Saturday, March 25, 2017

2017 Historic Preservation Awards

A friend of our neighbors' called this week, introducing himself as Sam, the board president of the Madison Trust for Historic Preservation, explaining that he has watched the work on our house over the past 1.5 years and thinks we should nominate ourselves for a renovation award. It seems to be more of a fundraiser (applying is free, but the award ceremony requires a ticket to attend), rather than an honor I would love to win, but I applied nonetheless. At the very least, I'm grateful for the motivation to reflect on our process and put together a few before and after pictures. Here is our project description, written for the application, along with a few before and after pictures, also submitted.

We purchased our home in July of 2015. Our realtor tried to convince us to look at houses that needed less work, but we really loved the neighborhood and felt that we were up for a complete renovation, so we went for it. Over the next year and a half, neighbors shared stories of the history of the house. It was last purchased as a fixer-upper in the 1970’s but was never actually fixed up. Ten dumpsters of hoarded “stuff” were discarded before we ever set foot in the house. We removed another 10 dumpsters worth in the demolition process.

We completed the majority of the renovation work ourselves, while hiring out a few of the larger jobs to local contractors.  Nate discovered a passion for construction and woodworking at West High School, and from day one, balanced his desire to do all the work himself with a full-time job as an engineer designing bikes at Trek.

It’s probably easier to say which parts of the house we didn’t replace. Like all major renovations, the to-do list got longer and longer the farther we went. We retained the footprint of the house, with the exception of the back deck, which we made smaller. All of the windows, except one intricate diamond shaped window in the attic landing, have been replaced. The wood floors needed some minor patching and repairs, but sanded out beautifully. The electrical work was all knob and tube and needed to be replaced, and the plumbing needed to be updated as well. So we decided as long as we were opening up all the walls, we would put in a modern HVAC system with central air. We made a drafty, old house airtight with spray foam on the interior and rigid foam on the exterior of the original shiplap sheathing. For many months we debated whether to repair and paint the original cedar siding, but in the end decided that it made more sense economically to replace it with LP Smartside.

We painstakingly removed, de-nailed and refinished all of the trim in the house.  We’ve re-installed some of it, but much of it is waiting patiently in the newly finished walk-up attic, ready to adorn a window or cover the ragged ends of the hardwood floors where they meet the walls. For a modern family of 5, it made more sense to have two full bathrooms upstairs and a half bath downstairs, so we transformed the upstairs study into a bathroom. We also shortened the upstairs hallway, creating a master bedroom/bathroom. The house had a second staircase that was charming and historic, but by removing it we made room for the half bath downstairs, a closet in the playroom, a main floor laundry room, and a pantry. The basement remains unfinished and is a wonderful workshop for the general contractor, my husband.

As you can see from the pictures of the kitchen, we removed the wall between the living room and kitchen. This required removing the chimney that ran from the basement boiler through the roof, brick by brick. The house lacked an original fireplace, so we added a gas fireplace that vents directly out the side of the house.

The main things that still need to be done include a railing in the attic, lots of trim, fireplace mantle/tile, kitchen backsplash tile, cabinet doors and fronts, siding on the new 2 car garage, and finishing touches on the landscaping. All in all, it’s been a fun project and although we drained our savings, we have no regrets!


Saturday, March 18, 2017

Seussical The Musical

Two years ago for Christmas, the Ooms gifted us tickets to Good Night Moon at The Children's Theater of Madison. We loved seeing a favorite book preformed on stage, so when I saw that Seussical The Musical was coming to Madison this year, I really wanted to go. The girls and I went two weeks short -- so good! During the show, I found myself wanting to be less concerned about messes (the one's my kids make) and more encouraging of creating, thinking and dreaming (for myself and my kids). I found myself wanting a job that requires more creativity and gives me more of an outlet for creating.

The show is based on Dr. Seuss' book Horton Hears A Who, and during one of the solos by Horton, he sings about flying and Cora said, in her "outside" voice, "elephants can't fly!" Another favorite part of the show was seeing that Gertrude the bird learns that life is better with her single, bedraggled tail feather than it was with a beautiful, full plume that she wished and wished for. I liked this because I'm thirsty for "beauty-within" examples for Lou and Cora.

I should have read the book before we went to the show, but didn't think about it, so instead read it after the show. I smiled when I read who signed our copy of Horton Hears A Who: For the Bosscher Children, from Gee Gee 8/4/15. We miss you, Gee Gee!

Much of what makes Dr. Seuss books so enjoyable to read it the silliness of the characters mixed with real life issues. While of course Horton teaches us that "a person's a person, no matter how small," the thing that stuck out tonight was:

"This," cried the Mayor, "is your town's darkest hour!
The time for all Whos who have blood that is red
To come to the aid of their country!" he said.
We've GOT to make noises in greater amounts!
So, open your mouth, lad! For every voice counts

I know lots of people could argue that politically, every voice doesn't count. True. But the kind of voice I'm talking about here is the one that can call representatives and senators or defend those who don't have as loud of a voice. I don't always act as though my voice counts, but I should, so it was good to be reminded.

The little voices in my life count, too! Louisa has been taking piano lessons and it's been fun to hear her fingers and voice progress. Last night in the bath (2 weeks after we saw the show), Louisa was singing Horton's solo, "a person's a person, no matter how small" over and over again, even in tune. I love how songs just stick in her head and I really hope that someday, if she wants to perform via acting or singing, that we are able to give her that chance.

Our friend, who rocked the roll of the young Kangaroo

The Cat in the Hat was fantastically funny

Sunday, March 5, 2017

From the archives

This is a [random collection of four short stories] post I never finished:

Cora pushed Peter over the other day, making him land on his unpadded bottom. He was sad and came to me, asking for a hug-y. I asked Cora to say sorry and give him a hug, which she did, although without a lot of remorse. Next Peter said sorry to Cora and gave her a hug. I told him he only needed to say sorry if he did something mean to Cora, so he proceeded to push her, say sorry, and hug her. Too much.

The girls love music as much as Nate and I do, and yesterday in the car, we were only 10 seconds into the La La Land soundtrack, when Louisa requested a song that she had learned in school. Cora immediately interrupted her request saying, "No Wuwisa, I like La La Land!" I was amazed she could identify it, since she didn't see the movie and didn't seem to be that interested in the music. She then reminded me that she has seen the movie, "Remember, when Oma was over and we watched it on the computer?" Ah yes, at Peter's birthday party, Uncle Patrick played Jimmy Falon's La La Land/Golden Globe Awards spoof, which was written to the same tune as the opening song on the soundtrack. It's so fun watching little brains make connections like this!

Tonight, 40 minutes after we put the girls to bed, Cora (who had a nice long nap this afternoon) called out "Mom! I'm hot!" I told her to take off a layer and she replied "okay." Ten seconds later she asked, "Mom, what means take off a layer?" The understanding we take for granted!

Since I don't have photos directly related to any of these moments, maybe this is a good place to share some cute photos from a rare whole-family outing, to a $1 Wisconsin women's basketball game on February 18. They won the game, and the kids got to eat hot dogs. Win win, for them at least [insert smiley face]!

See Where Our Pictures Were Taken