Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A birthday party, field trip, and more cold rain...

Taking advantage of a sick day to catch up on things. Stupid sinuses.

There was a birthday party, Sunday morning the weekend before last, to celebrate our little girl turning five.  On a rainy morning, all of our friends bundled up their kids, slogged through the rain and mud, and came to our construction zone for pancakes and conversation over the screaming hoards of kids.  We count ourselves very lucky to have a community like this.

The place cleaned up pretty well, all things considered.

Pancakes and cupcakes and sheet cake were consumed, and the birthday girl was spoiled rotten.  My favorite part may have been the group beading, all these little people parked around a bucket of plastic beads, tongues sticking out, threading them onto strings.  

After the party I had a fun afternoon out with some friends, rescuing a truck that had sunk into a field outside of town.  2 hours playing in the cold rain, with my truck, lots of chains, and a come along, we dragged the heavy diesel out of the field and up the gooey logging road.  

It has been cold, 20s at night, and wet.  The pigs have turned every corner of their pen into a muddy mess, so I spent a little time with a shovel clearing out drainage ditches, and then built them a dry spot with hay. 

Everyone has been going a bit stir crazy, being stuck inside, and surrounded by mud and gloomy skies. It saps the energy to do anything, and severely limits the things you can do.  a.Caitlin helped out with a delayed birthday present, a tea set.  This is one of several tea parties that occurred on this particular rainy afternoon.

Annaliese's school takes a field trip every month, and parents are welcome to go along.  Alexe and I have not had time to go along on any of these, and Annaliese made a specific request that I come this time.  Not a request that can be refused.

We climbed on the bus and headed to the bouncy castle pirate themed indoor playground place up near Oxford.

We had permission to bring Caspian, but I couldn't convince Annaliese to invite him.  She had her heart set on alone time, so the little boy went to his school for the morning, and we didn't dwell on the field trip.

It became apparent Annaliese was very hungry for alone time with her daddy, (that's me!) and my heart melted when she told her friends they couldn't sit with her because she was sitting with her daddy, then curled up in my lap and snuggled in for the drive.

The place we went was well designed for its purpose.

The upstairs game room.

They had a very early lunch of pizza for the kids.  Even though we had gone out to the new pizza place in Oxford the night before, and even though all her classmates couldn't sit still long enough to eat a single piece, Annaliese calmly sat and ate three before wiping her mouth daintily and heading back into the fray.

Chloe is one of Annaliese's best fiends.

And on the drive back Annaliese let her sit with us, where she curled under my arm and fell asleep.  She's a light sleeper, I thought I was being sneaky with the camera.

At some point the sun came out, and moods town-wide were lifted.  Caspian and I took a boy trip to the park, where he cruised on his bike...

And rode without touching the handlebars when he passed a group of teenagers, which got him the cries of "adorable" that he was angling for...

We hit up the playground, and had many super-pushes on the swings...

These kids love each other, but really blossom when you get them apart and the fighting stops.

We've been doing what we can to soak up the sunshine that has finally come back.  We had a couple days of 60+ temps before it dropped back down to 20s, and on those days we made it to the track, and have taken several family tromps around the farm.

He dressed himself for this one.  I had been working on the garden, and had stripped to the waist, whcih meant Annaliese was also not wearing a shirt.

It was moments before the little boy decided he needed to follow suit.

The start of Alexe's garden, terracing work coming along.  Unrelated, note Shadow's derriere:  We had a big trek to the vet last week, with everyone getting their shots, Shadow getting a large mass removed from her butt, and the older pup and the cat getting spayed.  $400 later, our menagerie should be good for a while.

Alexe returning home from the store on her bicycle, having pedaled all the way up the hill loaded down with groceries.  I am continually charmed by this girl, and find it endlessly surprising how much she loves being a grocer.  

Meanwhile, even thought it's been muddy and cold, the house is progressing. The second section of the kitchen counters first required a brick-scavenging trip, this time just around the corner to the Tatum's house, where in exchange for rescuing his truck, John let me rip out an old garage foundation. 

When I'm done here, I think I'll have done plenty of brick work for this year.

The sink compartment, with an alcove towards the wall to both support the counter that will tie into the wall on that side, and potentially house a dishwasher, though we're still undecided on whether we want one of those.

I had to come back and add a level of bricks under the sink after we put it in place and decided, at 39 inches, it still didn't feel high enough.  

All ready to be plumbed in. 

This is the latest, the radiant floor heating system.  On demand hot water heater, 95% efficient, propane, will supply all domestic hot water needs, and heat the house.  The rest of the manifold is from Radiant Floor in Vermont.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

What the kids were up to just now...

They're both in a warm bath now, and their clothes are in the washing machine...

Lost in projects...

It's Saturday morning, January 12, and the family has been home since last Sunday evening.

That means I have two weeks to catch up on here, the first a time when I was home alone, caught up in projects for 16+ hours a day with only dogs and a cat, and all their "accidents", for company, and this last week, with my babies and lady home, and figuring out our 2013 rhythm.

Going back....

As I often do when left alone, I went a little crazy.  I left the house only when I needed something from the lumber yard or hardware store, and worked into the wee hours most days.  

These girls, adorable as they are, have been evicted to the porch.  Olive, the larger, chews on everything, and I have had to rewire the power cords on a number of tools, and toss several destroyed shoes.  The little one craps everywhere.  They're good dogs, and often cute as buttons, as demonstrated here as they chew on each other's paws.

New Years Eve, I considered going out to the party across town where the crew was congregating, but when I was honest with myself, there was something I rather be doing on the last night of the year.  Around 7 pm I grabbed my hammers, went upstairs, and removed all the unwanted walls to open up our future bedroom.  This was a wall, with closet, segmenting this bedroom from the stairwell.

This side of the house was built with trusses, so none of these walls was load bearing.  You wouldn't know it to take them down...  I have never seen so many headers, over-nailing, and general over-building.  

The next morning I was back on the brick project.  The second arch, turning the corner, heading towards the stove:

It took just as long as the first one, but after I was done, there was only one dusty job left before I could do a thorough clean of the brick dust.  The rest of the brick under-counter will be built with full bricks, no more arches or angle cuts.  I haven't gotten any farther on this, because I ran out of bricks, and am having a rough time tracking down more.  I don't want to make the drive to Memphis for another load without being sure the rubble pile is still there, and I haven't found a local person to call and ask.  

This was the last dusty/muddy job, cutting a groove in the concrete floor to run gas and power over to the counter.  The concrete is 30+ years old here, and cutting this four foot trench, and chipping out the center, took 2.5 hours.  

This is a cheat picture, a week later, after putting the gas line in, and wiring outlets under the counter for the stove, and laptops/mixers/etc. in the future.

The upstairs demo work resulted in piles of garbage outside.  I thought about carrying all this stuff  outside and putting it into the truck one armload at a time, and then opened a window and started tossing it out.

This is one of three very full truck loads of sheetrock, carpet, and ceiling tiles that made it to the dump.  I had planned on getting a teenager to help do this part, but on this particular day they (the ones I know) were all otherwise occupied, or feeling lazy.  

I got a deal on this bead board, and picked it up after the last dump run.  Should be enough to do the ceilings in the upstairs bed and bath, and about half of the kitchen.  (That truck is a champ.)

This was my goal, to have the new bedroom laid out, the ceiling up, and the bed relocated so Alexe would have a nice-er spot to come home to.  The ceiling is another project that I underestimated the amount of time it would take, and so I got 2/3 of the bedroom done before the family arrived.

I spent a long Sunday cleaning up the truly disgusting house. Ten days of untrained puppies, I found the cat had peed on both kid's beds, everything was covered in brick and sheetrock dust, and I hadn't used the kitchen much, but it still managed to be filthy.

I was vacuuming the new kitchen, and the floors in the rest of the house were still damp after mopping, when my family arrived home safely.  It was a wonderful homecoming.  Annaliese delivered three presents, drawings she had made for me and put in envelopes she decorated on the long drive, "because I love you and missed you so much."  Caspian had been craving "boy time" on his trip with his mother and sister to visit his aunt and grandmother, and we had an extended wrestle time to get his fighting energy out.

Alexe was pretty, happy, and relieved to be home and back in her town/state/domain.  Amazing how much we both feel this is home now. 

The next morning I took the kids to the BTC for breakfast, before taking them to their respective schools.  

It's been raining here for weeks, one of the reasons I've been focused on the inside of the house so much.  I can't drive the tractor without leaving big grooves, and there's mud everywhere.

Monday we were lucky to have an afternoon of sunshine, and we all went to the track to ride bikes, and the more energetic among us, Alexe, ran.

The ceiling, coming along.

Chef Annaliese, cooking on a rainy afternoon.  

Annaliese turned Five on Sunday, the day Alexe and crew came home, and her birthday party is scheduled for tomorrow morning.  Pancakes and pajamas and lots of kids packed into this house.  I'm hoping nobody gets their car stuck in all the mud outside.  

The point being, Holy Crap, my little girl is Five!  This week she started making the family beds, ours, her brother's, and her own, for a quarter a day.  This is her brother's bed, note the extra blanket spread across the top, and the teddy bear sweetly placed on the pillow. 

I took a trip to the Coffeeville police station with my friend Cliff to view a gun collection being held there while it's auctioned off.  A nice collection, 80+ guns that belonged to a slightly paranoid retired military lawyer who retired to MS 8 years ago from Virginia.  There were Parker Brothers and Winchester 97 shotguns, a bunch of AK 47s and other assault rifles, but this is the one thing that struck my fancy.  An american derringer, 2 shot 45 or 410, making it the smallest shotgun I've ever seen.

My toolbox of firearms is complete, and I mostly don't believe in buying stuff that doesn't serve any practical purpose, but the engineering on these things is always interesting and fun to look at.

There was a short break in the rain, and at Alexe's urging, we all suited up in our rubber boots, and hiked around the fields and up the "mountain".

Then, yesterday, the sun came out, and we had a beautiful, 70+ degree Friday.

I picked Annaliese up from school:

The two of us ran some errands, made lunch at home, then went to pick up Caspian, and hit up the park.

Followed by a visit to Chloe's house, where everyone has been fighting the flu for a week; we dropped off a present Annaliese made for Chloe earlier in the week, a trip to the hardware store, ice cream cones at the drug store...

Which reminds me of a story.  As we walked up the sidewalk towards the drugstore, an older woman was overheard talking about how darling the kids looked as they skipped towards the door.  Caspian didn't break stride, but said, "Hello darling" to her as he went by.

We spent the rest of the day around the homestead, juggling productive work with breaks for arts and craft, and a new board game.  Note to all parents with young kids:  the Busytown board game is the first, ever, that has kept both a 3 and 5 year old's attention from start to finish, with them engaged, excited, and working together.  Thank you Auntie Caitlin!

The night was rounded out with a grocery shopping trip to the BTC, which feels full and interesting again after Alexe's long week working to put it back into shape after her time away, and a family movie.  (Paulie, starring Tony Shaloub in 1998, good times.)

Some time this week I found a break in the weather to frame out the corner of the side porch.  It hasn't been dry enough to attach the cedar floor since then, so the planking is just laying there for now, and until it's firmly attached, I can't replace the white columns with the Cypress posts I have waiting.

Window seat coming along, cedar lined for bedding storage.

Ceiling upstairs, should be done today.

A few rough-sawn pine planks thrown up for a temporary counter top. Until I find some more bricks, I can't get the sink up, and without the sink up, I can't cut in the plumbing, etc. etc.  Grrr.