Friday, April 25, 2014

The Good-bye Tour: The Living Room

Maybe I should just rename my blog "Excuses, Excuses" since the bulk of my posts seem to be about why I haven't had time to write any other posts!  This one today has been in the works for over a week now, sidetracked by Holy Week and Easter celebrations, a rush trip to Pennsylvania for a sick family member (who thankfully had a bad case of pneumonia and not the suspected heart attack), and then my own bout with a nasty cold/laryngitis.


I read somewhere [online, which Justin says must make it true] that Catholic families traditionally would do spring housecleaning on the Monday-Wednesday before Easter - both as a sort-of spiritual purge before the Triduum, but also as a practical preparation for the priest's home blessing, which apparently was also a traditional part of Holy Week celebrations.  I thought that this was a really great idea, but then I tempered myself, having just seen my wise sister's find on Pinterest:  "People overestimate what they can do in a single day and underestimate what they can do in their whole lives."  I realized that it wasn't realistic for me to do a deep clean of every room in three days, so I thought I'd do one per day and continue in to the following week.  As a bonus, I realized, I could finally take some good "after" pictures of the house.  This blog, after all, is really about our transformation of the house, and I left off with a lot of the rooms once we stopped tearing down walls.  I want to make sure we have it well-documented, for our own memories, for Anna's future enjoyment, and - well - for you!  Also, now that I have my new camera, I can actually take pictures with which I'm pleased.

So we'll call this the "good-bye tour" of the house.  I"ll try to post each room as I finish the cleaning and get some good shots, and I'll also update the "House Tour" tab as I do each room.  I'm hoping I can pick up the pace a little bit, since at this rate I won't have everything done by the time we move!  Provided I don't try to clean any more heat ducts (and subsequently get large dust bunnies lodged in the vacuum, putting progress at a stand-still until my patient and awesome husband takes it apart and puts it back together), we might be in luck.

Here's the living room / entrance way when we started:

EVERYTHING was saturated with smoke (both visibly, and very clearly by scent) and lots of dust.  That's probably my biggest memory of the "before."  We couldn't wait to get the smelly carpet out of there.  You can't see the peeling ceiling paint in the pictures, but if you look closely, you can get a glimpse of the old kitchen!

We refinished the floors early, and then focused on other projects while I basked in having a house to decorate for our first Christmas (no, seriously, I remember feeling so proud of how this looked - even making sure we had a red blanket over the mattress-on-floor "couch" to be festive!)

Note that this was during the desk-in-the-kitchen period (because we were still sleeping in the den and the upstairs was a major construction zone).

Then we really moved up in the world and got a real couch and I decorated and again couldn't get over how beautiful everything looked (I was so, so proud - no exaggeration):

And THEN, finally, years of little tweaks came together, and we have a room that I'm proud of (again) and call "finished."  Maybe I'll look back on these again someday and laugh at my simplicity in the moment, but at least I've found happiness and satisfaction all through the journey ;)

And now a lot of detail shots because part of this exercise is learning to use my camera:

How can I not include this sweet accessory for any room?  She came up and rested on my knee while I was taking close-up shots and said "cheese!"  Then she proceeded to get her play binoculars and join me in taking more pictures of the room....

For a (not-so) quick overview of what we did in this room (all DIY, except for where we bribed family & friends to help):

- Painted the beadboard & walls
- Added wood slat blinds and a fabric roll-blind for the door
- Refinished the ceiling / replaced the light with a ceiling fan
- Added furnishings, pictures, new pillows, and my miles-of-sewing couch throw

And, just for kicks - one last side-by-side of the transformation!

I honestly often forget what the "before" was like, or even (somehow) all the blood, sweat, and tears (mostly sweat) and the hours upon hours that we put into this house.  It makes me happy to see the progress side by side :)  One of the other reasons I'm taking all of these pictures is so that we can have them printed into a photo book to take with us, as a reminder of our first house and all that went into making it home!

Monday, April 14, 2014

March-April: Top Ten

When I've been away from the blog for so long (almost a month this time! - but you can't say you haven't come to expect it...), once I finally decide to write again, the challenge is figuring out which of the 1,000 things I've thought about or experienced since my last post are worthy of sharing.

^^ I wrote the above paragraph over a week ago, when I meant to participate in the Friday 7 Quick Takes link-up (the idea was to pick 7 things to write about)...and then I got distracted for the rest of that day...the following week...the next Friday went by....and now it's another week!

Our last month has been, undoubtedly, the busiest since our marriage.  And so, I give you, the top 10 things that have happened since my last post:

Let's start with the two biggies first:


Justin became a doctor!

He keeps reminding me that he's not officially a doctor until he finishes formatting his thesis and graduates in May - but he passed his dissertation defense last Thursday, so that's enough for me to start referring to him as "doctor."  (I always think of the story from Randy Pausch's book "The Last Lecture" in which he shares that his mother would proudly announce that her son was a doctor..."but not the kind that helps people.")  So, yeah, there isn't any medicine or surgery in his future, but Justin will be helping the next generation of engineers learn the discipline in his new professor role, so I'm still a very proud wife.


We sold the house!

The house was on the market for 5 days, in which time we had 2 open houses, nearly 20 showings, and (this is the crazy part) 10 offers.  We're still in disbelief over the interest that the house generated, and while it made for a couple of really crazy days, the positive response was really rewarding, as sort of external validation that all of the renovations did take it from an ugly old house to a desirable home (inside at least, the outside - see above - has some work left for the next owner!)  Anyway, the success of the sale was primarily due to our awesome realtor and to the really great market conditions (with two universities in town, there's a frequent housing turnover, and the ridiculous rents make home purchasing a pretty desirable option...and apparently our section of town is really "hot" right now).  The renovations would have probably helped in another location, but I'm not kidding myself that it sold in 5 days (or for the price it did) because of anything we did!

The whole process was overwhelming in a lot of ways (primarily, in finding places to go with a toddler during showings department), but it ended up being less emotionally taxing than I had originally anticipated.  It definitely helps that we know the house is going to be loved as much in the future as it has been by us - and that it will continue to be a place that knows love, laughter, and family time.  It feels like we're passing the baton rather than abandoning our beloved home!


Anna learned that the outside can be something other than "BRR!"

This winter has been so long and so cold that little Anna had forgotten anything other than that.  If she saw a picture in a book of a window, she said "BRR" (even if there were flowers and sunshine drawn outside the window!)  When Daddy left for work, she said "bye bye" and "BRR."  And so now that it's actually possible to go outside again, whenever I mention the possibility to her, she says "BRR."  It's delightful to tell her that it's actually not that cold!  

We've had beautiful weather - especially the last few days, when it's topped 70!  It's lots of fun to take her outside, especially since she appreciates playing outside, and doesn't try to eat grass (which seemed like her primarily outdoor entertainment for most of last summer).

She's finally learning that it's not always cold outside, and mention of going outdoors now more frequently elicits a response of "woof woof...da done"  (dogs, all done; in reference to the two German shepherds next door who aren't really sure what to make of the little pink thing that runs around on the other side of their fence or "BOOPS!" as she runs towards the door and grabs her new rainboots.

We're just ignoring the fact that there's snow on the forecast for later this week.  Ithaca weather is nuts.


I grew a bump!

I realize that this photo utilizes the most bump-hiding angle (as well as most awkward hand placement) possible, but there's a noticeable bump going on now.  Also, despite what this post suggests, Justin doesn't always wear a 3-piece suit (although I wouldn't complain if he did).

Anyway, I went through a stage in which I realized that I actually did not have any clothes that fit.  I would stand in front of my closet and say "I'm not even being dramatic!!  I literally don't have anything to wear!!"  (Of course, in my least dramatic voice possible.  ahem).  My maternity bin didn't help much because most of what I had was dressy work clothes, or hot weather clothes (Anna was born Sept. 3).  I've since remedied the situation with far more time on and eBay than a person should spend (especially one who was doing a major Internet cut-back for Lent), but I thought that in the quest for non-nakedness it was a good trade-off.  

So, the bump is noticeable (at the dinner we attended on Saturday (photo above)), someone said cheerfully in the buffet line "So! You'll have a new little one pretty soon!"  And I had to tell him that I still had 6 months to go.  It reminded me of the time on Mother's Day (3+ months from my due date) when someone told me "at least you don't have to make it through the hot summer!"  Plenty of bumpage yet to come.  Thankfully, I'm feeling more energetic now (to the point that I've actually forgotten a few times that I'm pregnant), and I'm very thankful for the blessing of this new life, despite any expansion and discomfort that comes along with it!


Old habits die hard.

Anyone who thought my absence was due to my incredible Lenten success was thinking too highly of me, I'm afraid.  Although I did start out strong, I fell back pretty quickly to more computer usage than I would like.  Honestly, my need for maternity clothes is what set me back, and then from there the craziness of life meant that I didn't have a lot of energy left, and I ended up clicking on over...and you know the rest.  (tick, tick, tick on the clock!)

I think that the last 40ish days have been fruitful, despite the failure on that front.  I think I still managed to grow spiritually and maybe a little bit in the self-control department (judging by the ice-cream resistance that's going on over here), and I actually plan to return to my more stringent Internet rules - even after Easter - because I know it's the best for me (even if it was unrealistic for me to maintain on top of the other craziness these past few weeks).


Anna and I took a road trip.

We visited my family in Harrisburg a few weeks ago.  It was a whirlwind trip (and we returned a day or two before the house went on the market).  My grandfather, sadly, fell a few weeks ago, and as a result, he and my grandmother are both moving from their home to a retirement community (he's currently in a nursing care section regaining some strength before he can join her in their little apartment).  It's been a stressful month or so for everyone involved - aside from all of the logistics, there's such an emotional component to seeing someone you love in declining health.  Anna and I made the trip to visit with everyone, and to help out where we could (being the only business major in a family of medical professionals meant that I got tasked with lots of paperwork, etc).  Anna was busy in the entertainment and cheer departments, as you can imagine.

My grandfather has always been a picture of health and energy (I specifically remember that on his 70th birthday, he was showing - not telling - my brother how to properly climb a big tree), and so it's all the more difficult to know that he can't physically do all the things he used to do.

This picture (which was very likely his idea) was taken a few Christmases ago, and should give you a little insight into his personality.

So, while things are definitely settling in their situation, I'm sure it wouldn't hurt if you have some prayers to spare.  As I'm learning first-hand, leaving your home is never easy (and we've been here approximately 1/12 the number of years that they were in their home).

Let's see...other (far less notable) events - so I can make this a full-fledged top ten list

(7)  Justin (finally) shaved his "I'm writing a thesis" beard.  It was a nice experimental look while it lasted, but I for one am not disappointed that it's gone!

(8) We tried corned beef and cabbage for the first time (I mention this mostly because it illustrates how busy we've been - I finally cooked our St. Patty's day meal last Wednesday.  Thankfully the meat's got a long shelf life).  It was a hit - a certain small person had to be given little bits at a time after the first plateful was consumed by the fist-full.

(9) We finally finished (almost all) the projects that have been hanging over our heads.  Having to get the house in perfect showing condition meant that all of the tiny tasks that have been nagging me for months finally are done - and I can walk into rooms of the house without spots needing paint touch-ups starting at me.  It definitely feeds my fire about thinking relaxation is much more relaxing when the work is done properly first.

(10) I learned what matters (to me) and what doesn't when it comes to having a "perfect" house.  For the five days the house was on the market (plus some, if you count the inspection time, etc), the house was absolutely spotless.  There wasn't a (clean) dish sitting on the counter, or a fuzz on the carpet, or a piece of trash in the trash cans.  It was surprisingly easy to keep up with all of the work while we needed to (this was of course helped by the fact that we were barely here to mess anything up, and we ate almost every meal out of the house), which was a good lesson in what I can actually get done if I put my mind to it.  It was nice to come home to a spotless house, but I learned that some of those things that I thought were annoying messes aren't so bad.  It's been wonderful to (almost always) keep up with having the bathroom vanity wiped down and the bed made first thing in the morning, but I don't mind that there's toys sprawled across Anna's room.  The spotless house felt pretty sterile and neutral, and was missing some of that concrete personality that comes from rooms being lived in and loved.  I've sort of mentally redefined what I'm chasing - cleanliness and order - but it's definitely not "perfection."  I'd hate to suggest the stress of a house sale to anyone, but it really was a good teacher for me, of a lesson I might not have otherwise learned.  (And of course, like everything I end up professing on the blog, it will be a long work-in-progress as I continue to remember what I'm learning!)

So - yes - crazy last month.  The upcoming one should be far less eventful - although just as exciting, as we're about one month away from learning the gender of this baby!  :)