Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Slow Transformation Part IV: Wiring the Room

It's been a while since I've given you an update on the room. Or any update at all, for that matter. That's because last week the slow transformation went into overdrive and we were without a computer for a few days while the major renovation, a new floor, came about. But before I tell you about the new floor, there is one important step you need to know - the wiring.

When last we spoke, I was finishing up the trim and getting ready to finish the last wall. But before I could paint that last wall, I wanted to get some outlets on it. That's right, in our den on the wall with the television and stereo components there was no outlet. We've lived with a rigged system of extension cords for four years and since my father was coming to help with the floor and he is expert at electrical wiring, we decided to put in three outlets in the room and in the garage, since they share a wall.

First, we had to get power from a junction box or the electrical panel into the wall. So we went into the garage and took down the drywall to expose the studs:

That little yellow wire you see was threaded up from my basement shop, through a hole we cut in the wall, and then I drilled through the studs to run it down to the bottom of the wall. But while I was drilling the studs, I made a remarkable discovery. See if you can see it in this picture:
Can't see it? Look a little bit closer:Ah, there it is. While drilling, I almost drilled right into an outlet. That's right, at sometime in the past of my house, there was an outlet (complete with attached face plate, as you can see) that was paneled over in the den. Power was coming down to it from the lights, it was still hot and completely usable. Here's my dad point to where it was behind the paneling:Who knows why it was paneled over or how long it has been like that (though I suspect it has been there the entire life of the house. Since we had run the wires and the new outlets were grounded where the old were not, we decided to just use the box and put in our new wires. But after wanting outlets for four years, discovering one was there all along was a bit frustrating. No matter though, after a day and a half of work, we had three outlets on the wall and I was able to finish the painting in the room. Now the wall has this lovely feature:Alright, enough of electricity. Tomorrow, the new floor!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Slow Transformation Part III: Painting the Trim

You may be wondering why you've not gotten an update on our downstairs room for a few weeks. that is because I've been dealing with the bane of my remodeling existence - trim. I truly enjoy painting. Looking back over a freshly painted wall gives me a sense of satisfaction that, say, teaching one class does. I can see what I've accomplished and know that it will stay until I change it.

Trim is a different story. It is time consuming. It is painstakingly slow. And the end result lacks a wall's "wow" factor. Unfortunately, our downstairs den has tons of trim. Including the bathroom, there are three windows, four doors, and strange features like the air duct that runs through the middle of the room and is nothing but trim:
Still, things are coming together. After tonight, all the windows and doors will be painted and most of the crown molding. That will only leave the baseboards, and I won't do those until next week when we rip out the carpet and take up the quarter round, making it all a bit easier to paint. Still, the effect of having all the trim and most of the room painting, removing the sterile elementary-school green that was on the walls has made the room already feel better.

Friday, June 19, 2009

French Minimalist Music I've Missed

As many of you are aware, this coming September, we're hosting the Second International Conference on Minimalist Music. I've been on both the program committee and helping arrange things here and it has been great fun to plan an event around music I love. One of the greatest thrills was planning the concerts (which you can read about at the conference home page), but I've just been informed of another group that we should have scheduled. These guys:

Philip Glass on Segways. I'm not sure the world was ready for that combination.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Saga of the Sewer

Monday night it poured. Not a small, light rain, a three-and-a-half incher that flooded our yard and seeped into our downstairs bathroom. The next morning, I went into our basement to grab a few towels to mop up the water and discovered that water was seeping up from our sewer drain in the laundry room. Yes, in one night we had water coming in our house from everywhere.

Unfortunately, over the last three days we've had trouble getting water out of our house.

We quickly discovered that while our sewer line would drain, every time we flushed the toilet, ran a decent amount of water through a sink, or any other activity that involved water (showers, anyone?) our basement started to flood. With two adults, not having a sewer line is a handicap. With two small boys, not having a sewer line was a game changer.

Tuesday night I sent out a frantic plea for plumber recommendations from local friends and got a high recommendation for a small mom and pop operation friends from church had used for years. We gave them a call and Dave and David came out Wednesday afternoon with their auger. They pounded away in our basement for over three hours and finally came to the end of their rope. They had brought 100 feet as code states there has to be an entry every 100 feet. Our pre-code house doesn't have that luxury and after fighting for three hours, the Daves gave up and told me since they couldn't get though, they believed we had a sludge buildup and would need to have the line jetted with high-pressure water, equipment they didn't have. So yesterday evening and early this morning, I called around to the big companies that have jetters and asked for quotes which ranged for one hour's service from the 100s to the 400s of dollars (ever wonder why many plumbers don't publish their prices on their websites?). We had a company out this morning and they began jetting the line only to discover that we had something hard blocking the line and it needed an auger. Thankfully they didn't charge us for the service, so we called the first plumbers back to come out this evening.

This time, David and Dean arrived with 150 feet of cable and went to work. Two hours later, they finally burst through the blockage. The culprit? Sam's potty training. I knew potty training was hard on the parents, but the supposedly flushable wipes are even harder on sewer lines. Dean told me a similar thing happened to his neighbor who has two children the same age as ours. So an alert to all readers - flushable wipes of any kind are not flushable. Keep them away from your sewer lines.

Amazingly, our plumber only charged us for a few hours of work even though they fought with the blockage for many hours - they were kind and considerated and friendly to our kids and cleaned up after themselves. In otherwords, model plumbers who can work on our house any time. And now that we have sewer again, I need to sign off and go shower, and wash dishes, and wash clothes, and wash...

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Happy Birthday, Noah

Although it feels like it has been a year, it still seems incredible to me that this time last year Joy and I were holed up in a hospital room with the newest member of our family. Noah was born one year ago today at 6:00 in the morning, and to commemorate the event, he chose to wake up at 6:00 this morning just to remind us how far we had come.

In retrospect, it is amazing to watch babies develop over their first year of life. Last year on this day, Noah looked like this:This past Sunday at the wedding we attended in Eureka Springs, he looked like this:
He now talks (duck, mama, dada), walks (albeit with an unsteady wobble), expresses strong opinions (like wanting his smoothie this morning in his sippy cup or not at all, even if bits of strawberry were clogging the spout), and in general brings light and delight into our lives. Who knows what the next year will bring, but it will certainly be an adventure worth having.

Happy First Birthday, Noah!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Ramblings of a Sleepy Mind

Every night when we put Sam to bed, we end our ritual by snuggling him for a bit to (hopefully) help him calm down and drift off to sleep. We then give him a hug and a kiss and tell him, "See you in the AM," with the vain hope he'll stay in bed until the AM.

Last night, Joy whispered the phrase and then started to walk out when Sam said, "Mama, you won't see me in the AM."

Sidetracked from her path to the door, Joy responded, "That would make me very sad, Sam."

"Why?" came the inevitable three-year-old reply.

"Because I love you and want to see you tomorrow."

"Well, you'll get to see me in the S-A-M."

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Slow Transformation Part I: Painting the Bathroom

Last week, I began telling you our month-long saga of redoing our downstairs den. I removed wallpaper and washed the walls, so it was time for priming.

Priming was not too bad except for the windows. Please, for the sake of people who come behind you, never paint your windows anything other than a neutral. Dark blue is impossible to cover up, especially when you're painting with a small sash brush. After Thursday night priming, Friday night I finally got to put the color on the walls.

We always have a hard time choosing color, partially because instead of the red, blue, green, and white you learned as a child, paint companies want to make sure you have the exact color that fits your lifestyle, so they offer 20,000 choices so you don't live your lifestyle you're so busy trying to figure out which white is too white. We wanted a flavor of tan downstairs, a cooler tan without the rich undertones so many have, so we dickered back and forth and ultimately settled on a paint from Benjamin Moore called "Coastal Path." We always buy Behr paint and they usually can match any company we bring in, but for some reason this time the paint person said they would get as close as they could. After 20 minutes of fiddling, the color was pretty close and with two restless children, we were ready to head on home. So all week long we wondered what the paint would end up looking like on the wall. It looked like this:
It's a pretty color, but after watching it for a day, we both decided it was too dark and a bit too orange (sorry the flash I used too out some of the deeper tones in the color). That meant those three gallons we bought on sale were now useless (anyone want some Coastal Path?) We went back to dickering over colors and finally decided on one called "Shaker Beige," a lighter, more sandy color than before (the window wall is the new color):
But we wanted to make sure before committing so I bought a tester, painted one wall, and we watched it over the day. Satisfied, I went back and bought an entire gallon and painted the bathroom:After some trim touch up last night, the bathroom is finally done paintwise. Flooring comes in a few weeks. Next up, we start the den walls.

Monday, June 1, 2009

And This Doesn't Even Account for the Laundry

(Just an up-front warning - if you don't like reading about bodily fluids, you should probably skip this post)

Originally I had planned on uploading photos from the bathroom this morning and charting my progress for you. I'll get to that tomorrow. Instead, allow me to regale you with tales of our weekend.

On Friday, Joy and I decided Noah needed to go to the doctor. He had been a bit cranky during the week and wasn't sleeping well after the progress we'd made on sleep training, so we thought we'd check him out. Turns out that Noah has a double ear infection - one in each ear. Unlike Sam, who lets us know when he's sick, Noah just rocks right along until he gets a fever at which point he wails if we put him down and he can't sleep. Unfortunately for us, one appeared Friday night with a vengeance. Throughout that night, we bathed Noah to keep his fever down and get him comfortable enough to sleep, we cleaned up the vomit that pushed his antibiotic out of his system, and in general didn't sleep.

Saturday was better with Noah as long as we kept ibuprofen in him. Saturday was Sam's day. Although potty trained, we're still in pull-ups for naps and night and somehow Sam managed to wet his bed thoroughly at nap, right after we had changed his sheets that morning. That meant no clean sheets for bed. Sam didn't care though - he had already proclaimed that Saturday night he needed to camp in his tent, so we set him up on the floor.

Yesterday was the real doozy of a day. Our children's choir put on a wonderful interactive musical and Sam and Noah were rapt through the entire production. Afterwards, they served dinner for the congregation and we set with friends who, since their children are in college, love to spoil our kids. The gentleman took Sam off right after dinner and they returned with huge pieces of cake, leftovers from a celebration cake yesterday morning. Sam had selected the piece with the large red icing balloon and proceded to eat nothing but the icing. On top of the cupcake he'd already had. And the hot dog. And the bag of chips. That much processed food seems to have not set well with the virus Sam evidently picked up somewhere because last night about midnight, everything came up in a bright red glob on the freshly washed sheets on his bed. But his body wasn't content to just expell out one side of Sam, so I've been cleaning him up all night and morning so far.

Noah, always wanting to do whatever Sam is doing, followed suit about 2:00 this morning and then slept fitfully until 5:00 when he got up for the day. His fever has broken, but we're now behind two doses of antibiotics and dealing with a tired baby.

Oh, did I mention that Joy's teaching summer camps all day?

It's definitely a Thomas video day. We'll see how long those can distract the children.