Monday, August 31, 2009

Walls and a Roof! Like a Real Building!

Is it weird that this whole addition thing doesn't seem very real to me yet? I mean, sure they dug a massive hole in my backyard, brought a cement truck in to pour the foundation, and have built wooden walls atop that, but ... I get to live in it some day? I'm still not buying that.

It became a tad more real last Wednesday. I was having coffee in my living room with a friend while jigging with glee (very difficult with cups of coffee, but I'm talented like that) because the kids were back in school. The contractor came to the front door to announce that he'd be pulling out all the windows on the current back of the house. Something about making room for framing. All my poor friend knew was that at one moment she was sipping coffee and in the next I had taken away her mug and was brusquely ordering her to strip beds and help me move Bug's mattress into Bear's room. I doubt she'll ever accept an invitation to coffee at my house again.

Now that all of the rear windows are gone and currently have sheets of plywood nailed over then, we don't get to see much of the building as it's being done. In my role as The Meanest Mom Ever, I don't let the kids go out back while the workmen are here. I have a very clear memory of that scene in Lethal Weapon 2 when the bad guy got it between the eyes with a nail gun. I don't want to see it in real life, and especially not on one of my kids.

So, the first thing we do after Mr. Awesome Contractor and His Merry Men have left is run out back to see what got done that day. Bug and Bear love that you have to climb a ladder to get into the addition. They would probably be fine with that being the permanent entrance. Me notsomuch. I'm more of a hallway girl.
On Friday we found a roof! Well, rafters. The rest of the roof is coming Tuesday.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

First Day of School

They were a teensy bit excited this morning:
Bear had even programmed her phone alarm to go off with "Seventh Grade!" flashing on the screen. She is thrilled to no longer be at the bottom of the middle school totem pole and that this is the year that she will officially become a teenager. I haven't yet told her that I'm forbidding this whole turning 13 thing. I'm just not ready. A shot with Daddy, who drives them to school every morning on his way to work. Bug came over to me right after this shot to confess that she had "just a few butterflies in my tummy, even though I know exactly where my classroom is."
I have butterflies, too. I can't wait to hear about their new teachers and schedules!

Short post today, as I've just been informed by The Contractor that he needs to take out both Bug and Bear's bedroom windows today, and cut a doorway through Bug's wall. That translates to me needing to move Bug's bed and bedroom refuse into Bear's room. STAT.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Profuse Thanks & Construction Update

First of all, I want to thank you all for being remarkably good sports and voting on my last post. You should know that every minute the girls spent hounding me to check email to see if any votes had come in, then tallying those votes on a chart they had made, and comparing statistics were minutes in which they were not squabbling with each other about completely inane things like whether or not one of them was clicking their fingernails on the Wii remote to deliberately annoy the other. In these last few days of summer, when they're heartily sick of each other and ready to go back to school, that is remarkable. So for that, I thank you profusely. Consider yourself hugged. And maybe handed a margarita.

Meanwhile, in the midst of the Wii Remote Wars, progress is being made in our backyard. Look: basement walls! and a floor! and lot grading!
For Bug and Bear, the finished product of the lot grading came as a huge relief. Their primary concern throughout the whole addition-planning process was that they would lose their sledding hills out back. Tom and I gently and compassionately pointed out that we didn't give a flying crap about sledding hills because we would be getting THREE WHOLE NEW ROOMS PLUS A BATHROOM. It's not like the sledding hills had been any great shakes anyway. Sledding slopes would be more accurate.

"But we loooooove them," Bear said. Unmoved, we coldheartedly moved ahead with construction.

When the grading was done, I pointed out that there was still ample slopage for sledding. They agreed, but pointed out that their favorite slope was indeed gone. The deprived little wretches.

I countered by suggesting that since we weren't planning to finish the new basement, they would be able to roller-skate down there this winter. They cheered up considerably.
I was Photoshopping these photos a few minutes ago when I realized that there's only so much you can do with a photo comprised of really filthy white siding and a yard full of dirt. I gave up on the concept of enhancing them, but felt the need to provide you with some explanations. Not unlike when you show up unannounced at my house and I tell you that my living room doesn't always look like this, but we were just (pick one) sorting through clothes for Goodwill / sick / unpacking from vacation / working on the house / attacked by Ninjas.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Back-to-School Fashion Shoot... Cast Your Vote Now!

Stores have been visited. Sale racks scoured. Painful decisions made. Money spent. Tom visibly cringed when I pulled the wad of receipts from my purse, receipts that represent what it cost to outfit our girls for yet another school year. (There may have also one or eight two Starbucks receipts in the wad, but I'm pretty sure that those will be reimbursed by our health insurance as a mental health expense).

And now, the most important part. The girls have each "pulled together their favorite looks" (and God help me, they actually talk like that), and they want YOUR opinion.

Bear's choices this year were centered around brightly colored jeans, accent scarves, Converse sneakers, layered tops, and skinny jeans.

Bear, Outfit A:
Bear, Outfit B:Bear, Outfit C:
Bear, Outfit D:
Bear, Outfit E:
Bug gravitated, as always, to the comfy. Super-sensitive to anything remotely scratchy, squeezy, tickly, itchy, or tight, she rapidly discarded anything that offended her delicate sensibilities. Mostly because I was very clear that If I Buy It, You Wear It. No buying something cute, then refusing to wear it because it's itchy. Period.

Her choices included jeans of the softest denim, cute slouchy boots, skirts and leggings, and lightweight tees for layering .

Bug, Outfit A:
Bug, Outfit B:
Bug, Outfit C:
Bug, Outfit D:
Bug, Outfit E:
Both girls are anxiously awaiting your votes. Like, they're already asking if anyone has voted, and I haven't even put the damn post up yet. So for the sake of my mental health, and to make my kiddos really, really happy...

What's your favorite new "look" for both Bug and Bear?
(Bug says she'll consider wearing the favorite outfit for the first day of school. Bear isn't making any promises. Apparently she doesn't trust your fashion judgment).

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Why I'm Not the Host of "This Old House"

Because I'm here all day while construction is taking place in our new addition, my husband erroneously believes that I can accurately report on each day's progress.

Tom: So, did they do anything today or did they just leave the concrete to cure?

Me: Head Foundation Guy came and inexplicably cut out brand-new basement floor into four big pieces with a very loud machine.

Tom: Oh, yeah. I think since concrete has a tendency to crack no matter what, they make cuts to control where it will crack.

Me: you're telling me that our basement floor just had an episiotomy?

Tom: Essentially.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Let Us Not Speak of This Again

I knew that, sooner or later, our septic system would have to be disconnected completely while the foundation was poured for our new addition. My worst fear was that the workmen would fail to tell me when they disconnected the septic, and one of us would try to use the bathroom and *head explodes*. I tried really hard not to think about what would happen at that point.

I made a point of talking to Head Foundation Guy and asking him to give me a head's up of, say, ten minutes before disconnecting.

He looked amused.

Dude. Women and children in the house. The potty is a pretty popular spot. A head's up is not just a courtesy; it's downright necessary.

An hour or so later, Head Foundation Guy came to the door, "Ma'am? We're getting ready to disconnect the septic, but we're going to route it temporarily to a fifty gallon drum, so you won't have to worry about it. Just, uh, do what you normally do. We'll be back tomorrow morning to hook it back up."

My first response was gratification that he took me seriously, and I was touched that he thought up a temporary solution for us.

Second response: Fifty gallon wha-? Musn't picture this...mustn't picture...*head explodes*

Then I obsessively Googled "toilet flushing" to see how many gallons of water the average toilet uses. Ours is circa Stone Age, so I went with one of the higher numbers - four gallons per flush. That would give us ... 12 or 13 flushes, if we were quick about the hand-washing and didn't shower.

I spent the rest of the day studiously avoiding both beverages and looking out the back windows all day for fear of seeing the drum. I took the kids swimming at a friend's for the afternoon and encouraged them to use her bathroom before going home.

When Tom got home, of course, the first thing he did was whip up the blinds and stick his head out to look at the drum.

Tom: Huh. It's not even covered.

Me: Lalalalala...not listening! Lalalalalala....

Tom: And it's almost full.

Me: WHAT?!

And that's why we wound up spending the night at a hotel in our own town. It also answers the question "How long can Jenn last without indoor plumbing?"

Answer: about half a day with no beverages.

Friday, August 14, 2009

I Told You I Had a Plan

Do you remember the hillside? The brambly, weedy, nasty hillside that I shamefully coerced my husband into helping me rip up this spring? Then carefully planted with halfheartedly tossed random perennial divisions at, scattered with seed, and called it a day weekend?
Well, then it rained for six weeks, we got absorbed in our addition project, and went on vacation. "Neglect" would be a kind classification for the amount of care that hillside has gotten since that exhausting weekend in May.
See? I totally knew what I was doing all along! Who knew?
I was pleasantly surprised to mow past it the other day and see it bursting with flowers. Like, the actual flowers that were pictured on the packets of wildflower seed mix I used. Huh.

Jenn's Expert Advice for Growing a Hillside of Wildflowers:

1. Spend 8 backbreaking hours on your knees grubbing absolutely everything out by the roots. Look around and notice that you're only 18% of the way done and that your fingernails appear to be gone.

2. Spend another 12 hours doing a slightly more half-hearted and cranky level of root-grubbing with a shovel and hoe. Remind yourself that at least no one is going to expect you to cook dinner again tonight.

3. Beg your husband sweetly (lose the profanity) to spread compost for you while you nurse a Diet Coke with Vanilla. Or seven.

4. Wake up refreshed the next morning. Just not quite refreshed enough to get on board with your original plan of carefully digging up and dividing all perennials to plant some on the Hillside of Hard Labor.

5. Stoically hack away portions of existing perennials (without digging them up) out of the gardens and stick them in random holes on the hillside.

6. "Allow" your nine-year-old and her friend to scatter the packs of wildflower seed over the hillside. Pretend like this is a major honor and you're really not sure you should trust them to do this. When they beg, acquiesce reluctantly. Try not to snicker as you walk away from them.

7. Arrange for Nature to deluge your hillside with rain for six weeks while you ignore it.

8. Ta-daaaaaa

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Big Changes Afoot

This is my front yard. While it's been a crappy year for gardening, and my plants are definitely scragglier than most summers, it's still pretty, no? Restful, peaceful, and very quiet. We spend a lot of time on the patio located just left of this photo.

I stood on the far side of my driveway to shoot this. I took it for reasons of comparison. I want you to fix this image in your mind. Got it?

Now this shot was taken from the exact same spot, after I made a ninety-degree turn to my left. And ... huh, weird. There appear to be giant tire tracks in the grass. And they're disturbingly close to the hosta bed that runs alongside the garage. Let's walk a little farther and see where they lead.
As I round the corner of the garage, I see ... HOLY SHIT. (Which were, coincidentally, the exact words out of my mouth when I got home from an all-day shopping trip with the girls, and the workmen led me around the house to show me their progress). I mean, there was a yard back there just eight hours before.
Let me explain. One of the reasons blogging has been light around here lately (aside from the fact that my kids are home for the summer and seem to be under the delusion that my express purpose is to provide them with The Super Funtime Entertainment Rodeo), is that we've been in the process (the long, looooong, loooooooooooong process) of having an addition built onto our house.

And by process, I don't even mean the actual building part. No, I mean picking a contractor, drawing up plans, drawing up more plans, applying for a loan, waiting for the appraiser to come, waiting, waiting, still more waiting, waiting for the bank to validate (or something?) the appraisal, waiting for the code enforcement officer to get back from vacation (and how dare he take a vacation when we NEED him to issue our building permit?), waiting for the bank for close the loan, waaaaaaaiting, and then finally closing the loan three months after we started the process. I had a three month long stomachache. (Which you would think would be an effective weight loss incentive, but you would be wrong).

And then the loan closed, and Mr. Awesome Contractor was all, let's build this thing. And Tom and I were all, sure, but kind of privately laughing because we figured it would be months before any actual construction started. Damned if the excavators didn't show up two days later and now we have a crater in our backyard.

But it's the prettiest crater I've ever seen because it means that someday in the not-too-far future, I'm going to have a bathroom of my own. And hardwood floors.

In the meantime, I have a teeny-tiny concern. Did you spot it in the photo above? Here, let me point it out:
Yeah, that's our septic pipe. Septic as in sewage. And it appears to be casually balanced on Tinker-Toys. Tom informs me that they're actually two-by-sixes, which doesn't console me at all because they still appear to be stuck in the mud like chopsticks holding up the septic pipe. The potential for several very specific disaster scenarios (all of them involving sewage spewing across my yard) plays an active role in my anxieties (previously occupied by Swine Flu) right now.

Here's a different view. I find it equally alarming.

I'll be spending a lot of time in my happy place until the full foundation is poured, and that pipe has a permanent home.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Beach Kids

Now that summer has finally come to Maine, the kids and I have set a goal to get to the beach at least once a week until school starts at the end of August. This week we spent a great day at Old Orchard Beach with friends.

As I snapped a picture of the kids with their friends, I remembered taking a similar shot with the same friends several summers ago. Pulling it up on my hard drive showed me just how quickly the years are going.

Now (2009):

...and then (2006):

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Now You're Really Dreaming, Kid

Bug woke up this morning and sleepily told me about the dream she'd been having. Long and meandering, it involved her beloved teacher showing up to give her a black and white cat, walls made of glass, and dinosaurs. I listened, commented, then told her to come on out for breakfast.

As Bear zipped through the kitchen to feed the cats, Bug said, "Hey, Bear! I want to tell you about my dream."

"Not right NOW, Bug. Can't you see I'm FEEDING the CATS." (Emphasis courtesy of snotty preteen tone).

Bug ate her cereal for awhile, and when Bear sat down at the kitchen table, she tried again, "Bear, I had a cool dream last night."

Bear, reading the cereal box, said noncommittally, "Uh." (Have I mentioned that Bear is not a morning person? And that she gets that from Tom?)

Bug glanced at me, then soldiered on, "So, anyway, in my dream-"

Bear jumped up, "Bug! I have to go to the bathroom. I don't want to listen to your stupid dream."

"Beeeeear," I said, in that quiet warning tone that really means Knock It Off or Else. "Else" being whatever I can think up on the spur of the moment for a consequence.

"Sorry," she tossed over her shoulder, as she huffed off to the bathroom.

Bug ate quietly for awhile, then said, "Mom? Did I mention that in my dream Bear was dead?"

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Our Day of Summer (yeah, "day" singular)

Those of you who know me on Facebook may have noticed that I've been a weensy bit whiny about our weather this summer. Just a tad. And those of you who live out of state probably wonder why in hell anyone would voluntarily live in Maine. Well, just to be clear, the big payoff of living in a state with four months of winter and six months without leaves on the trees, is that our summers are usually PERFECT. Usually. Notsomuch this year when we've had two solid months of rain, rain, rain, with the occasional day of drizzle, just to mix it up a little. And just when you think you can't possibly handle anymore? Then you get a day of pouring deluge and localized flooding just to screw with your already tenuous mental health.

Yesterday, we finally got perfect summer weather. As soon as we verified that the forecast sunny 85 degrees was becoming reality (you understand if we tend to be suspicious of forecasts for anything other than 65 degrees and rain), Tom and I tossed kids, boogie boards, and a picnic into the van and headed for Popham Beach.

And it was PERFECT:

The girls boogie-boarded all afternoon, paused only to eat dinner with us on the picnic blanket, and then went right back into the ocean until we left at 7:30. Once we got home and showered, they were so exhausted that they actually asked to go to bed.

Bear subscribes to the Fling Yourself Wildly Into the Waves Like a Lemming theory. Although yesterday, she learned that this is also sometimes called the How to Lose Your Bathing Suit Bottoms method. After that, her flinging was slightly less wild.

She likes getting creamed by big waves as much as she does riding the smaller ones.

And while her approach is not always successful (see below):

She usually emerges like this, and heads straight for the next wave:
Bug, as always, prefers the dramatic approach.
And when she is knocked down by a wave? Then rest assured that is was the Hugest and Most Ferocious Wave ever seen in the Atlantic. Such as yesterday, when she surfaced (after four seconds max) out from under a whopper wave, to inform me grimly (with much coughing and illustrative gasping for breath) that "that one nearly drowned me and was trying to pull at me from underneath to carry me out to sea." Then she stalked off to our picnic blanket to shiver in a calculatedly pathetic manner while wrapped in her beach towel. I'm pretty sure that if this is age nine, her teen years are going to kill me. Luckily, she knows how to work the cute.
As for this man?He's cute, too, but right now's he's lucky that he's the sole wage earner in this family. I seriously considered leaving him at the beach when I was flipping through the digital display on my camera and noticed that he had taken several photos of me. From behind. IN MY BATHING SUIT.
There are no words. Well, there's one. It's called "delete."