Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Are you sure it's not Monday?

What a morning! It's only 10:12 am and it's already been a crazy day. Thankfully we had nowhere we needed to be. Well, I suppose Nate needed to go to work, but other than that...
  • Nate discovers that the tires on our van can't handle the snow
  • Nate kindly puts all the carseats into the Saab, so the kids and I can go to a gymnastics open gym at 9:30
  • I find Peter with my wedding ring in his mouth
  • Cora teases Louisa, saying, "I'm going to turn you into a prince" which is apparently very upsetting to Lou, because she yells at Cora, squeezes her and shakes her
  • Louisa and Cora have time outs and we talk about what happened
  • Everyone is bundled up, but Cora doesn't want to wear mittens and falls into a snowbank, making her very sad and cold
  • We're in the car at 9:25, but the car won't start
  • Cora, Peter and I come inside. Peter is thankful for the fiasco because he gets his morning nap
  • Louisa stays outside, happily playing in the snow
  • Nate comes back and turns the truck 180 degrees in a very tiny space between the Saab and the garage, so that he can jump the Saab
  • Nate takes the Saab to buy a new battery, saying he will be back soon to take the van to get new tires
  • Posting this now, hoping maybe it will end the craziness of this morning

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Seldom Calm, Always Bright

It's Christmas Eve and the sun is shining! Such strange weather at this most wonderful time of the year. Every stage of this renovation will be so quickly forgotten, so we've been trying to pause and take photos as often as possible, and the sun offered great lighting for an outdoor photo shoot. I also took a bunch of photos inside, but most are too dark to be interesting because of the one inch foam board that's now hugging the house. Nate took out the windows on the west side of the house (as well as most of the front and back) and nailed on the foam. Then next week, fingers crossed, Tim will come and start putting in the new windows.

Merry Christmas to you. May your days be merry and bright!

No longer neglected, instead feeling loved
The west side, all buttoned up

New Eaves!

The east side will be warmed with foam next week

The new dormer, which is temporarily water-proofed while we wait for our new roof

View from the garage

Blue skies!

Enjoy the ship lap while it lasts, Chip and JoAnna!

An outlet for Christmas lights in the roof of the front porch

Taking advantage of the mirrored door

The glow of electricity

Our first working light switch

Just love that sunshine

Like most of the house, a little TLC will make a big difference

Friday, December 18, 2015

Sweet Three

There are some sweet faces that haven't received enough air time on this blog lately. I love you all dearly, Lou Bear, Bean and Buster Brown! 

This was only the second time they've all been in the bath together, so I called Nate downstairs to snap some photos.

The Advent season has been tons of kid-fun. Louisa and Cora love hearing and talking about the Christmas story, doing Christmas-crafts...gingerbread houses, paper chains, Christmas cards, ornaments, sugar cookies, and chewing whole candy canes in mere seconds.

Nate is not interested in playing Santa with our kids, which is fine, but until a few days ago, he had not yet broken the news to Lou and I was getting all sorts of questions about how he fits down the chimney and how he knows when we're awake. When the two of them went Christmas shopping earlier this week, she asked about Santa, so Nate said something like, "Lou, is Santa real?" "No," she answered. I'm sure there was some pleasant follow-up conversation, but I can't remember. Tonight she asked how he knows when we're sleeping and when we're awake, so I asked again if he was real. Again she said no, then went on to explain that "it's pretend magic, that's how he knows." Help! How do you answer these questions in way that lets a child believe in "magic" without letting them think that Santa actually brings presents to kids? Maybe the answer lies in Louisa's statement about pretend magic. Perhaps analogies might help? But if you explain that Santa is like the tooth fairy, what if your child believes in the tooth fairy? And then there is the whole issue of making sure Louisa doesn't spoil her friends' Santa belief, right? I guess there a bigger parenting problems, so maybe I'll just let Lou lead the next conversation.

In this last photo, Cora is trying egg nog for the first time (ever? or at least since last Christmas). She was surprised to learn that she likes it. Although a few nights later, Nate gave the girls more, and to stretch it for himself, he diluted it with milk and forgot to stir it, so the milk was sitting on top. Cora took a drink and said, "me no like. me have only milk" which is funny because she loves milk. Goes to show that what you expect to taste plays a big role in how it tastes. Cora's language is finally blossoming, and it's pretty entertaining at times. 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

A Bit More Castle-ness, Please

Last night after dinner I was finally able to visualize the final heightened dormer in the attic. Seeing the work in progress (and the stars in the sky through it) was encouraging. Today I wanted to see how things were coming, so Peter and Cora and I walked over. Cora usually needs some convincing to change out of dress-up clothes and into cold-weather-gear, so I told her that we needed to go see the new house because it was looking more like a castle. She was not only convinced, but also excited.



Half-way to after?

One of the princesses in the castle
Doesn't it look so much better already? I'm thankful we hired Tim (the contractor installing our windows) because without his suggestion, I don't think we would have thought to open this up so much. It will look much better on the outside too and should be done just in time for our new roof in early January.


Half-way to after

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Our Front Door

It is cool to think that Nate is going to know every square inch of our new house. I, on the other hand, have been less intimate with the house since Thanksgiving or so. I think this has to do with the colder weather. I'm less interested in spending time at the new house because the few times I've tried lately, I've lost feeling in my fingers and toes. Luckily Nate is a bit more hardy than I, and also more dedicated. Nevertheless, I've enjoyed the presence of our new front door in the living room for the past 3 weeks. But the end is near. By Christmas, the door will have been properly sealed and ready for the temperature swings we can expect in Wisconsin. More importantly, it will be out of our living room! Thank you, Nate, as always, for your hard work.

In other news, we've paid our downpayment for our new metal roof (to be installed the first week of January!) and Tim and his crew are hard at work fixing the eaves, installing windows and hanging foam insulation board on the outside of the house. Nate is 95% done with the electrical work too!

Applying coat #7 of 8
Such focus!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Due Today: An Update

I've been dragging my feet on this post for two reasons. The first is that life is busy. (Like most people, I can't believe that it's already December.) The second reason is that progress seems to have slowed and I don't want to be negative or whiny. I don't think it actually has slowed, I think it's more that we hired a contractor to install windows, the windows arrived, Nate prepped the outside of the house for the window and installation work....THEN....nothing. I guess in my head, I was thinking that once we hired a contractor, progress would triple or quadruple instead of remain the same. The contractor comes highly recommended and I trust that he's awesome at what he does, but he found a few things to add to his list AND we're apparently not his only project?!? WHAT? Kidding, of course. I know he is busy with other projects.

With my whinning out the way, here's what's really happening. Nate has been framing in the HVAC ducting to prepare for drywall. He's also nearly finished with the electrical install, which has required designing our lighting plan. Yesterday he texted me:

The first bubble was in response to my concern that one wall was letting quite a bit of rain in and wondering whether the attic was ready to be cleaned up. How could I resist the urge to sweep this?

But the reason for sharing this text exchange was to help explain my excitement when I realized Nate was asking me to pick something that seemed like such a "finishing touch." I might have had a moment of fantasy - thinking we were father along than we actually are. My second thought was that Nate wanted to make the powder room functional ASAP so he no longer has to walk home to use the bathroom. It turns out that a fan/light combo is similar to the blue outlet boxes in the picture above (and already placed in abundance throughout the entire house). It needs to be wired up now, but won't be functional until way later. Oh well.

Experience my excitement for a sweet second. Here is the fan/light combo I chose. Okay, it's not nearly as fun as picking countertops or a refrigerator, but it's something.

I'm resisting the urge to be negative again, but I should admit that part of the delay in getting the new windows installed was our first surprise of the renovation, i.e. something we didn't anticipate having to repair or replace. That something is the eaves and a new dormer in the attic. And because the dormer has to be roofed, we've been encouraged to re-roof this winter instead of waiting until next year. So I called four roofing experts in - 3 regular and 1 metal roofing company - and we're in the process of gathering estimates and hoping to have a new roof before Christmas. Merry Christmas Nate! Did you know that's what you wanted this year?

Progress! That's what we both want for Christmas and I'm sure we'll get it since we already have made tons of it since the first Center Ave Demo Day. That was back on August 1, only 4 short months ago.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Update in Images

Things are coming along on Center Avenue. Take a look!

Electrical = common sense

HVAC ducting

New garage pad and driveway, piece by piece

Basement entrance and mud room / screen porch

Tear down a front porch? "Easy!" (says Nate on Monday night)

We've decided to keep the same address :)

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Goodbye Sunshine. See you in May

Last week, we started our Halloween celebrating by running the Haunted Hustle, a 1/4 mile kids race. Cora made it about 1/16 of the 1/4 mile, which I anticipated and thus brought a stroller because that's how her first 0.15 mile kids race went in August. It was fun though, and both Louisa and Cora loved the jack-o-latern finisher's medal they received after crossing the finish line. I had suggested to Louisa that she go as a sunshine, but she chose Little Red Riding Hood, which was fine. Sometime in the past year or two, I learned that it's not worth arguing about simple details like which costume a four (or two) year old is going to wear. I only suggested the sunshine because I sewed it two years ago and it still fits Louisa. So anyway, this part of the story is important because of what happened at the next costume-wearing-opportunity.

Cora choose to go as Raggedy Tinkle Bell
Nate surprised himself and us by catching an early flight home from Shanghai, so he returned around 4 pm on Wednesday instead of 5 pm on Thursday. We ate dinner together and then everyone, except me, was asleep by 8 pm. I considered going to bed too, but decided, in typical mom fashion, to stay up and enjoy the peace and the chance to do whatever I wanted. So I watched some HGTV on Netflix and daydreamed about our new house. After Small Spaces Big Design was over, our screen saver came on, showing a bunch of photos from our 3 years in California. I almost instantly felt this longing to be back in California, where the sun shines 355 days each year. To counter this sadness, I made a cup of hot tea, put on some Smartwool socks, and curled up in a blanket - things I always missed doing in California because it never got cold enough. While this warmth helped a bit, I was left with a feeling of regret. Did we make the right decision?

Of course it was the right decision, it's just that winter has finally arrived here in Madison. I knew the weather transition would be difficult, and yesterday was the first rainy, windy and cold day we've had since we moved back on May 24. That I know of (I was inside at work all day), the sun didn't shine. Finally around 10 pm, I went to bed, partly because I was tired and partly to stop dreaming of the California sunshine with my rose-tinted glasses.

I think I dreamt, but it wasn't about California, and I woke up slowly, so thankful that Nate was back and willing to receive all three kids as they woke at their normal time of 7:15. He even made breakfast...lucky me! On my days off (Tuesdays and Thursdays), I like to try to get out of the house and do something fun before Louisa catches the bus at 11:15. So during breakfast, I suggested that we go to the Madison Children's Museum for a Halloween party. Without any prompting, Louisa announced that she was going to be a sunshine today and Little Red Riding Hood for trick-or-treating on Saturday! So sweet. It's like she knew that I needed some sunshine.

At the museum, as I was wrangling the kids to get them into the car so Louisa wouldn't miss her bus, an adult volunteer called out to Louisa, Goodbye Sun! See you again in May! Oh how sweet his intentions were, but how harsh his words were to me. I sort of felt like I got punched in the gut. It was a joke though, right?! The sun will shine again before May, right? Yes, in-fact, it is right now. I may be wearing my down jacket inside as I type, but the sun is shining

Saturday, October 24, 2015

More Kitchen Design Talk

To the lovely ladies who shared their thoughts and some great links, here are Nate's drawing that offer more details to help you visualize our kitchen. The upper cabinets are not purposefully grey, although that's an idea too. And the counter tops are not purposefully black, probably just what was in Nate's mind because that's what we chose in our last kitchen re-design. 

We do plan to do butcher block on the island and the breakfast bar. The large window by the refrigerator makes it difficult to do anything too useful with that back wall, but maybe some open shelving between the window and the mudroom? There won't be a door to slam (knocking things off), just an opening. 

The two doorways on the adjoining wall are for the laundry room and pantry. That wall probably has some potential for open shelving, although it's also a thoroughfare, and will likely hold our spice rack.

Fun conversations! I'd love to host a kitchen-design party like our great friends the Cizeks did, but this blog chatting is the next best thing with you out of state and out of country folk!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Kitchen Design Time

I wonder if asking others for their opinion about kitchen design is like asking their opinion about unborn baby names. You know, like you tell someone what you're leaning towards, and they make a "oh, that's nice" face?

But I'm going to go for it. Meaning, I'm going to show you pictures of our kitchen inspiration. Be honest and brainstorm with us. Just don't be sad if we don't ultimately choose your design.

What I like about the first kitchen below (from The Inspired Room) is the charcoal grey lower cabinets and white upper cabinets. I like the way they look on hardwood floors (which we'll keep in our kitchen) and how they lighten up and modernize the look. Stained wood can be beautiful too, but I think we'll have enough of it on the first floor that the kitchen needs to be something different.

I also like the white subway tile with dark grout, but wouldn't be able to handle white countertops. Would something darker contrast too much with a white backsplash?

Another thought is making the upper cabinets with glass fronts, just so things don't look too whitewashed? We are planning to have small cabinets all the way to the ceiling, so perhaps just having glass fronts on the small top cabinets, like this:

What do you think? Let's hear your honest feedback!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Picture (Frame) This

I always thought that if we had to pick a "hardest worker" in our family, it would be me. NO LONGER! Nate has laid this thought to rest over the past 3 months. He has put in so much time at the new house. Most recently, he's been framing our new spaces, including new window openings and basement stairs. When he's there, he's working incredibly hard, and when he's not, the mental energy he's using could fill a bazillion houses. If Louisa wasn't sleeping, I'd ask her to better quantify how much mental energy he's put toward this remodel. She loves to quantify intangible things, like love, saying I love you as much as 10 houses or 100 marbles. I know in her mind, 100 marbles is lots of love, so I don't explain how little that actually is or that it doesn't compare to 10 houses. I just take the love and try to store it up for days when I might feel under appreciated (not that a mother of three ever feels that).

Nate has to take a 10 day break from the house for some day-job responsibilities, and while he's away the heating and AC contractors are coming to do their heating and cooling magic. They will not only install a new furnace, air conditioner and all the necessary ducting, they will also haul away the old radiators and boiling that have been cramping my cleaning style. After the HVAC is installed, it's time to frame the back porch and install electrical and plumbing before the insulation team comes in. The windows and new front door have been ordered and should be installed before the end of November. While he's away, we expect our concrete guy to get the garage pad poured so we can attempt to host our second ever garage raising this fall.

For the most part, Nate seems fairly optimistic. There have been a few evenings when he comes home overwhelmed by his "to do" list. This is when I remind him to reflect on his "done" list, which is long and impressive. Louisa has spent some good quality time at the house with Nate and it's rubbing off on her...

Building a house at the Madison Children's Museum

Peter and Cora have spent less time in the construction zone, but are both growing up so much...Peter crawling and eating and Cora spouting off new words every day.

Barefoot at the park in October. What a beautiful fall we've had!

Please forgive the bib, but don't gift him a Packers one

It was a bit too dark to take a video of the progress last night, so I snapped a couple of photos instead. I hope that these photos help Nate realize the incredible job he's doing!

See Where Our Pictures Were Taken