Last week Alexe put 70+ hours into her store, making up for a crap set of employees who maliciously bailed, all three, in a single week, and did so in ways that could be as inconvenient as possible. (A text message at close to midnight before Alexe's day off?)
Alexe stepped up like a champion, despite the traumatic exposure to less than desirable people, and made sure her customers didn't notice anything was out of the ordinary. It left no energy for much else, and what we saw of her was generally 12 minutes between getting home and being in pjs and in bed.
What that meant on the homestead was a 7 day stretch of single parenting, in a week with Valentines Day parties at school, and those schools being closed on Friday.
And yet, things just seemed to get done.
The venting for the hot water heater was brought up through the floor and out the upstairs walls, as per recommended installation guidelines from the manufacturer. At the same time I cut through the wall to create reasonable-sized access to the attic of the other side of the house, up to this point only accessible by a tiny trap door int he top of a downstairs closet. That attic now has planking, and electrical outlet/lights.
The kids were set up to make their own Valentines Day cards for their classmates. The art table was established, and I provided blank cards cut from construction paper. Annaliese really got into it, and while the first few she decorated and had me spell the names of her classmates so she could write them down, she quickly became tired of waiting for me to stop what I was doing to help her, and instead found the list of her classmates, and copied them down herself, checking off the list until she had 14 labelled, signed, and nicely decorated cards. Caspian was harder to get to focus, and by the time he gave it a whirl, Annaliese was well into her third card. He got frustrated, and refused to try. The competitiveness between these two...
Having burned so much energy working on the bleeping kitchen ceiling, I took some time for more rewarding projects. The roughed-in arch for the stairs, the stair plates, and some trim installed to make the entrance to our bedroom feel a little more whimsical.
Natalie had put up some of these Hungarian-style book shelves a while back, and after she reminded me of what they were, I took a crack at some on afternoon. Very simple design, the vertical supports are attached to the wall on the inside of the cut-outs to hide them after the shelves are put in place. A little time to sand the verticals, and the notching of the verticals, and then the shelves at corresponding spots so they lock int each other, took a bit as well, but a couple hours, and:
Voila. Still deciding on whether to paint them white, or paint the verticals white and stain the shelves themselves dark.
Our friend John stopped by for a visit, and an accosting by the kids.
Annaliese's interest was not in the headline, so much as the picture of the kid wearing a mardi gras mask.
The library out on a chocolate party. That meant a big table, laden with chocolate, grab a plate and enjoy. None of us could believe it was real, but we all did our best, and left with chocolates in our pockets and an armload of paperbacks from the 25 cent table.
A picture of the elusive Alexe, who cae down to visit e while I made a late night meal of corned beef hash and farm fresh eggs. The chickens are laying daily now, at least two of them are.
And then, on Thursday, Valentines Day, the kids were brought to school with their bags of Valentines cards, (Alexe worked behind the scenes to make sure Caspian had some nice homemade ones,) they each brought bags of apples, because we're that kind of family, and I came home to meet the delivery truck. Which managed to get stuck at the end of the drive and require me to hop ont he tractor and pull it out, but half an hour later, our french doors had arrived!
And there was no resisting getting started right away.
After picking up Annaliese from school, of course.
The first door I chose to put in was at the foot of our bed, a Valentines gift to Alexe. Step 1, create a hole in the wall.
Step 2, frame the hole in, and put in a solid header. Step 2 came after we picked Caspian up from school, A gets out at 11, C gets out at 12. There was a pause in progress after each child run, to sit on the couch and oow and aaah at all their valentines, and then have them sort out the 10 pounds of candy they had each received, and put it in jars up high. Holy crap, kids eat too much candy around here.
Just before 2, in time for my date with Alexe, the first set of doors was in.
And the kids and I rocketed down to the store, where Alexe and Dixie had just survived a crazy lunch shift, and Dixie had saved two of her Valentines Specials for us to sit quietly by ourselves in a booth and enjoy. We plugged the kids into a cartoon show on a laptop at the front of the store, and had a relaxed, chattery meal together.
My hard working girl, and the love of my life.
And look at the amazing lobster cakes Dixie made, served on cheese grits with a fennel salad. I've eaten at many, many top end restaurants around the country and parts of the world, and this lady is as talented as I've ever come across.
Home after our date, Alexe having to be there until closing, the kids being pretty good, I started on door number two, between our bathroom and the upstairs porch. Steps 1-2-3 again. In this case there was window here, which was more difficult to repurpose to a door than starting with a solid wall.
Grr, I'll have dealings with that company later. Right now there's no way I'm delaying this part of the project any longer.
The next morning, the upstairs light was finally what I had envisioned three months ago.
View from bed, out onto the porch, and to the massive cedar tree that grows on the back end of the yard:
Annaliese kept up the card-making, and wrote to several of her friends, decorating the cards, then dictating to me what she wanted to write, and I would spell the words out for her, sounding them out as we went. She is going to feel so free when she turns the corner and starts reading and writing on her own.
Friday morning, light came to our kitchen. Door #1, step 1-2-3.
Interlude to clean up a mess in the laundry room. What happens when a puppy-pit-bull-mix gets ahold of a down pillow? This.
Friday afternoon, a day when the kids did not go to school, they took a much needed nap, and I was able to knock out steps 1 and 2 for this door while they were asleep.
Saturday, I decided to leave the third kitchen door leaning against the wall, and finish out some walls. Wiring for refrigerator complete, and outlets for the possible dishwasher and the counter top kitchen tools to the left of the sink completed, I put up bead board walls. Man, does that feel good. That wall, or section of wall, is paint-away from being completely done. Of course the doors have to be removed and stained/sealed, but the end is in sight!
Saturday night, a break from the long week for everyone, the kids went to their friend's house to play, an Alexe and I suited up, in tux and gown, fro the Junior Auxiliary gala. I had it in my head that JA had something to do with fundraising for youth athletics. It wasn't until I was at the party that I was told it's a girls club.
We had a fun time, though the dj just couldn't get things right. Luckily there are a few more parties coming up at the galleries where we'll be able to boogie a bit more.
On Sunday, missing Alexe and having spent the morning putting up more bead board, the kids and I trouped down to the store for brunch, and to visit a very busy Alexe. The place was hopping, so the kids and I sat in a booth and I read them books until things slowed down, and we ordered our breakfast.
After we finished, the kids got to work. Caspian cleared dishes form booths and brought them into the kitchen, and Annaliese cleaned the surfaces. Really. It was the greatest thing to sit and watch.
The kids and I went home to a beautiful sunny afternoon, where we did a quick house clean up, five loads of laundry, and played in the yard waiting for Alexe to finish her shift. It turned out, in order to not got to work on Monday, for me on my birthday, she was at the store until 5, three hours after closing, to finish up payroll, scheduling, and deal with the last pissant who had quit earlier in the week and was refusing to complete her IRS paperwork and demanding her last paycheck under the table. Alexe staggered home with a cell phone chirping away with disrespectful and downright mean texts from this girl. I took Alexe's phone away from her, fielded the texts fro her employee for a few minutes until she gave up, and we were able to enjoy a few minutes of the later afternoon as a family.
Annaliese prepared many bowls and buckets for a marrying game she planned. Each container was filled with sawdust, decorated on the top with wood scraps and magnolia leaves, and while two people danced around the yard, "getting married", the third would dance around them, throwing up handfulls of sawdust.
We all married each other, and then saved the rest for when Alexe came home. Alexe and I danced around our yard, while our two pumpkins danced around us throwing sawdust in the waning light. It was pretty magical.
While waiting for Alexe to come home earlier in the afternoon, the kids prepared a picnic for her. They trucked armloads of food out out the blanket, and then ate most of it.
The leaning tower of...
And then on Monday I turned 32.
Alexe and the kids slept until almost 8, and oddly, I was awake at 7. I had a very leisurely morning, relaxing with a Ludlum novel, cuddling with the family when they all woke up and piled into our bed, getting sung to, having breakfast brought to me in bed, and generally not feeling like I had to do anything.
Annaliese gave me a "haircut", an incredibly soothing experience.
I took my book and went to the BTC for a quite lunch of reading and eating an amazing Say Dixie sandwich, by myself, no kid wrangling involved.
Home to my family, where Alexe made the best birthday cookies I've had yet, and we all sat down to an early milk and cookies celebration.
Talk about being a rich man.
And then, Alexe dropped me off at the movies in Oxford, where I watched the Bruce Willis shot-em-up flick while she and the kids went to get my birthday present. (Cuisinart!!)
They picked me up after, we went out for pizza, an headed home.
It was one of my best birthdays ever. Friends stopped by, friends called, my sisters made a big deal out of me, and I chatted with my parents in the morning.
And despite all the craziness, our family feels more settled and centered than it has in a while. Alexe's store, through her massive efforts, is doing great. The kids, despite their whining and fighting, are having a great life. And I'm going to knock this house out and get on to more fun things.
My favorite quote of the weekend, from Caspian, who came racing upstairs with two eggs in his hand to show me another hen had started to lay, shrugged his shoulders and tilted his head to the side and said, "I guess this means we're farmers now."