Tuesday, October 22, 2013

One is the loneliest number

Um. Hi. I'm Amy. This is my blog. I've been missing for a while. Sorry. You probably forgot about us here.

I have excuses. Most of them are lame, so I'll spare you.

I do have one pretty good one...

While I've been away I've been gestating our second baby!!!! I'm just a few days shy of 14 weeks and feeling pretty healthy. We should be welcoming our little bundle around April 23. (Or not. Little Man was three weeks early, so I'm not marking my calendar or anything. This one will come when he or she comes.)

With Little Man, I was tired and sick. The nausea was pretty constant for about 12 weeks and there was some (but thankfully not much) puking going on. I was also really tired. This time the first twelve weeks were pretty much the same--except I never did puke (praise be!)-- but chasing a toddler around definitely made it seem much, much harder. Some days I didn't know if I was coming or going.

I'm not complaining. I know as far as pregnancies go, I've been blessed. I'm so, so, so lucky. Thus far (and hopefully throughout) I haven't have debilitating sickness or chronic pain. I can stay active and live my nine months virtually unencumbered. (Or as unencumbered as one can be while growing a human being--its all relative, right?)

In the photo above I'm obviously unencumbered on our recent 25 mile bike ride in West Virginia. Not every preggo would be able to do that, I suppose. It was, however, a completely flat 25 miles, so don't get too impressed with my feat.

But enough about my pregnancy symptoms and bike riding prowess. Lets talk about the title of this little post. See, I'm an only child. (Technically, I do have step siblings who I love very much, but because of age differences and living situations, our time together was limited.)  While I don't feel like being an only child made me lonely per-se, I did often see my friends with siblings and feel a twinge of jealousy. Beau, on the other hand, has three sisters. I'm sure that posed its own set of challenges when they were younger, but family get-togethers now are so incredibly fun. Beau and I both wanted to be able to give Little Man a sibling (or two, who knows what the future holds...) to share life with.

Part of me thinks we might be absolutely insane for having two under two years old. Sometimes our house is absolute chaos with just one energetic toddler. What could it possibly be like with two? I push those thoughts away and think about what it will be like to have two kids who are close enough in age to be buddies. Yes, basically I ignore the initial years when my twenty-three month old won't understand why mom isn't his and his alone. I'm ignoring the thought of my three year-old trying to play with my one year-old and being too rough or getting frustrated with not being able to play the way he wants. I know all of these are teachable moments; they are life lessons that need to be learned. So, perhaps that's why I ignore my inner anxiety and I focus on our sheer joy. Yeah, we'll go with that.

When I was pregnant with Little Man, Beau kept talking about going for Irish twins. Since he didn't go through pregnancy or labor, I felt I had the authority to veto that idea quickly. When Little man was about a year old I got more comfortable with the idea of going through the whole ordeal again. (And baby fever started to hit hard...)

And, well, to spare you the details here we are. We're happy. We're nervous. We're perhaps a little crazy. Most of all, though, we know we are blessed.

So, dear readers, thank you for your patience while I've been "away." Thank you for spending your time reading about and caring about my family. Hopefully I'm back and I'll be able to share our chaos with you far more regularly!

Any advice for a soon-to-be mom of two?

Friday, September 6, 2013

Bop Bop Bop

I love to read.

I don't get to do much of it these days.

OK, that's not entirely true. I actually do quite a bit of reading, but the books I'm currently reading are not very literary in nature.

Currently board books are my thing.

When Little Man was a few months old he could care less about books. He didn't have the patience or attention span for them. They say parents or caregivers should read to their children daily. (Who are they, anyway?) I tried that, but he just wasn't interested.

How is that possible? I'm an English teacher for goodness sake. How would that look to have an illiterate kid? Would the state rescind my license? Was I doing irreparable damage to my baby by not reading to him every day? Will he not get into Harvard because of it?

Turns out such stressful questions were a little premature. Something clicked and for the past five or six months Little Man has been a reading machine.

His very favorite series these days is The Little Blue Truck Series. We got one as a gift from Aunt Betsy back when he was not a reader. Then one day he decided Little Blue was the coolest thing. I lucked into finding the second book at T.J. Maxx--I had no idea it existed before seeing it there-- right before Little Man's first birthday. It made the prefect gift.

Since then, we have read each of the two books many, many, many times a day (among a great many others, of course). I pretty much have them committed to memory. Actually, so does Little Man. There is one point in "Little Blue Truck Leads the Way" where Blue is leading a parade and the people watching yell "Hooray" and clap. Just before I ask Little Man to turn to that page, he claps. It's adorable.

But not as adorable as him saying "Bop, bop, bop" while making a honking motion to let me know he wants to read. Often the first thing he does when I go into his room in the morning is "bop, bop, bop" at me.

In fact, he "bop, bop, bops" at most trucks when we are out. It is easily the cutest thing I've ever seen in my life.

My boy loves to read! And best yet, he loves to read these books that have really great messages about helping your friends (and sometimes non-friends who happen to be in need) and going single file instead of pushing and shoving.

I very highly recommend these sweet books to any young reader. There are great street and animal sounds that get little ones engaged, good messages, and an unassuming and kind hero.

Recently a sticker/activity book was released, but I'm going to hold off on that until I can trust my little terror with stickers. We need to grow into that.

I really wish Alice Schertle would get cracking on another board book featuring Blue. Little Man does, too.

What are you reading to the little people in your life?

Friday, August 30, 2013

How to paint over stripes- the satisfaction of a finished product

My life's mission is complete. The stripes are gone, guys!

Ok, so that's not my life's mission, but it was high up on the list of immediate priorities.

So with no further ado, I give you my stripeless room:

Pretty, huh? Can you even believe the transformation?

Your level of awe is not sufficient. Here, let me help.


OK, that's better. See what a difference it made. No more creepy, homicidal clown visions. Just serenity.

The color is Mossy Log by Valspar.

I had actually chosen a different color at Home Depot, but I forgot that the nearest Depot is like two hours away. We went to a large local hardware store where I picked out a different brand and color, but the employees were too busy to help us. Seriously. Beau asked for help and the guy said, "no." Not, "Oh, yeah, paint's not my department but let me get _____." Or even, "I don't do paint. ______ up front can help you." Instead we just got a "no".

That didn't sit well with us, so we went to a teensy tiny local construction center that also has a little paint section. I wasn't optimistic, but I got lucky and ended up falling in love with Mossy Log.

I don't know if you're like me, but picking paint colors can be paralyzingly difficult. Here I was, picking out a third color for the same space in the period of a few days. Yes, there is color matching, but that isn't quite right.

And what if the color is wrong? What if I spend all. that. time. painting and it ends up looking terrible? That's the part that paralyzes me.

Fortunately, this time I think I pulled it off.

Obviously will need to paint the upper portion of the walls, but that'll happen another day. (I want to wait to make sure the rot on this floor isn't bad. If it is, the builders will be tearing out one whole wall that needs paint. We're all praying that isn't the case. So far the peek under the siding looks relatively rot-free.

So, where I last left off I had sanded and patched, sanded again, and wiped. The only other prep work I did was taping. Even though we are going to replace the floors and I'll paint the upper half of the walls, I have no idea when either of those will happen. I can be a little "free" with paint, so I wanted to keep my "freedom" restricted so I'm not looking at it for the next millennium.

To start the painting process, I primed. Unfortunately, the little store we went to didn't have a primer with the same color base as our Mossy Log. Normally, you would prime in the color you are going to paint, but because we didn't know what the primer would look like if we added the color to the wrong base, we played it safe and left the primer white.

The Valspar Medallion paint we used is a primer and paint in one, but a few days before I put Bran Muffin over the purple bedroom and it took two coats.

Here's the bedroom. It probably feels bad for not having a whole post devoted to it, but you kind people can only take so much rambling about paint...

See how good that looks!?! I'm a painting fool.

Anyway, I knew that covering the stripes and the burgundy was going to take at least three coats of the Valspar if we didn't use a coat of primer. The primer was significantly cheaper and I thought it would probably not do my heart good if I didn't prime and the first coat of paint looked terrible. That's pretty much how technical we got about the "to prime or not to prime" question.

The coat of primer looked terrible.

But I was OK with that. It was white. It was on an awful color and it was a cheap brand.

Had we had access to the ridiculously large selection of a store like The Home Depot, we probably would have opted for a better primer, but for all intents and purposes, the bargain basement version did the trick.

The next day I had Beau take Little Man out so I could do my first coat of the Mossy Log. They went back to the tiny local hardware store and my son got to dump a load from a front loader. But that is a whole different story.

As a side note, the Valspar Medallion is very low VOC and safe for children. As safe as paint fumes can be. I still prefer he not be in the building when I paint. That and he's very "helpful" and I had visions of him finger painting on my walls. Here is is trying to be helpful.

I had a minor heart attack when I painted both striped walls and before starting the burgundy walls I turned to admire my hard work. The stripes were back. Like the killer clown of my nightmares. Like a a bad meal at a greasy diner that creeps up hours later. I almost cried.

Dejected, I moved on to my burgundy walls. When I went back to scowl at the stripes that were showing through, they were gone. Like magic. I could have kissed them.

Two days later, I quickly applied my second coat and I got my finished product. If you look closely enough, there are still slight bumps where the stripes were. I don't know why you would, though. There is soothing Mossy Log on the walls.

Did I mention I love it? Imagine what it is going to look like with lovely dark floors and chunky, white baseboards. I want to kiss the walls.

What do you think? Anyone out there as excited as I am?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Progress isn't always pretty

There is a paint post coming soon, but I took the weekend off painting, so there is one final coat to get on before I can do my big reveal of the stripe-less room. Even now with the splotchy first coat of color on it looks like a new space.

I'll also share my color choice for the bedroom that is almost done. I won't know what to do when I'm not sleeping in the living area. Maybe I'll just do it for nostalgia's sake.

Or not.

Aside from painting, we've had quite a few other projects going on here during our extended stay in construction-ville. Obviously, the guys are still working hard on the decks. They got up to the second floor, found extensive rot-- any one else unsurprised by that???-- and are currently reconstructing the entire second floor west wall. I had no idea it was even possible to replace entire walls until this "little" project. Here's what it looked like about 10 minutes ago.

OK, here's all I know about what is going on. You obviously can't just take out a wall and hope the house won't collapse on itself. To prevent that from happening, the builders had to build a temporary wall to support the weight of the house, tear out the rotten wall, and begin constructing the new, improved, un-rotten wall. In the photo the wall nearest us is the temporary and the outer wall being framed will be the permanent wall. Since I'm upstairs writing this and Little Man is (somehow) napping through all the noise, I'm grateful that the house won't collapse into a rotten heap. Since Beau is currently  under the house I'm sure he is grateful as well.

Here's where what that looked like this morning:

See how even the temporary walls look sturdier than what was there?

OK, so that's what's going on with the builders, but we're not just sitting around watching the fun happen. There's the prepping and painting, but that's just the tip of the iceberg.

And like that iceberg that sank an unsinkable ship, what looked at the start of the week to be a manageable to-do list turned into something surprisingly daunting.

Rather than devoting a post to each of the projects we have going on, I thought I'd do a little roundup to catch you up to speed.

1) Since the entire west wall on the second floor is going to be ripped out and reconstructed, we needed to fix the bathroom that wasn't associated with that wall. Here's the sad truth: Since closing on this place, oh, I don't know, seven months ago, we haven't had a fully functional full bathroom. We have had the equivalent of one, but not one one with all necessary functions in one place.

Most full bathrooms have the following: a flushing toilet, a working shower or bath, a running sink, lights, and a mirror. If they are fancy they might have towel bars. (We are decidedly un-fancy here. Nary a towel bar in sight.) The westernmost bathroom had the working shower, toilet and sink, but no mirror and no lights. That was the most functional room in which to bathe. Sad, right? Showering in the dark is an interesting event. I won't miss it.

The easternmost bathroom-- (which I will heretofore refer to as the purple bathroom because "easternmost and westernmost" make it sound like we live in some Downton Abbey-esque sprawling estate. We do not. We have two bathrooms on the second floor. Granted, two is a significantly larger number than the number we have in Virginia, so I'm not scoffing at it at all.)

I digress. 

The  purple bathroom has working lights, a nice sink, and a lovely reflective looking glass, but the toilet ran constantly (until we turned off the water supply and ignored it) and the shower leaked into the apartment downstairs. This week I put on my plumber pants (minus the requisite plumber's crack--I hope) which look much like my painting pants.

And I got in there and replaced the guts of the toilet. 

I did this almost all by myself. 

I know. I'm pretty amazing.

(Hint: It isn't hard at all.)

Then, in a crazy burst of industriousness because we could potentially have a bathroom with all of the basics, Beau sealed the leaking pipe under the shower with silicone and voila, everything was fixed! 

Or was it?

Today I showered in said non-leaking shower. It didn't leak into the apartment below, but the drain did leak into the crawl space where Beau was working on the forthcoming roundup item #2. (I know, I know. This is the wordiest roundup ever. Bear with me.)

OK, so Beau was in the bowels of the house and sewage was spewing out. Gross. But at least it was just my shower water. (This time...eeeeew.)

It turns out that a sewage pipe under the house had been torqued at a strange angle and broke. I ran to visit our new BFFs at the local-ish hardware store and got some rubber couplings so Beau could fix the problem.

Now we have one bathroom that has a flushing, non-leaking toilet; a non-leaking shower; a sink; a mirror and lights. Oh, and raw sewage doesn't empty out under the house. Bonus!

This is what progress looks like, people. And it happens to be just in time for the builders to rip out the wall of the other semi-functional bathroom. While that would have remedied the darkness problem, I don't think I'm ready to shower in a bathroom that is missing a wall... 

2) In addition to having moisture in the walls of the house, we also had a lot of moisture under the house. (Probably in part thanks to the showers emptying out under the house...) All of the insulation was moldy and sopping. Beau spent the better part of two days in the bowels of the house removing the old and securing itchy, awful insulation to the house.

This was his workspace.

Creepy, right?

You totally wouldn't catch me under there.

I bought him a work light on one of my trips to the hardware store. I think that qualifies me for the most thoughtful wife of the year award.

My husband is so brave.

And damn sexy when he's in his workin' clothes.

Sorry, ladies. He's all  mine.

3) In addition to the moisture under the house causing the insulation to become wet, moldy and generally nasty, there was also a nice puddle of water the accumulated against the west wall. I choose to think that the water is not shower water, but is ground water from the abnormally wet year we've had here. 

Just go with it.

Beau didn't want the water to remain there and compromise the foundation, so he donned his sexy work clothes and started digging a trench to encourage the water to flow away from the house.

It's ugly, but soon enough that rich soil will start filling in with grass and other assorted mountain growth and it won't look as much like a mud pile. 

I hope.

Because little boys are magnetically attracted to mud piles and I don't really want my kiddo playing there anytime soon...

So, there you have it. Those are the big non-painting projects we have had going on here. I know it seems suspiciously like Beau did all of the backbreaking/disgusting/creepy work, which might be true, but someone needs to watch the Little Man. And, in my defense, I did a lot of painting and running to the hardware store. That counts for something, right?

Which of these projects would you least like to do? Don't you think Beau deserves a prize of some sort for doing all of these gross tasks on his vacation? Maybe a new set of coveralls? You can never have too many, you know.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

How to paint over circus tent stripes--the prep work

If you've spent any amount of time reading this blog, and specifically the West Virginia posts, you're well aware that this particular feature was not a selling point for us.

 Not only were there stripes, but there were also the "complimentary" accents.

Be forewarned, this post has lots and lots of images of the stripes. It won't be pretty. Also, they were all taken from my iPhone at different times of day. What does that mean? It means there will be all kinds of  variations in the colors. It'll be awesome. Prepare your eyes.

To go so far as to say I abhor this paint job would not be a stretch. At all. It makes me think I'm at a circus. Not in a good way, either. Not like lions doing tricks, elephants being ridden by sparkly ladies and cotton candy. More so in the creepy killer clown way. I knew the second we decided we were going to put an offer in on the money pit house that the paint would have to go.

I thought it would go more quickly.

Like the day we closed.

The more I looked at it, though, the more I realized that a coat of paint wouldn't do the trick. There'd need to be some actual effort exerted to make all remnants of the stripes go away. See, there was one spot on the left-hand side of the big striped wall that the previous owner had painted. Maybe she had a narrow pink stripe to the end of the wall and decided it looked funny or something. Anyway, the burgundy had been painted over a pre-exisiting stripe and the ridge from the stripe was very obvious.

I didn't want a wall of reminder ridges.

I went to a paint store in Virginia. It shall remain nameless because I think I was given bad advice. The paint expert told me it should be fine to just paint over it. I had hoped that was the case, but there was that one tell-tale-line that made me seriously doubt her advice.

I purchased a paint sample and decided to paint a test strip. I also purchased this super-handy sanding sponge . I thought maybe taking a little bit off of the ridge would help.
I sanded a portion of one stripe and painted my sample color over it and a little bit beyond. The ridge was still there where I hadn't sanded (duh), but it was almost completely gone where I had sanded. I formulated a plan that made me very grateful that I had purchased the handle to go with the sponge. I was going to sand all the lines.

Before doing that, I also got out the spackle and filled in all the holes in the walls. Then I got to sanding.

To say it was fun would be a overstatement. It wasn't awful, though. I sanded just enough for the ridge to be less noticeable to the touch. I figured if I sanded them off completely then I'd just have smooth stripes on the textured wall and I'd just have smooth reminders of the circus tent wall.

Little Man is in the super cute mimicking stage, so whenever I'd put my sanding sponge down he'd pick it up and "help."


So, so, so cute. He even got the idea that I was doing it to the stripes. Unfortunately with child labor laws being what they are, I sent him off with dad rather than keeping him on for the job. Though the house was built well after lead paint laws took effect, I figured all those microscopic paint particles in little lungs can't be a good thing.

I know, mom of the year award.

While I was sanding stripes I also sanded the spackled patches. I was starting to grow optimistic that this was going to work.

By the way, calendars should not be tacked directly to the wall. These tiny pin holes going up the wall are annoying. PSA of the day. These are just two instances of the many instances of this.

Once upon a time, this house had a land-line. We no longer have one, but the DSL is tied in to the phone. The phone jack was once probably very conveniently placed on this central wall. Now that it just has a modem attached to it, it is an awkward eyesore. Also, notice in the above photo of Little Man sanding that the plug for the modem is temptingly placed where little hands want to reach for it.

Little Man is getting the motor skills required to put little things in little holes and I really wanted this particular temptation out of his reach. I asked Beau if we could move it. Since the refrigerator is on the other side of the wall, we figured the phone jack could just be moved to the other side of the wall, the modem plugged in to the same outlet as the refrigerator and left sitting atop the refrigerator. Beau said it would be a pretty easy job.

For once, a project in this house was as straightforward as it should have been. Praise God.

Beau turned off the modem,  removed the faceplate to expose the phone wires and receptacle, unhooked the wires from the phone jack and pulled out the receptacle box.

Isn't it pretty?

Next he cut a hole in the opposite side of the wall. We opted to move the phone jack higher, but didn't move it horizontally along the wall so we didn't have to move through any studs. I handed the cord up through the old hole to the new one, Beau fed it through and installed the new receptacle, hooked up the wires and we had internet again. (It probably was a little tougher than that, but I was playing with Little Man while daddy worked.)

Next we had to patch that gaping hole.

Beau put a small board in the hole and secured it to the stud on the right-hand side so that the patch wouldn't be a weak spot in the wall. Next, he screwed in a piece of drywall to the support he had just installed and it was almost as good as new.

We put a little mud over the patch and sanded it even with the rest of the wall.

The last thing I needed to do to get the wall ready to be primed and painted was to wipe down all of the walls with Mineral Spirits. I did this because there was so much dust from the paint and drywall sanding. I really wanted the paint to adhere nicely to the wall.

It's not much to look at, but you can see that the walls are cleaner and (ugh) brighter. (And still damp from the Mineral Spirits.)

We used Klean-Strip Odorless Mineral Spirits from Home Depot. Obviously, odorless is best when there are little people around, but I also did this step when Beau had the Little Man out and about. Even though it is odorless, it is still a pretty potent chemical--despite sounding like it can make a potent cocktail.

The next steps are priming and painting. You'll have to wait a bit on that. I've got one coat on and another is in the works. Today is the Wine and Jazz festival here in Snowshoe, so this girl is taking a day off!!

Oh, and did you notice I gave the trim a nice crisp coat of white? More on that when I deal with the paint. It'll be a paint-tastic post. I can't wait to show you how great it looks!

Have you ever had to paint over a feature that required extra steps? How'd you do it?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

What a difference a day (or two) can make

I mentioned yesterday that because of the rain construction was going pretty slowly.

Between being approved and the days and days of rain, the guys were able to get a little bit of work done. They started with the bottom deck (obviously) and started digging into the rotted wall. About 80% of that level of the wall was rotted badly enough for them to start fresh. They removed all of the siding, wet and moldy insulation, and rotten wood (studs and all!) and essentially rebuilt the wall.

When we arrived this weekend the back of the house looked like this:

You want to see it closer, you say?

Closer? Weird. But I'm here to please.

There was the majority of one deck completed. That was good. The entire first floor wall had been protected from the rain by sheets of plywood. That was bad. Well, not the protection from the rain part. That's good. We're getting rid of rot, not adding to it. What was unfortunate is the fact that people live down there. Their only real light source had vanished. They had no idea they were in West Virginia. They thought they had been transported to a cave in Afghanistan.

OK, not really, but they were living in a cave.

And then yesterday morning at 7:00 we heard the glorious sound of saws and hammers and air compressors. Not the sound of pouring rain. Yippie!!!

Much to the joy of our renters, the guys were able to get both windows and the fancy new French doors in by midday.

After lunch I looked out the window from the top floor and they were already framing the second story deck. (Obviously the photo above was taken after they'd started the second deck frame. And if you're creepily studying it you might be able to see the sweet baby o'mine, my hubby's arm and poor Andy trying to take a nap. Poor guy with a creepy landlord.)

By the end of the day yesterday, the house looked like this:

Can you even believe it?

Here's more:

It amazes me that a) people can construct sturdy, safe structures with their own hands and 2) it can be done faster than I could make a pot roast. Seriously. Think about that.

I was so excited that we were finally making progress. Then, this morning at about 5:30 when Little Man started to stir, I heard it. Yep, rain. And lots of it. I was totally convinced that today would be a literal wash.

But, at 7:05 I heard motion downstairs. I had no idea how they were going to work in rainy conditions, but I was happy.

It turns out that the guys had the foresight to check the weather forecast before leaving here, saw rain and came up with a rain plan. The rustling I heard at 7:05 was them putting plastic sheeting on on the second story deck frame that they built before leaving yesterday. They had a cozy little work tent. Smart guys, huh?!?

Despite the weather they were able to get the railings built for the first level and they installed the metal joists for the second level. And while I was hoping to show you a picture of the second deck built and the third level framed, I am pretty excited about what they accomplished today.

And yes, the sun did come out as they were leaving in the late afternoon, thank you very much.

Unfortunately, they've got other jobs that are going to take them elsewhere the rest of this week, but that's OK. Beau and I have some projects going on around (and under) the house that need to be shared. The under project is happening in that creepy little door that's open to the crawl space in the photo above. Guess who's not involved in that project.

Oh, and here's a scary story. When the guys were cleaning up at the end of the day I popped out to take a look at the day's progress. I said I was so glad to have a sturdy, safe deck again and Randy shared with me the condition of the old decks. I knew they were bad. Turns out I had no idea.

See the green stuff between the siding and the plywood? It is a canvas-like material. Randy told me that  the upper deck was literally being held to the house by that because the material behind it was so rotted that all of the fasteners could be pulled out by hand.  In case you don't have the same image in your head that I do, let me paint a picture. That deck is probably 45 feet off the rocky, steep ground. I'D BEEN OUT THERE WITH MY BABY. I literally wanted to throw up when that occurred to me.

Remember, rebuilding our decks wasn't really on our radar when we first bought the house. They looked and felt fine. Had we not casually asked Stuart and Randy to come out, take a look and give us some ideas on starting places... I can't even finish that sentence.

I need to wash all of that from my little head before calling it a night. This might help: 

That was sunset the other night. For real. Like I didn't need to use a filter on that bad boy. And you all know I don't know a single thing about using photoshop. That amazing sight is straight from the camera of my trusty iPhone. Soon(ish) we'll be on our safe, sturdy deck watching the sun creep below the horizon and the image of my little family plunging to our rotted-deck deaths will be a distant nightmare.

What's the scariest thing you've heard this week? Or best? Or funniest? Or whatever?