Monday, February 18, 2008

New Pictures

Here are a few sample shots of the latest progress. It's hard to tell what's what, but I'll try to explain what we're looking at anyway.

This is our kitchen area. We're going to have the leaking skylights removed along with the huge window directly to your left. The back wall (where our favorite cabinet choice is set up) is going to be the back wall of a pantry. The pantry will span the width of the kitchen, moving the whole kitchen towards the dining area, which is directly behind where I was standing. Jeremy and his weekend helpers (Thanks Adriel & David :-) ended up having to pull up the subfloor in the old kitchen, so he'll have to replace that subfloor. Then he'll move the smaller kitchen window a few feet towards the dining room. He'll frame in the near wall of the pantry and reframe openings on the right for our new hallway entrance. Then he'll just have to put the walls up, replace and move all the plumbing, assemble and install cabinets/countertop/flooring, and the kitchen will be about done. :-)

This shows our master bedroom. I'm standing about where our bed will go looking at our new master closet area / Ascha's nursery. :-) On the left we had two big old sliding glass doors going out to a deck that was not safe. The deck is gone, so we of course needed to fill in the second story doors. We wanted to keep the option of someday being able to add back in a deck and door, so we had the closet stop short of the old doorframe. We put in two square windows for now to let in the morning light without blinding us. We're really happy with the way this room is turning out.

These last two pictures are of our beautiful (or previously beautiful) yard. It's actually not all that bad now that everything's said and done. We have a LOT of mud, but we mostly just have to replant grass - we didn't lose a ton of our landscaping, and Jeremy replanted a number of the plants that ended up getting torn out by all the earthmoving, so hopefully they'll survive and we won't have to replace a lot of trees or bushes. This is the front yard - we had an excavator parked there for about a week as they dug around the basement area, waited for a sunny day, then backfilled over the new drain pipe and gravel after the waterproofing was applied to the foundation. The hard part is that every area of the yard has been affected by the mud, so there's no large, clean, grassy area for the boys to play. Hopefully the grass will grow well this spring and we'll have our yard somewhat rehabilitated by this summer.

Here is our backyard. There is a patch of grass that's big enough to play on here, but it's hard to get to without getting muddy. The mud completely encircles the deck, then goes all the way around the house and takes up the entire yard out by the road (towards the front of this picture).

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Challenges and Blessings

As with all of life, our house project has surprised us with many unexpected challenges and road blocks. However, thus far, I'm feeling incredibly thankful for the ways in which they've resolved themselves. We have been so blessed by NOT having a major insect repair job on our hands, by NOT having to deal with some costly code things we were told we would have to deal with, by NOT having to pay as much as we were anticipating for converting our power from overhead to underground, and by NOT having to wait a long time for permits. We were told it would be about 3 weeks of waiting, but as of last Thursday, we have our permits in hand and are able to go forward with the framing in of new walls and the destruction of walls we're removing. The entire upstairs is framed in with the new floorplan in place and the downstairs is partially framed in. The project hasn't quite kept Jeremy's schedule, but he's a very optimistic scheduler and we're nearly on track with his lofty goals (which I think is amazing!). We've been blessed with lots of help from friends and are very grateful for it. All of these blessings aren't things that we NEEDED or even necessarily EXPECTED to have happen, so we are very grateful.

We need to remember this gratefulness and the ways things have been going well as we face our newest sets of challenges. We don't expect or "demand" that things will continue to go as well as they have been, but we ought not get sidetracked and "down" because of other unexpected challenges that pop up. At this moment, those challenges include the surprising fact that most of the grain on the Columbia River has already been sold, so the upriver trips we've been counting on to sustain our income while allowing Jeremy the flexibility to work on the house are no longer available. Our other unexpected challenge has to do with a county road being built right through our backyard in the next 5-15 years. Because the house was a foreclosure, we waived our rights to disclosures about the property, and we obviously didn't do our homework as well as we thought we had. We don't know when this road project will begin to truly affect us, because it doesn't yet have funding, but it will eventually change the entire landscape of our backyard (and the location of our newly placed sewer system pumps). We obviously can't do anything about it at the moment except be aware that it will come at some point in time, but it makes it harder to embrace this project. Jeremy has put it SO many hours and SO much labor (and will put in so much more before all is said and done), and we've really customized the floorplans to our family. It's hard to think about this place as "just a flip" when there has been so much personal investment. I would love to not move our kids during their school years, and I was hoping this would be the place where we'd stay until all the kids completed high school. Knowing there will be a road roaring through what used to be our backyard makes the location a lot less appealing in the long term. As with everything else in our lives, we ought to hold this house with an open hand. In some ways, knowing about this road makes it easier for me to hold it loosely, but it is more like a painful forcing open of my clenched fist than I'd like it to be. :-) I want to be thankful at this moment for the reminder to hold this dream, and all my selfish dreams, more loosely than I am accustomed. In the grand scheme of life, my children's security ought not come from living in one house during the whole of their school years - it ought to come from their position as children loved by Christ and loved by their family.

Anyway, I can tell I'm beginning to ramble (if I haven't already been rambling for a while), so I'm gonna sign off for now.

BTW, anyone keeping up with the lenten challenge? We are trying to keep it up and I'm really enjoying our evening conversations about how we were loving and how we failed to be loving during the course of the day, and most of all, how we're going to change for the better tomorrow. We're trying to be careful not to get too focused on self-help, but rather, to be mindful of the grace of God at work within us as we are intentional about allowing Him to influence our actions and attitudes. Tricky concepts for 3- and 5-year-olds...and 27-year-olds. :-)

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

An Introduction

We had our 20-week ultrasound today and IT'S A GIRL!!! Ascha Lynn will be arriving in June. We are incredibly thankful for this very healthy-looking baby girl. We are all excited for her to join our family...Aric included. The boys got to see the ultrasound and they each got their own picture to take home. Doesn't she look like a happy girl?

And if that doesn't make you smile, here's another shot at laughter: As Aric informed me yesterday, "Every day, holes just climb into my pants, but I don't make them." Of course, as he was saying this, he had both arms stuck into the (previously much smaller) hole at the knee of his jeans.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

House Update and Lenten Challenge

How do you like that odd juxtaposition of mundane/temporal and significant/spiritual? That's how my pregnant brain works these days - everything's all mashed together (if I can remember it at all).

Kami asked for pictures, so here are a few:

Before - looks pretty nice, right? Unfortunately, between damage from the leaky roof, stress cracks in the ceiling, and the fact that everything needs rewired, it all had to go.

After - this is the same view as above, except now our stairs are hidden under debris and our house is "see through." Upstairs and to your left is what will be an office space with our master bedroom behind it. Upstairs on the right is a bathroom, which will be retooled, but will still be a bathroom, and more bedroom/master closet space behind. Downstairs and to your left is what will eventually be two kids' bedrooms. On the right will be a laundry/storage room with a bathroom space behind.

Another picture of downstairs, just for fun. It's amazing how the relatively "minor" project of changing out sheetrock suddenly seems very major, even without considering moving the framed walls around. :-) Have I ever mentioned how thankful I am to have a handy husband? He's a wonderful, wonderful, talented man and I appreciate his hard work very much. (Keep going, Honey! :-)

Nice, huh? It definitely has a ways to go. Unfortunately, we were misinformed about how long we'd have to wait for permits, so we can't start rebuilding walls for a while, after all. We've slowed the pace a bit and we've still got some demolition we can do while we wait, so we're just doing what we can and hoping our permits can slog their way out of the beaurocracy and into our possession sooner rather than later. :-)

In a different vein entirely, I have a challenge for those of you who consider yourselves Christ-followers. Scot McKnight (an emergent church theologian who I really like, but don't always agree with :-) has issued a challenge for the upcoming 40 days of Lent (starting Wednesday, Feb. 6). Instead of giving something up (not something we evangelicals usually do, anyway), let's live out the Gospel for the next 40 days by reciting the Jesus Creed each morning, whenever we're thinking of it throughout the day, and again at night. During the evening recitation, reflect on where you've sinned in relation to the Jesus Creed and confess those sins. I believe what Scot calls the "Jesus Creed" is absolutely foundational to Christian life. It is the first bit of scripture my kids ever memorized, and we talk about it often around here (quite easy to find opportunity in the context of "is it loving your neighbor when you hit/kick/push your brother?" :-) Here is the creed, and I've also attached Scot McKnight's thoughts after it... Definitely a challenge worth considering and a passage worth integrating ever more fully into our daily lives.

"Here it is:

Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.

What we are discovering — in tune with the wisdom of ancient Israel’s recitation of Shema and the early church’s recitation of the Jesus Creed and the Lord’s Prayer — is that this sacred rhythm works love of God and love of others into the bones and sinews of each day. Who will take this challenge?"

Friday, February 01, 2008

Projects, Projects, Projects

Since we closed on the house last week, Jeremy has spent every spare second gutting the inside. The electrical wiring needs replaced, and we eventually wanted to change the floorplan, so we decided to save money and do it all at once. He's tearing down all the walls & ceilings (the roof has a number of leaks that have damaged the ceilings), then Jeremy is going to frame in new walls where we want them. While everything is still open 2x4s, we'll have an electrician come in and rewire everything. Then we get to put up new sheetrock for new walls and ceilings and go from there. I keep saying I'll be happy just to get electricity and new walls. At that point, if we need to or want to, we can move in and slowly finish each room. I know Jeremy would rather get as much as possible done before we move in, though, so I don't really know when moving day will come.

It's exciting to actually be able to be working toward that goal, because the process of acquiring this house has taken so many months. Our big focal point is just to have it liveable and be settled in before the baby comes. I think (but our plans change on a daily basis, so who knows?) we're planning on just finishing out the "master suite" (except the bathroom - we'll just get the one on the main floor going), so that Jeremy and I can live up there, the kids can be next door in what will eventually be an office space off the master, and the baby's crib will hopefully fit in our master closet. :-) We'll eventually finish out the downstairs so that we have the kids in their own space with bedrooms and a bathroom of their own.

We are very thankful to have had lots of help this first week. Our friend Adriel came up last Saturday and spent a very long wet day in the rain helping Jeremy frame in some windows and doors that we are moving/eliminating and working on siding. A coworker of Jeremy's who used to work in construction has come on board to help us during the weekdays when he's not working on the tugboats, so the two of them have gotten A LOT done this week. By the end of today, we expect them to have the upstairs and downstairs bedrooms completely gutted and new walls framed in and possibly have some of the main level stripped down, too. Next week, in addition to finishing up the gutting and reframing the new walls, Jeremy will be building up a new subfloor to accomodate some of our remodeling plans. Previously, a portion of the garage had been converted to living space, but the living space was all a step down from the rest of the house. To accomodate our new plans, a portion of that garage space must be raised - we will still have a "sunken family room" but we need the main hallway to be level with the adjascent spaces. Jeremy will definitely have had his fill of destruction and construction by the time next week's work is finished. We'll also have an excavation company come in and dig all the way around the basement portion of the house, have a waterproof barrier applied, and then have the dirt backfilled. That will hopefully address the problem of wet, moldy walls and floors in that area and make it a liveable space again. We'll also hopefully get a trench dug and wire laid to convert our overhead power to underground power. Then, we'll just be waiting on the roof and the electrical. Once all the new wiring is in, we'll be stuck waiting for a stretch of decent weather (multiple sunny days are hard to come by in this region in the winter - it rains nearly every day) so we can get a new roof on. Because of the many leaks, we think it would be foolish to put any new sheetrock or insulation in place until the roof problem is addressed.

In addition to the expected issues that we are planning to remedy (50-year-old electrical wiring, mold issues downstairs, roof leaks, etc.), we have discovered a number of unexpected issues since digging into the guts of the house. Jeremy had discovered what he thought were termites in an outside wall and carpenter ants on an inside wall. We were very concerned about the bug issues, but thankfully, a pest guy came out yesterday and told us all the problem areas were old and that none of the damaged wood was caused by termites. We are so relieved and THANKFUL to not have to deal with an active pest population! Jeremy also made some other interesting discoveries related to creatures - there were a number of very large bird nests in the ceilings and there were a number of mouse nests downstairs in the walls. I suppose that in a 50-year-old house, some of that is to be expected, but it's really nice to know we won't have any "skeletons in the closet" when we move in - everything's getting cleaned out and dealt with. Our other major unexpected discovery has to do with the windows. All the windows in the home had been replaced with energy-efficient vinyl in the past few years, so we were thankful not to have to worry about replacing them. However, when Jeremy and Adriel removed one of the windows we're moving, they discovered that it was installed in such a way that water gets trapped behind the trim. The wood around the window they removed was rotten and had to be replaced, so that means we will probably have to replace wood around all the other windows, too. Hopefully, the wood won't be so rotten as this wood was and we will just have to readjust the windows and trim so that water isn't trapped, but it could be another major headache. Time will tell.

All in all, though, the house hasn't been that much worse-off than we expected, and Jeremy and his various helpers are making great progress. It's always an adventure to rehab a house, but we like it. The kids are big enough that they've been able to "help" with some things and they are always so proud of themselves. Now that the electrical is all exposed, we're keeping them away from the house for obvious reasons, but when we move into the next phase, I'm sure we'll have more jobs they can help with.

We'll try to keep you posted on our progress at regular intervals through the blog. We hope you enjoy this adventure with us.