Friday, April 30, 2010

Friday Favorites

We've started to collect bids for the work on the roof and also some other things (what we technically want to do is tear down the entire north part of our house, scour the site with bleach, and start over. Due to earthly realities, like funding, we'll fall somewhere short of this). And by "collecting bids," I mean "talk with various builders and contractors about all the wonderful possibilities and also make lots of little drawings on pieces of scrap paper." That is to say, we haven't actually seen any pricetags, although here and there we'll get a figure thrown out--"oh, THAT will cost five thousand dollars" or "probably in the realm of fifteen hundred." So we're still in the dreamy phase. Wouldn't it be nice if we had a window here by the fireplace? Wouldn't it be nice if we had space for a study down here where the bathroom is now? Wouldn't it be great to have the stairs over here?

At some point, we'll get some numbers, and cold, bitter reality will set in. That will be painful. But in the meantime, just the idea that we can make this thing anything we want it to be is kind of liberating. Also, the idea that we are People Who Work On Our House, as opposed to what we've always been, which is People Who Think A Lot About Various Problems But Never Get Around to Actually Doing Anything About Them, is kind of liberating. It will liberate our money, too, from its cozy place in our bank/ equity/ future paycheck. But even that is a state of mind, and states of mind can change.

Well, I'm not sure how exactly I'm going to move from this to a list of favorite things, either. I suppose I could list my favorite things about construction, which are:

1. The smell of fresh lumber
2. Getting to pick through tile samples at Home Depot
3. That feeling, after it's all done, that we can live in a place that is not filled with noise and drywall dust and Toxic Attic smell is WONDERFUL, and feels like some kind of miracle.
4. The feeling that we're finally getting something done.
5. Yeah, that's it. House construction is basically miserable, and on top of it all the expense is staggering. However, unlike lots of expensive things (having open-heart surgery, say) at the end of it all everything is much, much nicer.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


So the ants, they have a nest, right up there behind the beam that supports the kitchen/ TV room ceiling. And I find myself staring up there frequently, wondering about their sweaty little ant bodies all crawling around in there, feeding themselves, lugging their larvae back and forth, chewing out more and more of the beam that supports this part of the house, which is rotten already, which is why the ants are there. Even though the ants are there and I am here and I am not, in general, a person who gets skeevy in the face of arthropods, over and over again I feel like I am in the nest, and that there are ants in my armpits, in my nostrils, in my hair, and I am skeeved.

Yesterday we had an exterminator come out and put little shots of poison into the nest, along with lines of poison along their preferred pathways, so that pretty soon we are going to have a nest up in the drywall above our kitchen, but it is going to be filled with dead ants. And also poison.

This is not much better.

Half of our house smells like ripe, fungus-rich rotten wood, like we have a decaying tree in our living room. Actually, we DO have a decaying tree in our living room. It just happens to have been milled, and set into cross supports, and be holding up our roof. I keep imagining the layer of the ceiling/roof between the drywall (which looks fine, more or less) and the spiffy new shingles, which look very fine, and what I imagine is this: old rotted-through barn floors. Mining cabins where the walls are sinking into the ground. Wood that is turning into compost.

Basically, the roof over half our house is made of compost.

There is another dimension to this, of course. The money dimension. I'm finding it easier not to think about that at all. My husband can't sleep at night, and all day he stomps around the house saying things like, "Smell that? Do you smell that smell? I think it's strongest in here" and "This is going to use up all our equity" and "I can't believe what SHITS those people were" and "I feel trapped."

In response, I put my fingers in my ears and think "LA LA LA LA."

And then I think about the ants.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Friday Favorites

Home again, and raining. I did my run in the rain this morning, and while sometimes this is my favorite kind of run, this morning it was not. I did like getting out, though, and I still get unreasonably excited when the creekwaters rise. And they're rising.

Well, my Friday Favorites this morning are kind of predictable: my favorite things about coming home.

1. Getting to see Hubs and the kids. Both kids were being especially sweet this morning, particularly given the conditions of rain and sleepiness. Silas actually went to say goodbye to Hubs without being prompted by me. AND he said, "Have a good day, Mom!" as he left the house. To wait at the bus stop. In the rain. He probably qualifies for some kind of 3rd grade medal.

2. Getting to check on the flowering/ sprouting status of plants in the yard. This is bar none my favorite activity this time of year, and I build up a craving after a few days away. I planted carrots and peas on Sunday, but they're not up yet (it would be a wee bit unusual for them to sprout this fast, but I'm always hopeful).

3. Getting to see the dog. She actually crawled under the covers with us last night, which she hasn't done for YEARS--I wonder if the rain bothers her? Or maybe she could hear very very distant thunder? Or maybe she missed me?

4. Getting to eat exactly what I like for breakfast.

5. Getting back to a routine. No matter how much I enjoy being away, whether for work or on vacation, there's always this nagging feeling of things being off-kilter. Now things are on kilter again, except for looming house repairs/ renovations.

Worst thing about coming back: all the same old problems in the house are STILL HERE. Ugh. Ants. We have ANTS. In the roof, along with also apparently fungus/ rot, which is what they eat. We're still sort of assessing slash dithering on this. GOD. Sometimes I imagine running into the people who lived here before us and asking them if they actually did one single thing in the house NOT the cheapest crappiest way. (The roof is NEW. NEW ROOF AND IT WAS PUT ON OVER ROT.)

And then I share a little laugh with myself because seriously, that's so not my style. I'd probably just smile and tell them OH WE LOVE THE HOUSE. AND EVERY SINGLE DOLLAR WE ARE SINKING INTO IT LIKE SOME VAST TAR PIT OF MONEY.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Oh, Lake Superior, how I've missed you:

The conference is nice, too. As conferences go. I'm still missing home dreadfully, and calling home doesn't really help:

"Hello? Hi, Silas, is that you? I miss you, sweetheart!"
"Hi Mom."
"How're doing?"
"Um...what specials did you have today?"
"Gym. I mean music. Only we had a lockdown? So Mrs Parks came to us."
"You had a lockdown? what? why?"
"It was just for practice."
"Oh. You have lockdown drills?"

*crickets chirping*

"Okay, well, goodbye, kiddo. I love you."
"Okay. Goodbye."

Okay, well. Goodbye.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Friday favorites

Man, I have been DROW ZEE this week. It's killing me. Whenever I get like this, I always say "the weather must be changing" and roll my eyes in an exasperated way at that old screwup, Weather. Then I feel about 80 years old. My kids, and most likely my grandkids, will remember this as one of my traits that I think is loveable and they think is just annoying.

Speaking of grandkids, Helen told me the other day that when she has a "girl kid" she's going to name her Maggie. I said, Hold your horses right there, Missy! Ain't NO grandkids coming to this house until the kids have moved out! Okay, I kid. I did say something awkward about how that's great! But you don't even need to have kids! Lots of people don't! Apparently I'm worried that she's going to pay too much attention to the cultural imperative to breed. (note: she is FIVE. Also, it's Si with his lax attention to things like dental floss and helmets that is likely to make him an early breeder.)

Moving on! I believe it's been a while since I did a Friday Favorites post. I'm going to travel again for work next week (Duluth! in April! whoo-hee!), which could be a great topic, but I think I'm going to take the easy way out and list my favorite things about April:

1. The shrubs and trees are starting to make their flowering plans known. I run out every evening when I get back from work and check the fruit trees for bud action (last year neither of them flowered, due probably to a late cold snap but which in my mind was due to my negligence and/or their recalcitrance). I also keep poking my fingers in the lilac buds, trying to determine the size and color of their flowers-to-be.

2. We can leave the windows wide open at night again. I love sleeping with the windows open. There's been a great-horned owl in our pine trees the past two nights--listening to it makes me feel like I'm listening to somebody's fascinating secret life (although I think his secrets are probably more like, Come here, baby. Woo-woo. Come here, baby).

3. Arugula! I strategically let a few go to seed last year, and now half the weeds in my garden area are arugula. I find this stuff addictive in small doses. It's like the macadamia nut of the leafy greens world.

4. Ants! We have carpenter ants in our roof! Isn't that gr--okay, it sucks. SKIP.

5. Long days. I have daylight or at least dusk at both ends of my day, now. Partly this is because I haven't been able to drag myself out for a run before 6 a.m. this week, but still! Daylight! LOVE!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Project Time Again

Fact: this time of year, EVERY year, I hate my yard. It doesn't really matter which yard we're talking about; they all have patchy grass coming up in tufts like hair after chemo; there's always dog doo everywhere, or, if I've been keeping up with the yard-cleanup duties , there are mysterious brown chunks that look like dog doo but end up being something else; there are always bits and pieces of broken and abandoned toys; there are always little flowers that look like trash. The most vigorous plants in mid-April are always the weeds. I always find the yard exhausting and discouraging.

Not fully capturing the suckitude of the yard.

However, this year we have a plan. By the end of the summer we're going to have a little deck action; we're going to have some raised vegetable beds; and we're going to have some flower beds. What isn't in beds is going to be in some other kind of generally pleasant-to-look-at shape, instead of piles-of-dirt-and-branches shape.

The plan. Also possibly a diagram for an uncomfortable method of birth control.

The deck will be for eating and also for covering up the great grassless region.

See those railroad ties? This is the year I make myself do Freecycle. (Anyone want some railroad ties?)

Raised beds-in-training. They can't really pretty up the back of the house, but my focus here is utility.

The bright side: the yard really can only get better.
The other bright side: I do like doing this kind of work. Even if thinking about it makes me want to crack open a beer and sit down in despair.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Must Be Monday

Breaking news: Mondays suck. Even if I'm feeling cheerful, there will be SOMEONE in the family who resents the fact that it's Monday, and will make everyone else in the house feel their pain. Such as the child who awoke to remember that he left his backpack at school, and proceeded to make it a DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT MAKING ME TAKE MY LUNCH IN A NONREGULATION BAGLIKE CONTAINER kind of morning. Involving weepiness, missing the bus, and having to be walked to school. This was followed by the rising of Child 2, who ALSO didn't want it to be Monday, but had to search harder for a point of contention. She finally settled on not eating her cereal unless it was on the table in the kitchen instead of the table in the dining room. "I want to eat at the OTHER TABLE," she said in a ugh-it's-Monday kind of groan. "That's fine, sweetheart. Pick up your bowl and move it to the Other Table." "I want YOU to move my bowwwwl." Etc.

Question: does my own Monday morning crabbiness sometimes involve being, uh, inflexible on random points of contention?

Answer: maybe.

Ugh. The day at work has been fine, but I'm kind of dreading going home. I'm also hoping Si was able to track down his backpack.

Monday, April 5, 2010

So What Does Twenty Hours in a Car with Three Kids Look Like, Anyway?

Kinda like this: we leave late (ALWAYS). By the time we're pulling out of town, at 4:30, the rain/snow has already begun. Craaaaap, I think. The kids are excited but remarkably good. One is READING. One is doing puzzles. One is playing Leapster. The key point: they are QUIET (even if one wakes from a little doze around Colorado Springs and asks, "Mom! Are we almost to Legoland?!")

Past Colorado Springs, it is dark (and snowing). The drive is slow (and snowing). But the kids are asleep (hallelujah). And the snow, it is blinding, but it isn't sticking, so we keep going. We go over Raton Pass into New Mexico, and it is starting to stick but at this point stopping isn't an option. By the time we get twenty minutes into New Mexico, there is no snow at all, and we pat ourselves on the back.

New Mexico passes in a dream. Later the kids will keep forgetting to count New Mexico when they list the states they've been in for this trip (and, ok, one kid's list goes like this: "Arizona--Legoland, California--New Zealand--what's that other one, mom? oh! and Fort Collins").

In Arizona we stop to geocache (a lot) and have some French Toast. Just before we get to California we stop again, to eat all of our Clementines. The kids are still being good, amusing themselves and mostly not fighting. Although the parents mostly mention this in the context of "Hey! You kids have been SO GOOD so far! Don't mess it up now!"

We geocache across Death Valley:

Stretch the legs, solve a puzzle, get new/ new-to-you toys: what's not to love?

We hit LA just before sunset on the second day. I'd like to say we drove directly to the coast:

It was approximately 35 degrees.

But instead we descended upon the aunt of M and my SIL, completely covered her living room floor with sleeping gear, and got ready to do things like this:

Note: $14 facepaint job was gone within three hours.

All in all, not bad. The one-hour drive to Legoland the next day was VASTLY harder.

Merry Easter to all and to all a good...yeah

"Is it Merry Easter or Happy Easter?" Si asked yesterday, "I can never remember."

"It's Hoppy Easter," Mike said.

"But how do you remember which one?" Si persisted.

"Uh," we said. "You just do. You kind of memorize it. Eventually."

It's been kind of crazy chez Melospiza lately, what with the TWENTY-HOUR DRIVE TO L.A. WITH THREE KIDS IN A BLINDING SNOWSTORM and other spring break fun, and the going back and forth between work and play, and coordinating the visit from the Easter Bunny, and etc. My little quarterly resolution is to write more here, and elsewhere--so stay tuned, I guess, to see if that pans out.

In the meantime, enjoy your Monday, and April, and spring!