Saturday, March 29, 2008

Endless

Lately it seems like we're constantly in the middle of things -- I barely remember the start of all the things swirling around us, and it seems like the end will never come. Pregnancy, swelling, back pain, sleepless nights (OK all of those things are related to pregnancy - but they seem like separate complaints so I'm listing them separately), remodeling, dirt, dust, debris, hiring (both Eric and I seem to be spending too much time trying to hire people lately), budgeting, writing (being a lawyer is like being a perpetual student - there's always another assignment due and it seems like nothing ever really gets finished. Even when you win a lawsuit or get a bill signed - you still have to spend months on end monitoring implementation), laundry, drs. appointments...

We haven't had a real vacation since 2005 when we went to Belize and Guatemala for two weeks. Lately all I can think about is Belize and our little atoll in the middle of the Caribbean. It was our type of vacation - made for the do-it-yourself adventurers. In order to get to the atoll, we had to take a series of diesel-spewing buses to this mosquito-infested town in the middle of Belize. We had to be there first thing on Saturday morning in order to catch the one boat that made the round-trip trek to the atoll once a week. It was a two hour boat ride to get there, and the entire island was less than a mile in circumference. There was no electricity and we carted in our own food and alcohol from the mainland. And, once we arrived, there was no way back until the boat returned the following week (well, that is a bit of an Angie-embellishment. Some guy did get appendicitis and they just radioed the boat and it came and got him and took him back to the mainland. But, getting back to the mainland wasn't very convenient - or quick - it really wasn't the place to come down with appendicitis. Poor guy).

Before boarding the first bus in Belize City we bought a big cooler (making us look like exceptionally crazy tourists -- who carts a big cooler onto little buses used more typically as commute routes for locals... they thought we were insane. we were.) and before boarding the last bus in some small town in the middle of Belize, we rented a taxi and asked him to take us places where we could fill our cooler. He took us to the ice house - a real ice house! - like in Little House on the Prarie. It was so cool. And then to the alehouse to load up on beer. Surprisingly (or not so surprisingly given how much trouble we went to) we were the only people who brought ice and beer with us... making us the most popular people on the island in the coming week. What's a vacation without a bit (or a lot) of alcohol? Don't let islands in the middle of nowhere hold you back from a good time, that's what I say. Anyway... all of our troubles to bring some brewskies definitely paid off because once we got to the atoll - it was pure relaxation. There were absolutely no distractions (unless you count the storm that blew in and had everyone worrying about whether our little thatched huts were going to be blown to sea). We rationed our beer over the course of the week, snorkeled, kayaked, played a bunch of spades with our new friends, and did a lot of nothing. I want another week in the middle of the Caribbean spent doing nothing.

The next two months are going to be absolutely insane. The amount we have to do at work and home are unbearable to think about. In fact, if I try to think of the whole list, I become completely paralyzed. It's best dealt with one discrete project at a time. Eric and I are both feeling completely strung out - and looking forward to some much needed time off after this baby comes. I know it's strange to think of the period after having a baby as a vacation - but, compared to this last stretch, I don't really see how it could be anything but a vacation. I'm just worried that we won't get it all done - and we'll still have all these endless projects hanging over our heads when she arrives.

Here's to Caribbean dreaming:



Sunday, March 23, 2008

Plugging Away

This week felt like a catch-up week. We finally found countertops!! Well, we found the material that will become our countertops (a green-speckled granite). It turns out there are multiple steps involved in ordering countertops. First, you have to find the material you want, which is as far as we got this week. But, the granite people only sell the raw material - they don't actually make countertops. And, you can only buy the granite by the slab. So we have to buy 60 square feet of granite in order to construct the 20 square feet of countertops/backsplash that we need. Then we have to find a fabricator who can turn the slab into actual countertops. Sometimes I wish Eric and I were less picky about what we like -- why can't we just find countertop material in a store that actually makes countertops? We seem to always be in the position of finding something we really like and then realizing that in order to actually get it, we'll have to jump through 10 additional hoops. So, I will spend a chunk of this upcoming week jumping through the remaining hoops necessary to actually get countertops into our kitchen.

These are the times that I see the benefit of hiring a contractor to handle all of these annoying little details. Maybe this is why most people don't remodel their kitchens all by themselves? That, and they're afraid to cut holes into their house, rearrange structural walls, or do their own electrical and plumbing. There's that, too.

Luckily, Eric and I are a good match when it comes to these tasks. I can handle the details -- and, really, it's the only thing I'm any good at. I find the retailers, keep track of when things need to be ordered, how much we can spend, the sequencing of when we need the materials to arrive, etc. But, in every other area, I am useless. Setting aside the fact that I don't do any actual construction, I am also of almost no use when it comes to choosing the items that will make up our new kitchen. Most people enjoy choosing their windows, floors, doors, countertops, cabinets, and the like. And, while I enjoy perusing home stores and mulling over samples -- I'm at a total loss for actually picking which things should go into our kitchen. I am not a visual person. At all. I cannot remember what our rooms look like when I'm not in them. For example, when we were trying to pick out blinds for the bedroom after we moved in, I kept insisting that we had three windows over our bed. It turns out, not so much. There are two (I think). And I remember when we were living in D.C. and had been in our house on Carolina Place for quite a long time (well over a year) and Eric overheard me giving directions to someone and telling them we were the "green house halfway up the hill." Eric turned to me and said, "the house is NOT green." Who knew?

And, choosing our kitchen stuff involves much more than the ability to remember what the kitchen looks like when I'm not actually standing in it. Nooo, I would have to have the ability to actually visualize what it WILL look like once we are done with the project, and what will look good in the newly constructed space. All I can say to that is hahahahhahaha!! No. I can't do that. While I can pick out things that appeal to me, I don't really have a sense of whether those things would look good in our space. So, while I tag along to the various appointments, I am not a lot of help.

Looking back on the last two paragraphs, I see that upon further reflection, I shouldn't complain about not having a contractor. If we did, I would be completely obsolete! At least now I can say I contributed to our kitchen beyond being a generally good sport about the amount of dirt and debris that I am being forced to live with (ok, ok -- that isn't a contribution. It's just me not being as annoying as I am capable of being.)

Anyway, in addition to finally crossing the countertop selection off our list, I spent the week catching up with work activities, including doing a lot of work stuff this weekend. And, Eric spent the week getting some important work decisions made and spent his weekend with - what else - his work belt and trusty power tools! We haven't started the wall construction yet (that was unrealistic) - but Eric did finish up the rest of the electrical work, did all the plumbing, and did most of the rest of the framing that we need to have done before we start putting up walls. So, all in all, it was a successful week.

I'm definitely feeling more pregnant these days -- if feeling pregnant means feeling ouchy. My hip and back pain are really getting annoying, as are the swollen hands and feet. This morning, we bought some fake crocs at the Rite-Aid because my shoes -even my CLOGS - don't fit anymore. I've completely lost my ankles. Lovely. But, other than increased aches and pains, all is well on the pregnancy front as far as I can tell.

Have a good week!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Ready. Set. Wait.

We had our follow-up ultrasound today. All is well. The placenta/cervix issue resolved itself and everything looked good -- except it took a long time to figure out that all was well because the baby's head is butting up against my cervix, which prevented a clear shot of the placenta for a long time.

We were laughing a bit about it (as the poor tech prodded my belly and continuously tried to coax her to move... which she steadfastly refused to do). She is all packed and ready to go! She's just 12 weeks early to the departure gate. I can't fault her. I have been known to be a bit obsessive in my need to be prepared and on time for any and all happenings. School papers -- done a week ahead of time, turned in exactly on time. Interviews - I am usually sitting outside in the coffee shop until precisely 2 minutes before the interview starts, at which point I walk at a steady pace into the building and to the elevator -- timing my arrival to correspond precisely with my scheduled interview.

My point is -- I understand the need to be ready. I like to pack my suitcases the night before a flight and put out a list of all of the items that need to be packed in the morning so that I can carefully check it off before heading out the door. My calendar is color-coded, as is our remodel plan, and pretty much every other list I have ever generated. I keep track of my daily activites in six minute increments -- which I have to do for my litigation activities, but I've found it more efficient to just keep track of everything in six minute increments. I like to be prepared.

So, I appreciate her need to be ready. But, I'm hoping that she also follows my example and doesn't arrive a minute too early either. No one wants to be the person showing up to the interview 30 minutes early - it just makes everyone uncomfortable and gets the interview off to a bad start because it forces everyone to scramble to assemble in order to meet with the freak who showed up early rather than patiently waiting in the coffee shop across the street before making a punctual entrance. So, bide your time, baby -- but, I'm glad to know you're getting ready!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Power to the People

According to my schedule (and I am the maker and keeper of the schedule) - we're halfway through the insanity of the kitchen/bedroom/baby room remodel. It feels more chaotic by the day. But, I think we're in the eye of the storm at the moment. Starting next weekend, we start putting everything back together.

Everything we own is stuffed into the living room, basement and our bedroom. Those of you that spend much time with me know that I believe firmly that everything has a place. I get a little twitchy when things are not in their proper place (and the proper place is the place so designated by me -- just in case you're wondering how one determines the proper place of a particular item). So, living with everything in places where they most certainly do NOT belong has been an adjustment. But, I'm maintaining my cool. Mostly by living in denial and by maintaining tight control over the few things that I still have in my possession -- the kitchen file, my computer, my work files, the laundry and the dust on the floors. While logic dictates that there is no need to sweep multiple times throughout the day during a construction day (since things just continue to get dusty and dirty), it makes me feel infinitely better to follow Eric around with a broom and clean up the dust he leaves in his wake. It makes me feel better - but it might make him feel slightly insane. Although, I think he knows humoring me with my dust obsession is better than dealing with the nervous breakdown I surely would have otherwise.

We now have all new electrical in the kitchen, bedroom and the baby's room! Thanks, Dave!! Dave came from Oregon for the weekend and rewired our kitchen. It was great to see him and great to have the help. Never again will we overload the circuit when we use the microwave in the kitchen and the space heater in the living room at the same time. They're on different breakers now! Until this weekend, the whole house was more or less on one circuit and utilized old knob and tube wiring. Amazing what a difference it makes to use more than one breaker to wire your house (OK, it wasn't quite that bad before... but, really, this is not an instance of extreme Angie embellishing. I think we had 90% of the house on one breaker -- or something insane like that). But, Dave has given us the power -- the power to use multiple appliances at one time.

Doug and Sarah were also on hand again this weekend painting the baby's room, framing, putting a vapor barrier in the walls.... all kinds of stuff. More than anything, this project has made me realize that we have the most amazing friends. There really is no adequate way to thank people who provide this kind of support during your most stressful and chaotic times. But, even though it's inadequate - thank you!!

With the electrical and rough framing done, we're (mostly) ready for sheetrock. I think we still have some plumbing to do, but we may start digging into wall construction next weekend. Walls!! What a concept!! I'm ready for my house to be less tent-like and more house-like again. For the last few weeks, I've been able to sit in bed and look through the holes of my house to the outside which has enabled me to feel extreme (a feeling I don't get to relish often given my tendency to avoid extremes), but also has left us feeling a bit chilly at night. Who needs camping when you have a sawzall and can just punch holes into your house? But, as much as Eric and I enjoy camping, I am looking forward to the return of our walls.

It's amazing to me that we are (mostly) keeping to schedule. I'm surprised because *I* made the schedule and I really don't know what is realistic to do in a given weekend since I don't actually do any of the work nor have I ever done this type of work. My previous construction experience involved working as a temp one summer on a construction site. My job that summer was not unlike my current job - I ran errands, picked up supplies, kept track of invoices and updated the budget. That is, until my construction bosses decided I should take the edits the architects were making to the blueprints and transcribe them onto the blueprints the crew used. That was a bad idea. I have many skills -- but the ability to read blueprints is not among them. I think I ended up telling the crew to put a toilet in the middle of a classroom. Eric is much more atune to my unique skill set then the construction bosses I had that summer -- he hasn't asked me to update our blueprints or to try to figure out any of the technical layout issues involved in our remodel. And, as a result, each Sunday I provide him with an updated, color-coded schedule and budget and we both have the peace of mind that when we are done, our disposal will be in the sink where it belongs, and not in the middle of some wall cabinet.

The one thing hanging over our heads at the moment is the need to order countertops. Why do the sellers of countertops keep such stupid hours? Who has time to go look at counters Monday - Friday between 10 and 4? It's as though their primary clientele is people who remodel kitchens for a living. I need a store for people who work during the week, remodel on the weekends, and need to pick their counters between the hours of 6 - 9 PM on the weekdays. What about our needs?

Here are a few photos of our progress this weekend:

Our fearless crew:





New lights (and the man who brought them to us):



New light switches and outlets:



And the baby room walls (hard to see the color in this picture -- it's really pretty, though):

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Report from the Rubble

This last week, we focused on getting the stage set so that we can finish the kitchen project on schedule -- we ordered doors, windows, cabinets; the gas guy came out and rerouted the gas line; we picked up flooring samples so that we can make a decision on what type of floor to put in; we fine-tuned our design and decided exactly how much the bathroom wall needs to move. A lot of the materials will take awhile to get here (e.g. the windows take about 4 weeks, the doors about 6 weeks). Sometimes it feels like we're building the car while we drive it down the road. But, we really have no other choice at this point.

And today, Doug and Eric finished the demo on the rest of the kitchen -- which means no sink for the next 5 -6 weeks. Eric moved the washbin from the basement up to the kitchen -- so we have running water. But, it's not really a very ideal setup for doing dishes. Although, let's not kid ourselves, the kitchen is in no state to cook in, so there are not going to be a lot of dishes to do. Here are some photos of our new reality.

This is before the second phase of the demo:



And after:



And a few more:






We also moved all the furniture out of the office -- which is no longer an office. The desk, our filing cabinets, and the bookshelf all have been moved down to the basement, never to return. Kinda sad. I'm rather attached to my books - even though I don't actually read any of them ever. Well, I was sort of in the middle of two different books - both of which are now in boxes in the basement. Although, I am not certain it's appropriate to say that I was in the middle of two books - one that I read for a day on vacation last August and the other that I read for a day on vacation in December. That's the extent of reading I've done in the last 7 months. And yet, I am still quite sad about the loss of my books.

Packing my books makes me feel like we're getting ready to move. But, you don't move out of a place where you just took out a window leaving a big gaping hole to the outside. Surreal.

Our kitchen project has expanded into a kitchen/bedroom/baby room project. The kitchen is obviously at the crux of it, but we also have to finish the closet in the bedroom, fix the ceiling and carpets, and paint. And, the room formerly known as the office has walls that need repaired and the whole room needs painted. And, of course, there's the matter of buying all the new furniture (for our bedroom and her room). But, we'll get there.

And then, someday, I'll set up an office in the basement. We need the files -- and there is no room for a filing cabinet in the main part of the house. And, maybe we can put the bookshelf up in the basement -- then when people come over I can say, "oh, we read. Let me show you to our library." And then, we'll go skipping down to the basement/library/office/laundry room/tool shed. Who doesn't want a room where you can relax with a book while simultaneously doing laundry and using power tools?!

But, offices in basements are a ways off at the moment. One thing at a time. Or, rather, three rooms at a time. And then having a baby. Then I can think about basement/office remodels.

In other news -- we had another doctor appointment this week. All seems well. We listened to her heart for awhile and the doctor was laughing at how squirmy she is --every time we got a read on her she'd scootch off in another direction. We heard more kicks then heartbeats for the first few minutes. The doctor said, "I guess you're feeling her quite a bit." Ummm... yeah. But, she finally settled for a moment and let us listen for more than a few beats.

The highlight of my week was getting a huge box of maternity clothes from Sarah. I've never been so excited about clothes -- I was so sick of wearing the same three pairs of pants and four tops. I've had on a new outfit every day this week!

OK -- I'm going to go scrounge up something to eat. Something that doesn't require dishes, utensils or a stove. Crackers anyone?