Monday, June 29, 2015

Let's tear up the only room we have fixed and 1st grade test results...

Last week I posted a picture of my "new" kitchen. Apparently, it looked way too normal and functional for us,  so we started messing it up.   

The kitchen has a dropped ceiling, we assumed plumbing pipes were hiding in there, we just didn't know where they went to, half bath?  upstairs bath?  upstairs kitchen?  We were somewhat reluctant to disturb this ceiling but it has to be done at some point.  If we had a dollar for every conversation about what to do in this room we would be able to buy a new appliance.  As I've mentioned before, this room is only a temporary kitchen, the new kitchen will be in the addition, but we will use this as a kitchen during construction.   Do we tear out all the plaster, put in drywall only to re-do the walls once we move the kitchen?  Do we leave this room as is until the kitchen is relocated?  We seem to change our mind about this every other day.  But for now we did agree that the ceiling needed to come down.  
a nice, smooth ceiling....hate to mess it up!
At first, it was easy.  Cutting out Sheetrock.....this won't take long!

Once the sheet rock was opened up you could see the old wallpaper that used to be on the walls. 
wallpaper above dropped ceiling
I remember this pattern, just can't remember who had it!

We did find that the dropped ceiling was hiding trim on the top of the cabinets.   Peter found a ladies shoe on top of the cabinet, it would be interesting to know how that got there. 

trim on the top of the cabinets is now visable

As we took the ceiling down we were perplexed.  There were only a couple of pipes in between the ceilings, why put in a dropped ceiling for that?   It is not like they were opposed to having pipes on the outside of the walls,  the kitchen and living room both had pipes running on the interior of the room.   We thought maybe the plaster was too difficult to repair?

the beautiful plaster hiding behind the sheetrock
dropped ceiling is removed

We quickly learned why they had gone to all the trouble to install a dropped ceiling.  Basically, because anything would have been easier than taking down that plaster.   It probably would have been easier to tear the room off of the back of the house and rebuild.  
The plaster repairs in this house were obviously done by someone who hates people.   They install heavy duty wire mesh, not chicken wire or something you can easily snip through, but heavy duty wire on top of the wooden lath.  Then, they spread their "plaster" mixture which is basically just concrete.  Concrete that you could take outside and use for a patio, or as footers for a new building.  You can swing a hammer with all your might and it just bounces off, shock waves reverberate down your arms, through your body, to your toes.  It is a beast. 

wire mesh underneath the
Peter came up with a method that worked but it still wasn't easy.  Using a crow bar and hammer you wedge it between the wire mesh and lath and start pulling down a large section. Then start snipping the mesh with wire cutters and cut out a whole section at a time.  You have to be careful to not cut too big of a section or it will pull you off the ladder once it breaks free.  We may or may not know this for a fact rather than pure speculation. 

We weren't able to finish the room in one day but we made good progress.  Peter is good about getting the work area cleaned up before leaving.  I'm more inclined to climb off of the ladder and walk straight to the car.   But it is nicer when at the end of the day you leave the project looking like this.  
after a full day working on the ceiling

Thanks to Peter the floor isn't covered in rubble when we leave!

the kids, relaxing and snacking while we slave away in the next room...

My back decided it had had enough and went on strike.  I spent several days looking like Quasimodo as I struggled to move from the couch to the kitchen.  Ever try to cook with your head laying down on the counter?  It is challenging.  Fortunately, my kids were as helpful as they could be and relatively sympathetic, even when it took eons to fix dinner.  My sister and mom came up for a day to help out. I was mostly walking upright by that time but they were able to help catch up on several days worth of chores. 

This was the first year Wythe had to be tested for school.  I was nervous because when you homeschool this is your test as well.   We've had our ups and downs this year, for sure!  This winter we never got into the rhythm I wanted, we struggled so much with the basic subjects that I felt we were missing out on the fun stuff.  I constantly alternated between feeling like we were way behind where I thought we should be, and remembering that part of the reason we homeschool is so that we can change our pace and customize the education for his particular needs at this time.  But, I was nervous, afraid that he would be one of the only children to completely fail the test and then we would be put on probation with the state and that would be extra pressure...etc., etc., etc.   But he was amazing.  He stayed focused and tried his best.  He struggled with the reading portion, as I knew he would, but he kept trying even though it is so hard for him.  He flew through the math portion, successfully completing problems he has never even encountered before.  I realized during the test that we need to fast forward through his math a bit, that some of the resistance I am getting must be because it is boring.  I was very pleased with how well he cooperated with the test and was even happier when we got his test results back.  Despite how hard it is for him, he still scored average for reading, slightly above average overall.  I was so happy for the progress we have made this year and I'm hoping that since things have started to click with him next year might be a little smoother for him. 

"I tried really hard!"

'til next time...

Monday, June 22, 2015

Should I have a sink in the bathroom or will Purell work instead? And I don't like 100 year old wiring...

My 'new' temporary kitchen is almost ready to go. We had to have a working kitchen for the appraisal and one that will get us through the construction phase.  I will have the essentials, sink, stove, fridge, a couple outlets for coffee maker, toaster and about 2 feet of counter-space.    I probably won't be making a whole lot of pastries and such for awhile...

Peter tore the shower out of the half bath this week.  Although it seemed like it could be very handy to have a shower right off of the kitchen we decided it just really wasn't necessary.  Besides, taking the shower out allows us to move the sink into the bathroom.  I prefer to wash my hands in a sink rather than a shower.  I also would rather not have a sink in my future piano room.  Picky...picky...yes, I know. 
shower..must go

Shower right off of kitchen...handy if you are a messy cook!
The sink for the half bath was in the room below, which, is supposed to be a dining room.  Back in the olden days they often had a chamber pot behind an ornamental screen right in the dining room.  I guess that enabled the guests to relieve themselves without missing any of the conversation.  We've all had times that we endured that excruciating urge because we didn't want to miss a word.  Perhaps I should just take the door down, put up an ornamental screen and pretend this was a custom that extended to the 1910's...  Perhaps not.  Fortunately for my future dinner guests, I have decided that this room will not be a dining room but rather a future piano room.
Dining room, future piano room
 I had assumed that the angled wall in the kitchen had been moved to accommodate the shower. My plan was to move that wall back so that it would be straight and provide a little bit more room in that corner.  Once we pulled the shower out I could see the plaster and lath behind the shower area.  It appears this angle is original to the house, or at least, very old.  The plaster and lath were very old, not like some that we have found in the repaired areas. 

shower is gone
 Now I'm curious as to what this room was originally.  Most of the plans I have found for this era did not have a bath on the first floor.  If you wanted the "luxurious" option it was a nice sized bathroom on the second floor.   Also,  I haven't found plans for rooms that would have had a slanted wall. 

half bath before the shower was removed

after shower is removed

 I did find more window weights behind the trim.  I'm still not sure what I will do with them but surely I can find a use for them.  If nothing else, work out with them...they are heavy. 
old window weight

light switch and fan in half bath, will probably have to go...

I don't think I can salvage this border's!

In other news,  Merida does handstands.  Accordingly to my daughter, "she does it all by herself!  I tell her to go to bed and next thing I see she has climbed on top of her bed and is doing this!" 
Clearly, Merida still hasn't learned to be a proper lady.
Merida, still up to her wild ways

Peter worked on the electrical quite a bit this week.  We needed light in the cellar because it is so dark down there.  
Anything involving electrical in this house is slightly scary. This week we had a lot of thunder storms. that complicates the work since the breaker box is located on the outside of the house right under where the water pours off of the roof. Great design.  We will have the new panel inside the house but in order to have some temporary electrical in the house we have to work with the existing equipment.    
While trying to get some lights working in the cellar we thought maybe we could use this light fixture that was already there.  In the process of tracing the line back to the box we realized the line had been tied into the original wiring.  There are so many electrical things that just make you shake your head.  We are constantly amazed that this house didn't burn down.  So much of the electrical they were using, especially the hundred year wiring, shows signs of burning or slight scorch marks. 
"Oh look, a new light fixture..."

fairly new wiring joined with hundred year old wiring

I'm not very knowledgeable about electrical things but I doubt this is up to code...

their little hands work so well for pulling wire...

'til next time...

Monday, June 15, 2015

A futuristic peddler, I can't save my pine flooring, and some summer time fun....

Wythe doesn't really sleep.  He gets ready for bed and we tuck him in at 8pm but then his creative juices start to flow and he stays up all night building things.  This is his latest creation, he calls it a "rescue squad" that takes people things they might need.   If you need food they will bring it to you (see pie on front), if you need hot chocolate or coffee they will bring that too (small white mug near back) there is a tool chest in case you need a tool, the vehicle can also plow snow or grade your road if you need it too, it will also bring you books in case you need to read (books on other side of vehicle).  He wants to build a "real" one when he gets bigger.  I guess he will be a kind of modern peddler. 
Peddler of the future

 We (Peter) tore up the rotten sections of the sub-floor in the kitchen.  We knew the original flooring was rotten since my foot had stepped right through it. When we pulled the plywood off of the pine flooring it was pretty nasty, quite a bit of it you could poke a hole though with your finger.  So, it doesn't look like we will be salvaging much of this flooring. 
pulling up the sub-floor

I think this flooring may need more than a light sanding and new stain.
my not-so-beautiful pine flooring

Wythe, screwing down the new floor

My kids have been troopers about all the time we are spending working on the house.  But one day they told me they "needed a day off" so we decided to check out a splash park that is only a few minutes from the new house.  The park is small but pretty, a nice place for a picnic.  Ainsley had to take a few laps around it and it got her seal of approval. 
Ainsley, doing laps around the park

They loved the splash park area, they ran around for a few hours until they were completely wiped out. 
Forest Hills Splash Park

fun in the sun!

I think Wythe forgot where he was standing....

'til next time...

Monday, June 8, 2015

Shockingly adorable wiring and a sudden shortcut to the cellar....

When we bought this house we knew the wiring was ancient. We didn't realize it was quite this....jury-rigged. 

Last week, when we were tearing out the kitchen counter, we had a couple wires protruding from the exterior wall.  At that point, the only electrical that was working was on the second floor, the first floor power was connected to the power meter we had had disconnected.  We traced this wire and found it was coming out of the back of the meter that had been disconnected.  Since we couldn't figure out where this wire was going Peter decided he would just cut the wire.  At one point I said,  "do you think we should cut off all the power first?"  But then we both traced the wire once again and found it was coming out of the back of the disconnected meter.  Peter said he would go get his insulated cutters "just to be on the safe side".  He got the wire cutters, leaned down......and cut a live wire. Fortunately, he was fine, other than a sudden acceleration of his heartbeat.   But that made us realize that we cannot make any assumptions about this wiring. That even though a wire is coming out of a disconnected meter....don't assume it isn't hot. 

today I am thankful for insulated wire cutters....

So, it was time to do some electrical work.  I learned several things that day, one....if you don't have a junction box, never fear!  You can always use an extra outlet!

electrical 101
Isn't this the way everyone wires their house?  A couple outlets come in handy....

One of the things we have to do prior to the appraisal is remove the upstairs kitchen and set up a working kitchen kitchen on the first floor.  Since the upstairs kitchen cabinet wasn't moldy, just ugly, we decided to bring it downstairs and use it for the downstairs kitchen.  There again, easier said than done.  The cabinet had a tile counter-top that was secured by inaccessible screws and the back splash was firmly glued to the wall.  Then, just to make it a little bit more interesting, the tile floor was laid over the edge of the cabinet and mortared in.  Whoever worked on this house previously was a great fan of the 'ol' glue and screw method'.  Surely they were pilfering from a job site, who in their right mind would pay for this many screws!  Finally, we go the counter top off and pried the cabinet from the wall.  

The next step was to get it down the stairs.  I thought it would be easier for me to wrangle it down the stairs as Peter guided it from below.  It was a bit heavier than I thought.  In order to control it I had to tip it further and further back on the dolly.  Pretty soon I was laying on the steps, the cabinet on top of me. Peter was saying "just bring it down another step now....", not realizing I was basically flat on my back.  There I was, gasping for breath, bravely saying  "go ahead, just slide it down my body and I'll try to stand up when this is over...."  Actually, it wasn't quite that bad but I don't think I'll ever make a living moving large, heavy items downstairs.  Unless it is as a comedic, how-not-to instructional course. 
beautiful kitchen cabinet relocated to downstairs kitchen
former upstairs kitchen, converting into bedroom for now

We continued to work in the kitchen, removing the rotten stuff, freaky wiring and assorted pipes that don't seem to be connected to anything.  Peter was trying to loosen a particularly stubborn pipe when he asked if I could lend some "ummph". 

I positioned myself opposite of him and pushed on the pipe wrench as he pulled. 
The next moment I was falling, lurching to the side, scraping my arm down that nasty back wall and almost landing on my bottom.  My left leg was through the floor, dangling into the cellar.  But it went through the rotten flooring at an odd angle and was wedged under the flooring.  I was about 2 inches off of the floor, I couldn't lift myself or pull my leg out as it was firmly stuck.  But I also couldn't sit down because my leg was at an angle that it felt it would snap if I lowered myself by another inch. Fortunately, my husband's first impulse was to help, to rescue me.  Later, he probably wished he had a picture of me halfway between the kitchen and cellar but lucky for me, his first thought was not to dash for the camera!  Peter had to break away more of the floor to take the pressure off of my leg, once he pulled more of the floor loose I could sit all the way down and ease my leg out of the whole.   I was actually pretty lucky. my leg was only scraped and bruised.  Not broken, not punctured by the many rusty nails in the rotten flooring. 
my undignified descent into the cellar

Before installing the cabinet in the kitchen we took out the plaster and lath in that spot.  Behind the lath there is a cute little cubby hole that is under the stairway landing.  I asked the kids if they wanted to have it as their sleeping area, so far no takers.  I am thinking I can utilize the area later on when we are in Phase 3 and this room isn't a kitchen any longer. 
cubby hole under landing
We also found the back of the chimney, that got me thinking too.  Now I have to go back to my plans for Phase 3 and see if I can rework this wall to expose the brick. 
brick behind the kitchen wall

Once the lath was off we could also see the back of the drywall used on the stairway.  I love that is has a design on it!

My dad took pity on us and came up to help out.  I'm sure he thinks we have completely lost our mind taking on a project like this.  I believe he called us "brave".  We have heard that a lot lately.  Oddly, it  generally doesn't sound like a compliment. 
my dad was also charmed by our wiring

built and painted a "castle" a.k.a. keeping occupied while the parents work

digging up three of the satellite dishes, did I mention the hundreds of feet of cable wire?

Ainsley drew me this picture one day.  I had to take a picture of it because it is so "her".  In her world the sun is always shining and we always live under a rainbow!

Wythe built our old house out of Lincoln logs.  As he said,  "it even has the curve in the driveway..."

Although it is getting harder to schedule play-dates I'm so thankful for the ones we have had.  My kids get to spend time with their buddies and I get to talk with my friend.  So therapeutic. 
Wythe and his buddies looking at "space books"

'til next time...