for what we can do with the extra cans?

There is some odd, great comfort coming from seeing color on our new walls. For one thing, it means we are so much closer to the being back in our kitchen which will be a Hallelujah moment for sure. But another element is that the use of the familiar color is helping me feel more at ease with this massive change to our house because even though SO much is different, keeping the Elephant gray means not everything is different.

And this leads me back to the (painfully slow) time frame that we’ve had with this entire experience: as much as I wish it has been much smoother process from the start, I have to say that the incremental progress has been good for my brain and heart to go slow and steady with getting used to the new layouts and looks of the house. These are huge changes and adapting to them requires time.

Thankfully the time to see a lot of the rest of it is getting smaller and smaller.

Don’t Poke the Bear

Over time, the phrase “don’t poke the bear” has had several meanings in my life. Lately, though, it seems to be the phrase that keeps escaping my mouth as we come, this week, to the end of Month Four of house renovations with at least a month, but most likely more, still waiting before we cross the official finish line.

We poked the bear (the house) and it’s a little pissed (the list is growing longer, not shorter on To Dos, folks. Yikes.).

Before I continue any further, let me stress that our stress is self-induced, and after the last week and a half of flooding here in Nebraska and other Midwestern states, our “problems” seem pretty damn small in comparison to people who have lost their homes, their livelihoods, and in some tragic cases, their loved ones. Squishing my kitchen, dining room, play room, and living room all into one room is stressful, yes, but at least we have a house that isn’t under water and a roof over our heads.

But water is in fact one of our concerns, as the recent dampness here in Hastings has img_3303shown that we may have some larger issues to tackle before this project is said and done in our current, unfinished laundry room. In theory that room should have been framed and finished out by now, had our original timeline held tight. As it did not, I guess we are fortunate (this is my husband’s clinging to a bright side, and I’m trying to get on board with it) to now see that some water may be coming in on the north basement wall’s foundation which means our cracked-to-bits driveway’s days (it’s been like this since we bought the house) may be numbered. Driveways are cheap, right? (you saw the sarcasm font there, right?)

We knew when we decided to stay in this house that there were going to be issues. In fact, knowing its issues instead of switching to a new house and it’s unknowns was a contributing factor to our decision to stay versus move. But I am an idiot for ever saying, “Well, at least we won’t have to deal with the stress of moving” because house renos also come with a ton of stress, and they never have official closing dates like when you sell and buy houses.

So yes, we poked the bear and the bear is now showing jaws, claws, and budget busters.

What the bear is also aggravating, that I never saw coming, is my trauma recovery and health. Thanks to the prolonged winter, the sick kids, and our stress levels, I have been fighting illness for the last two months straight. I don’t know that I’ve had more than a few days at a time where I feel pretty alright, much less totally healthy, and that’s just in my physical body. My mental body is also struggling in the midst of all this chaos.

In the last four months, a great sense of control has been taken away. For all this work to get done, we must rely on others to come do it. We must rely on them to communicate and listen and show up and do, which clearly hasn’t been a smooth process, although it’s improved in recent weeks. As much as we’d like to plan everything, we’re at the mercy of other people, and that lack of control for me as a trauma survivor in particular is HARD. Did I know a house project was going to trigger that? Um, no. Not at all. But whenever something doesn’t go as planned now, I can feel my anxiety rising at record rates.

We also have to have extra people in our house as much as possible for anything to get done around here which is, at this point, completely frying my introvert heart. I can’t tell people not to be here. In fact, on days when people are not here, I am not OK, either, because I just need all of this to be done and as soon as possible, please and thank you. But the utter lack of privacy and invasion into my home, my family space, my work space, my quiet that all of it has caused? Again. I am not handling it well anymore.

Of course, none of this is to say that anyone has done something terribly offensive to me or us. Minus the switch in providers, I’d say this is probably a pretty typical house reno project and process. But when we chose to embark on this journey, I did not realize the ramifications on my own well being that would come from poking around in the walls and floors of my literal house. And, quite frankly, it’s a metaphor that I wish wasn’t actually coming to life.

Cart/Horse

img_3213As you may know from following along here, the kitchen chaos we are currently living in (more on that here soon, promise) has always been part of the remodel plan. When we first talked about staying in this house by making the basement more functional, we decided that the someday dream of tearing out the wall between the kitchen and dinning room to gain much needed counter space just needed to happen at the same time (*gulp*) because so much of the plumbing and whatnot was already going to be touched, so, why not?

We thought a majority of the work would be done by March. Or, at least, we thought most of the basement would be finished by March and the kitchen started.

As it went down, though, a lot of pieces in the house got started and none actually completed, so with the new month, we decided to go a new route with builders. In a total leap of crazy faith, on the day we let the previous providers go, we did not have new ones ready to come in and start working.

That was March 1.

On March 4, 5, and 7 we met with potential new hires. We walked them through what had been done and what was left to do (i.e.: a LOT).

By March 6 we had interest from a local building company, and I spent all of last Thursday (the 7th) in a mad scramble to empty out my kitchen because that is where they wanted to start.

Which leads me to the aforementioned cart and horse.

You see, part of the appeal to these new folks in starting the kitchen first was that we didn’t have to wait for 6-8 weeks for our cabinets to come in because they are already living in our garage and have been for almost a month.

Begin Rant: Our previous provider encouraged us to order through a different local company before price increases with the new year which turned out to be a huge mistake because said cabinet company totally bowled us over with a change to our upper cabinet height that was neither asked for nor approved nor caught by us until after the magical window in which to change the order disappeared. And then they refused to work with us to fix it. Needless to say, I’m not a fan of them (the company), but we had already gone too far with financial investment to back out, so I am hoping and praying the cabinets either A) look OK even though they are shorter what my previous kitchen had or B) can be fixed with some extra installments on top of them by someone – anyone – else later on down the road. But please, if you are ever doing kitchen work in your house, I’ll be glad to tell you who NOT to patron with your business and your dollars. End Rant. 

So that’s the long way of explaining why it is that we’ve come to start work on our kitchen before finishing the basement. Because, we can. And we need to, because having that much cabinetry living in my garage is NOT good for my anxiety levels for multiple reasons.

Instead, my anxiety gets to focus on keeping a family of seven going with no access to several major parts of our house, plus no oven, stove, sink, or dishwasher, which is bonkers making but so, so worth it because the new builders are amazing and doing such great work, so quickly for us.

I’ll post more about living in our living room soon, and if you have favorite tips for cooking with just a skillet, microwave, and toaster, trust me – I’m all ears.

img_3221

 

A Quiet Mind

img_3153For the first time in three months I am sitting in my house with a hot minute (actually 50) to just be here with my coffee and my computer while everyone else is at school or napping. While this is supposed to be normal every Tues/Thurs, it hasn’t been in ages because of construction. But today? No one coming and going. No banging or clanging.

Why the total quiet? Because we are in the middle of a Big Change in the middle of our Big Changes in our house.

Passing the three month mark as we did last week was meant to be quite exciting in terms of completion (at least some things should have been completed, you know?) but instead we are faced with the “exciting” prospect of starting over and finding a new team to complete our projects.

You all get the heavy dose of sarcasm living in those quotation marks, yes?

I won’t go in to details here, and of course no house project happens without some drama, but this total shift midstream is not something we anticipated when we began this journey the first week of December.

But now it’s March, even though the foot of snow still existing in my yard would say otherwise, and with the changing season that IS coming, so too comes a need for us to push onward and upward, to not be deterred by confusion and delay (yes, I realize I’m quoting Sir Topham Hat here. I have five children, so this is not unwarranted. Plus, Daniel Tiger and Thomas the Train have some legit, mad skills when it comes to parenting mantras).

This week also brings me the gap between terms of online teaching, so as I wrap up grading and prepare for the new sections incoming next week, I’m taking in the bubble of space we have given ourselves in our house and flat out appreciating the lull, the quiet that my system hasn’t had in months.

I’m trusting that this same quiet will help us find the right way forward and that all the chaos that brought us to this moment of pause will be worth it in the end.

Because, for the love of all things holy, there will be an end and we very much have a say in how we get there.

 

 

Home Improvement (Remodel Update)

Our house projects have been underway officially for over a month now, and updates here have been slow because progress has been a bit of the same. That’s partially because of the holidays, partially because of life, and partially because I don’t think these kind of projects ever go quite as one would hope in terms of time or cost.

Fortunately we’ve reached the point with the basement side of things that most of the potential “issues” have been uncovered. Don’t worry; I’ll go knock on wood now that I’ve made such a braggy boast, but with the bathroom and laundry room and floor plumbing and electrical all roughed in now, we’ve been able to see what is and is not OK down there.

Unfortunately, down there has shown us that some things up here (i.e. on the main floor) fall into the NOT OK category.

As it happens when you go poking around in an older home, taking down the ceiling in the basement showed pretty quickly that our main floor bathroom was struggling. Actually, just the shower, really, but that’s kind of a big deal. The grout we’ve tried to patch with in recent years just wasn’t enough to seal (literally) the deal, nor could it deny the fact that there was definitely a leak there for a while.

So, a new shower led us (*ahem* let the record show: it was my husband’s idea first) to decide to put in a double sink vanity in the main floor bath while everything in the basement is still open. The toilet started leaking, too (because, why not?), and the flooring has clearly taken a beating over the years, so when it is all said and done we are getting a 90% new main floor bathroom in addition to the previously planned projects.

Ooof.

BUT, this is good to discover now because who wants to spend all that money on new construction downstairs only to have the upstairs mess it all up anyway? There’s no need for us to suddenly have two showers in the basement, if you catch my drift.

img_2816It looks hopeful that we’ll have walls by next week which means we can move on to flooring and installments of all the things in both of the “new” rooms downstairs there soon. That’s good, because then all that main floor bathroom stuff is going to arrive, and so are the kitchen cupboards, because yes, that’s been part of the plan all along, too. And while I have some choice, choice words to say about that process already (many of them are colorful and contain four letters) if you ever want to hear them in person, I know that eventually we are going to have turned this house into SUCH a functional space for our not-so-little family.

img_2815

 

 

 

Be Here

Seven years ago this coming January, we moved in to our second home. Our current home. We have loved it in that time. Since the spring of 2017, however, when I found out I was pregnant with Baby No.5, we started flirting with the idea of a new-to-us house. Something with a different layout, perhaps, more kitchen space, and definitely an attached garage.

For over a year we looked, off and on, at homes and could not find anything in our price range that would outdo our current house. Oh, we put a few low ball offers in on larger homes around town but none of them panned out, and since that unicorn house that met all the requirements needed to go through the hassle of selling/moving/upping our mortgage never materialized, we decided to once again revisit the idea of what we could with do with some work in our current space.

The answer turned out to be: A LOT.

It took a couple tries and a few months of thinking time to land on the idea, but we eventually came to the conclusion that we could take the room that sold us on this house seven years ago and make it work for us in a whole new, multifaceted way.

Here it is: img_2482

Pretty, right? 😉

But for real, this bonus space in the basement (that quickly became a playroom for our kids after we moved in) is what made our eyes pop the first time we looked at this house. It’s a representation of just how much space the basement does have (there is also a full-size family room down there, a store room, and an unfinished laundry room and a couple closets); we just needed to get creative after a plumbing roadblock presented itself last spring to make it all work. Instead of just finishing the basement laundry room, we discovered that we could turn this beige box into a full sized bathroom AND laundry room, and take the unfinished old laundry room and turn it into a non-conforming bedroom/play room. And yes, trust me – this was the cheaper alternative thanks to the old plumbing in our old house. 🙂

And so the dominoes are starting to line up for this one-after-another project series beginning THIS WEEK!

I realize that we are plunging headfirst into A Thing by taking this on right now, but the work (and money) that will be poured into this home are equal to how much character and love it holds, too. We couldn’t find a different house for us because this is the house for us. Now we just get to take some of the bones of it and make them a little more (read: a ton more) functional for our growing family.

No, I won’t end up with my garage attached to my house when we’re all said and done, but we ARE going to move heaven and earth (just windows and walls, actually) as best we can (not we; a contractor!) so we can continue to live and love and be HERE for years and years to come.