Thursday, May 28, 2015

birthdays.....another decade almost gone....

I had another birthday. It seems to happen just about every year, as soon as I begin to adjust to my new age and just about the time I no longer have to stop and do the math to calculate my age, changes.  

This year my sister and mom came up for the afternoon and brought lunch.  It was nice to have company on my birthday and to have someone else fix me food!  Then we went out to dinner that night, a day off from kitchen duty??  Yes, please!

It is hard to believe that this is my last year of my 30's.  And while I'm not dreading turning 40 I'm not nearly as excited about it as my husband is.  He is looking forward to me being out of my 30's so that we will only be one decade apart, not two!  It was a little weird thinking back to my birthday last year.  I don't even really remember it, I think we went out to eat at the Public House and I remember that I took the kids out for ice cream.  Other than that I don't remember much about that day.  What I do remember is that I had no idea that my next birthday would be spent in a different house, different town, new massive project starting.....if you had told me I wouldn't have believed it!   I hope that I can guess what my birthday will be in our new house,  still under construction, wanting to be finished with the project, wondering how my kids have gotten so much bigger, thinking that "I can't be 40!", if that is my life next year then I will be blessed.  

cousins, hard to believe they are two years apart!

I can't believe how much alike their hair is!

One day Wythe said to me, "I know you have always wanted to live in a bookstore, so I made our house a bookstore for you!  Go outside and look at the window!"

So I did, and this is what I saw.
now I get to live in a "bookstore"

I love that he did that and I love that he understands how much I love books!

'til next time....

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Ainsley and her favorite thing "ever!"

Some friends invited us over for a cookout on Memorial Day.  At first we thought we should really spend the whole day working on the house but we were so wiped after three days of work that we were happy to call it quits early and head over to their house. 

Ainsley loves to swing. At our old house there was hardly a day that she didn't head out to her swing.  It was absolutely her happy place, she would swing and sing.   Since we moved she hasn't had a swing and has missed it terribly.  So she was thrilled to find they had a rope swing!  As she kept saying "I'm in heaven!"

The amazing thing was that we got Wythe to try it....and he enjoyed it!   Wythe does not like to swing, he doesn't like the feeling when you tip back in the swing.  He has never like that motion, never liked to be tipped back as a baby, never wanted to be tossed up in the air, hates somersaults, etc.  But, Peter convinced him to try the rope swing and he loved it!

'til next time...

We have a what?

We have a house.


We closed on the house on Friday.....yay!   

Now what do we do? 

Our original plan for this house was to completely remodel the existing house and have it move in ready by September. The next phase would be building an addition to give us some elbow room.  After losing the financing on the house our plans have changed a little.  Now, Phase 1 is converting the house back into a single family house, remediation of the yucky stuff that caused the problem in the first place, making the house habitable and then applying for a mortgage on the house.  If all goes as planned we will then have the money to remodel this house.  
The downside to this new plan is that we have to do a lot of temporary work to get the loan.  For example, we have to tear out the upstairs kitchen and convert it back into a bedroom for the loan appraisal.  The long term plan is to convert this room into a laundry area and hallway.  Now, we have to tear out the kitchen, turn in back into a bedroom and then after the appraisal tear it back out.  Not a huge deal but just added work and a little frustrating when you are pressed for time.  We had planned to start over with the plumbing and wiring but now we have to do some temporary fixes to have some running water and some electrical for the appraisal. 

Once we had the keys in hand we headed over to the house to get started.  We started by stumbling from room to room muttering "what have we done?? what have we done??"  Once we were past our momentary doubt and self-loathing we got busy.  We started by cleaning out the house, collecting the miscellaneous items in the house, cellar and shed to sort what was salvageable and what was going to the dump.  We had lovely, rusty appliances, a/c window units from years gone by, tools, etc.  We had been very curious about a locked door on the side of the shed, what treasures would be behind that door?  We broke the lock and opened the door, hoping to find a lawn mower or bicycles or gold bars.  Instead we found a sleeping mat, clothing, small tv....apparently this was yet another "apartment" on the property.  

So, a little bit about the house.  It is a 1910 or 1913 bungalow, (depending on what deed you believe) 1250 square feet, 1 & 3/4 stories with a cellar.  The cellar is a true cellar, highest point is about 6 feet high, most spots you have to duck, or just tilt your head to the side as you walk around.  The house sits close to the road but has a long, narrow lot so we have a nice yard in the back of the house.  It sits on a little over a 1/2 acre, we were thrilled to have that size lot in the city!  While this house isn't situated in an area that allows us to walk to a lot of shops and restuarants it is in a neighborhood that we really wanted.  When looking at houses in Charlottesville we kept coming back to the Fry's Spring area.  This area really has a community feel to it, it is very active and the people we have met love living in this area.  We had tried to buy a couple houses in this area previously and now we have one!
Home-(will someday be)Sweet-Home

After amassing all the junk in one spot we decided to open up the doors that were sealed shut and forming part of the duplex.  It looked like they had been caulked and painted for the past umpteen years.  I want to keep the doors so we attempted to cut them loose.  It seemed like it would be easy, just cut the many locks off, cut through the caulk and paint...not to hard.  Right?   
Well, the first problem is that the doors swing into the rooms.  And after they sealed the doors shut they installed new hardwood floors in front of the doors.  We couldn't pull up the flooring yet or tear the whole door frame out because we have to fix the house up before we can tear it down.  Remember that pesky detail about getting a mortgage and appraisal?  Yeah, that is going to complicate things. 

"this should be easy, I'll just cut this door loose...."

The living room door finally came loose without too much collateral damage.  The door to the dining room was more difficult. We were unable to get that door out without damaging the plaster. So, now we add another item to the ever growing to-do list...."repair plaster wall before appraisal".

But progress was made!  You can now access the first floor from the front door!  Previously you could only access the 2nd floor from the front door.  Now, we can stand in the dining room and look through the tiny vestibule into the living room. 

"oops...anyone know how to do plaster work?"
The next morning Peter went to the house early in the morning.  Soon after he got there he called me and said,  "I think someone was here last night, there seems to be things missing."  We started talking about what items we had hauled out of the house and what should have been there.  While we were talking a truck pulled up.  Apparently some previous renters had come back overnight to try and remove some of their belongings.  The house had been unoccupied for quite some time so we were confused about whether these were really their belongings and why they would have been in the house for so long. Their English was about as fluent as our Spanish so the details remain rather vague, but apparently these items had been locked in the house and they didn't have access to them.  Whether that was intentional, due to lost deposit, due to unpaid rent, bad blood between renter and landlord or just a misunderstanding....we'll never know.  But the fact of the matter was we didn't want the stuff and they did, and it appeared that they needed the items, especially the tools.  So Peter told them they could have it but.....they had to take all of it, junk and trash included.  They took several loads of metal and appliances and then came back for the rest of the items.  It seemed to work out for all parties, they were happy to get their belongings, we were happy to have several truckloads of junk hauled away!
more items from the house

The next thing was to tackle the 1st floor kitchen.  In Phase 3 this room won't even be a kitchen but for Phase 1 and 2 it has to be "habitable" and functional", beauty is not a requirement.  

We suspected the floor was rotten since walking across the linoleum was like walking in an inflatable  bouncy house. Once we pealed the linoleum back we realized it was pretty nasty under there.  We had known there was some mold in the kitchen but the problem had just gotten bigger. 
now the linoleum doesn't look so bad after all.......
Initially I thought we would be able to reuse this cabinet and sink for a time.  But it was so rotten underneath that the whole thing had to come out. 

First, we smashed up the tile counter top.  That was fun, sometimes it feels good to smash things. 

We still couldn't budge the piece so we smashed it too.  Once we got it out we realized how nasty it really is.  The studs behind the counter are so rotten you can just poke your finger right through them.  The amazing thing is that the window is apparently a floating window, everything below it is completely rotten and yet it floats there.  We fully expect to find the window laying on the floor at some point but for now it seems content to float.....or dangle.

this is what happens when you begin peeling back the layers of nastiness

Wythe decided he didn't want linoleum on the back porch either

We knew the cellar was going to be the biggest project to get the house ready for another appraisal.  The yuckiness down there was one of the main reasons the loan was denied.  We knew there was some asbestos wrap on the pipes and some asbestos tiles on the floor.  There was also mold because at some point someone had the bright idea of building walls and putting up drywall.  My guess is they were trying to build yet another "apartment" in the house.  But putting drywall in a damp cellar doesn't turn out well in the end, especially not when you have it sitting on dirt or leaning up against dirt.  So tearing out all the drywall was one of the first items on the list.   
In order to work down there we had to a light source so Peter had to get some of the electrical working.  We were able to get the power company out that first day to pull the second meter.  The guy said to Peter (in a somewhat accusing manner) 

"I'd like to know how you got this extra service for a house that is zoned single family and not multi-family?"  
Peter smiled and said "Funny, I was trying to figure out the same did you all install this second meter for "Apartment B" in the single family home?" 
*awkward silence*
"Anyway, so let me get this meter out and I'll be out of your way...."

We were now down to a single meter but since the house is wired as a duplex and since there is some beautiful vintage wiring in the house it can be a little tricky figuring out what is safe to use.  So, he got one outlet working and now with the use of some very long extension cords we can have power throughout the house. As long as we only need one electrical item at a time. 
working in the cellar
cellar- wall, door, drywall all comes out

same view after it is removed

While we were working on the house we heard a funny bleating noise.  Looking out in the back yard we saw a tiny fawn trying to take some steps on very wobbly legs.  Mama deer had come out of the underbrush to eat and baby was attempting to follow her.  It was cute but seriously?   We move from a house-in-the-country-where-deer-are-born-in-our-pasture-every-spring-and-grow-up-to-eat-my-garden-every-summer to a house-smack-dab-in-the-city-where-deer-are-born-in-the-underbrush-and-will-most-likely-grow-up-and-want-to-eat-my-future-garden. 
yep, this is the city!

So that pretty much sums up what progress we made on a first long weekend of working on the house.  We felt good about the progress but the reality of the amount of work required is beginning to set in.  And we said we would never do this again.  We would not tackle a project of this size.  We are done with that phase of our life.  From now on we are going to be "move-in ready" house people, 

We lied.

Wythe building a "castle"

'til next time....

Monday, May 18, 2015

We are buying a house, non-sleeping kids, we are not buying a house, birthday and anniversaries, we might be buying a house.....

So, the house search is progressing. Possibly.  A couple weeks ago there was was a large price reduction in a house we had our eye on.   Peter jumped on it right away and put an offer on it.  Our realtor was a little worried that he had put an offer on a rehab house without me even seeing it and insisted on taking me to see it ASAP, I'm sure our realtor is beginning to doubt our mental competence.  Since the house needs a tremendous amount of work we submitted a low offer, the seller countered, we countered, they countered and at the end of the day they accepted our offer which happened to be $27,000 higher than our original offer.  Yay!!   We won......or did we?  We were thrilled that a contract had been accepted, we were slightly shell shocked that we went up on our offer by $27k, we are nervous about the amount of work ahead and we are reluctant to get our hopes up because there is still so much red tape to get through before we close. 

Someone asked me recently if Wythe was sleeping better at night.  At first I said "yes, he is."  Then the more I thought about it I realized that I am sleeping better at night, not him.  Wythe still wakes up a lot at night but instead of screaming for hours he now entertains himself.  Many mornings I go into his room to find tiny little green army men set up for war, fifty Matchbox cars lined up in a parking lot, pictures he has drawn, or a hotel and parking garage constructed out of cassette tapes and cds. 
hotel with parking garage

Since moving to this house I have had a bit of a hard time getting the kids to spend adequate time outdoors.  At our other house they were outside everyday, often most of the day.  Here they complain that "the yard is too small......there isn't a pasture....not enough space to run...."etc., etc.  Fortunately, they have decided that they are responsible for building homes for the fairies.   It has kept them occupied for a number of days!
Of course you need a tractor to build a fairy house!

and they need food.....

"I build a mean fairy that HGTV!"

Ainsley asked me to take a picture of her and bunny on her bed.  When I was looking at the picture I realized that she has come a long way in making her bed!   It is strange how many times you don't even see or acknowledge the progress that has been made.  When did she start getting her blankets so smooth?  That seems to be the way many things go; a behavior or phase that you think you just might not survive and then one day you realize you aren't dealing with that anymore. In fact, you don't even remember the last time it was an issue.  This picture helped remind me to stop and appreciate the progress my children are making, how quickly they are growing up and how fast these days are slipping through my fingers.

My mom turned the big 6-0 this year!  We had briefly discussed a big family vacation but there has been a lot going on in everyone's life; babies, new houses, moving, new just didn't seem possible that it would work out.  Right now our idea of vacation is ordering pizza and renting a Redbox movie, not the most exciting for my mom.  So, I invited the family to my house for her birthday weekend.  I believe my actual words were "come-stay-with-me-while-I-actually-have-a-house-that-is-big-enough-and-has-enough-bathrooms-for-everyone-because-based-on-the-houses-we-are-looking-at-in-Charlottesville-we-will-soon-be-living-in-a-place-too-small-for-us-physically-fit-in-to."  It was a very gracious, elegant invitation.  Only having the words engraved could have improved it.  

They all arrived at my house around lunch time,everyone had just come into the kitchen when we heard the doorbell ring.  It was my sister Kara, pulling off a surprise visit for most of us!  It was great to have everyone together, I enjoyed having a house large enough for us to fit in comfortably!  Most of the family  spent the night and the next day here as well.

grandma's birthday

siblings.....of course we waited until the end of the night to take pictures!

The following weekend we had a reception to celebrate my parent's 40th wedding anniversary.  It was an open house for friends and family to stop by, visit with my parents and enjoy some dessert and coffee.

40th Anniverary reception

40th Anniversary Reception

40th Anniversary Reception
40 years rogether!

If you know my children you know that eating vegetables has been an ongoing struggle.  The boy that vomits when eating almost any vegetable decided that he would forage for his own greens.  He picked some pine needles, put them on a plate, added some ketchup and proceeded to eat them.  It was obvious that he wasn't enjoying it but pride or stubbornness kept him going.  Finally, with tears in his eyes, he said "I really don't think I can eat this but I was trying so hard to eat some healthy greens!" 
"vegetables make me vomit but pine needles are delish!"

The house we are renting has some beautiful carpet on the basement stairs, people compliment it all the time!  Err...."comment" on it, not "compliment" it.
Be know you want this carpet!

Wythe drew me a picture of the two of us in "one of your favorite places".
future trip to Paris

So, back to the house.   We had the house inspection which confirmed all the bad things we already knew about, no surprises so that was good.  The termite inspection was clear, that was good.  House was appraised, the amount it appraised for was good, the notes in the appraisal.....not good.  The appraiser noted some nasty stuff in the cellar, things we were aware of and planning to address immediately. also noted that the house is set up as a duplex rather than a single family house.  We also knew that and planned to convert it back to single family.  Unfortunately the mortgage company was less optimistic about the house, they don't have the vision we have, basically no imagination and obviously no faith in our ability to restore this house.  They pulled the financing unless the seller converted the house back to single family and had some remediation and abatement.  The seller didn't have the money to do this work, the lowest bid on the abatement alone was 12k.  Further compounding the problem was that the paper work for the abatement would take 6 weeks, that alone would take too long for our financing.   This was the news we got one week before our closing date.  Despite our plan to "not get our hopes" up we were completely emotionally invested in this house.  We had our plans for adding onto the house, pages of to-do lists started.  We had some very serious, grown up conversations about how much we wanted this house, what our other options are, how much risk we were willing to take to make this happen.  With elevated blood pressure, ulcers forming, and nervous tics developing, we borrowed money from our other house, broke open our piggy banks and located all the change from under couch cushions and under floor mats and managed to scrape together enough money to buy this house!   The closing date was back on, we wanted to celebrate but can't afford champagne anymore so we raised a celebratory glass of water!  But a small glass, we pay for water now.

'til next time....