Saturday, November 28, 2015

Kids' Bathroom

The last room in our house that hasn't been gutted and redone.  This is the downstairs bathroom, off the hallway that connects the kids' bedrooms. They treat it poorly, and I haven't had the desire to touch it.  But after finishing our upstairs shower, it was the last big thing on the to do list.  

So one day I started.

And of course the remodel in the 70s had covered over even bigger problems.

A new floor, built out of the only pressure treated wood I've used anywhere in the house.  Covered in hardi board.  Banked to drain towards a single floor drain.  Sealed using the neat Red Guard rubberized shower pan goop.  Lots of it.

Tiled up 7 ft, on all four walls.  I wanted robins' egg blue tile, and could not find them anywhere.  Ended up buying white tile from a box store, and the same day I stopped at the old schoolhouse that friends recently bought, and mentioned my sad compromise on the tile color.  Our friend Cinnamon went into the schoolhouse, (its a big old sprawling building that most recently housed a hardware store and lumberyard,) and came out with one of these tiles.  The next day we dug out 20 boxes, 10 tiles short of the amount I needed to do the whole room.  

So I went back to work tiling.  

And tiling.

And tiling.

With a break to grout.  (This time with a good pair of rubber gloves.)

And then more tiling.

And grouting and rewiring and ceiling fan installing and painting etc.  The usual slog.

But...  Voila.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Hazel Brennan Butler, 10-22-2015

Natalie Coughlin and her husband William Butler have a beautiful baby boy.

Like she often does, while I was mooning over the pictures Natalie and William were texting us daily and pondering what to send them as a present, Alexe said, "you know what they're really going to need?  Sleep."  Which may seem bleeding obvious to anyone, but the next thing she said was, "Why don't you go up and help out for a week?"

Alexe is the self identified "Ideas Girl."  She has good ideas that are sometimes more obvious than others, and almost always include, "and Kagan can do it."

Anyhoo, it was a great idea, and a few weeks into the life and unrelenting baby schedule of Hazel I hopped a plane and headed to Northern Vermont for a week.
After a couple stops for provisions, (Burlington has a Trader Joe's now!) I got to meet my first nephew.

He's precious.  And a very good baby.  Even though I've never met another child as difficult as our dear Annaliese, she set all my benchmarks for sleep depravation and angry, petulant screaming.  Hazel is sweetness and light in comparison.  

A.Caitlin brought dinner by on two different occasions.  Her homemade pizzas were delicious.  The homage to the nursing mother was only a little distracting.

A very tired, and proud, papa.  This guy manages a large dairy farm, has a large sugarwood and sugar house of his own, and now has a newborn.  Which all seems like plenty to keep a fellow tired.  I didn't realize it was also hunting season.  He was leaving the house at 3 am to be able to finish the morning milking and be out in the woods to hunt before sun-up.  I wish I had a hobby I liked enough to make me do that.  It blew my mind.

My little sister. And her son.  

It snowed a couple days into the visit.  I had to go out and feel the crunch under my boots.

And I managed to get Natalie out of the house and hiking up the road. 

He's adorable, and other pleasant descriptors.  Even in the endless cycle of feeding and changing and cooking and housekeeping and cold Vermont rain and feeling housebound, every now and again he would wake up and make contact just enough to melt my heart.

Our second walk.  


Smile.  Caught on film. (On memory? Funny how times and language keep changing.)

This is the real story of new motherhood.  After the first couple nights Natalie and I split the night shift, but I came in fresh, and knew I was leaving in a week.  This girl is in it for the long haul.  She's doing great.

Me, I barely made it out alive.  

A week later, I kissed my sister and nephew goodbye and drove into Burlington for a nostalgic morning on Church Street.

A little visit to the waterfront of Lake Champlain.

A couple flights back to Memphis and a late night drive home.  

Where Alexe had been holding all the forts down, solo-parenting, farm-girl-ing, and shop-keeping, for several days without water at the house.  This was my first chore after arriving home, repairing the water main that had been severed by a large root 3 ft below the driveway.  The root pressure had been building for a decade maybe, (you can see the root on the left,) and the pipe snapped in two (sheared straight across,) from the pressure at the opportune moment that I was out of town.

Despite the challenges, (her car had also died, and the goats started breaking through the fences and eating her rose bushes,) Alexe rocked it, and the kids were glowing.  They showed me all through their new fort in the woods, and we played a long series of family games out there, including homemade pin the tail on the mermaid and donkey.

I missed them terribly.  

I brought the Vermont Country Store home with me.

Caspian is hoping that his cousin Hazel will marry our neighbor's daughter, Hazel-Sue.  He grins every time he thinks of Hazel and Hazel being married.

Fall 2015 Catchup Part 5

With the heavy lifting out of the way, (i.e. planning Nick's life out,) Nick seemed to relax and start enjoying the simpler things in life.  Caspian came home early from school the day before because he threw up.  He went to bed early, slept like a rock, and the next morning when I came downstairs I found these two boys looking very happy and healthy.

The rule is, a child isn;t allowed back to school for 24 hours after a throwing up incident, so Caspian found himself hanging out with the big kids while his sister was at school.

So we went exploring.  Grenada Dam.

Civil War sites.  This was a hilltop where the southern forces dug in for a time.  The setting was so...intimate.  The opposing forces would have easily been able to make eye contact as they fired on each other.  

I let these smiles wash all those aspects of humanity from my mind.

The three local Army Corps lakes are being let down to build up capacity for the spring floods, (these lakes were built as flood control measures for the Mississippi,) and we were able to drive out into the lakebed to look around.

Family dinner.

Godfather and godson.

u.c.Nick showing us what all his international yoga practice is good for.

And then we drove Nick to the train station and waited an hour with him in the drizzle for a train that was very late.

Eventually we gave up and left him there.  After hugs, some better than others.

We were back home by the time the train arrived to pick him up and carry him south to New Orleans.

Back home, to a house empty of guests for the first time in a bit, we piled into bed for some r and r.

And this is how we spent the rest of the day. 

Of course and afternoon and evening of idleness meant the next day we had to DO something.  

Alexe, proudly holding part of this year's crop of lemons.

Alexe decided to dig out the flower bed behind the house and severely improve the soil conditions in it.

With four shovels going we made quick work of it.  We put a base layer of mulch down in the bottom of the bed, and felt very accomplished.

Which meant we could get back in our jammies.  

This was an epic game of Uno.  Not sure what was going on with Caspian, but he was hyper on a level that had him running across the house and back between every turn.  

This must have been the next evening.  I can tell because he's sitting still, and his pjs are a different color.