Monday, November 17, 2014

Breathing Space

My brother-in-law and his fiancé arrive on Wednesday. We've not yet met the fiancé, but the wedding is this spring. We are very excited, as this will be the first of our siblings to get married! I'm trying to summon the energy to clean the house before their arrival. Seems like it might be important to make a good first impression, right?

But it's not happening.

The energy is not being summoned. I think I just need a little more recovery time...

This past summer, when I was so houseguest-ed out, I thought I could put a moratorium on houseguests. But it doesn't really work that way. To cope, I've developed an indifference: don't like sticky door knobs? Hmm, let me call you a taxi to the nearest hotel.

I jest.

What's really happened is that we've started to plan some major renovations around the house, to make future houseguests more comfortable (for us). We're going to convert a portion of the loft into a fourth bedroom and finish the basement with a guest room.  It's going to be some pretty major construction on two out of our three floors. It will take about 3 months to complete. A lot of people move to a new house when they reach this point of familial expansion; a lot of people really don't like to live in a construction zone. I like our house; moreover, I like the location; I'm excited to have an opportunity to improve it a bit. And the fourth bedroom renovation will actually fix some of the house's shortcomings. I hope I find that I like to live in a construction zone. I grew up in a home where my parents were always renovating something, so I like to think I can live with some dust and noise. Also, I'm an architect; this will be FUN!

We shall see. Remind me in a few months that I thought construction was a good idea, okay?

(Just between you and me, every now and then I calculate just how many nights in a hotel could be purchased for the amount we are about to spend on renovations. GULP!)

In the meantime, I think I better clean the house, so that my future sister-in-law doesn't have to turn sticky doorknobs.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

General Activity of the Last Week

My parents and brothers were in town this past week. While we had all the extra hands around, I scheduled a project. Sometimes I find that giving houseguests a project is a successful strategy for relieving a portion of the pressure on me to entertain.


I wanted to finish the mudroom with cabinets, a bench, and a counter. This project has been waiting patiently since we moved in 4 years ago. My father also had a project in mind: painting our stairwell. I'm happy to report that both projects were finished in less than a week. But boy, has it has felt CRAZY around here. I think the projects might deserve their own posts. (Well, at least the mudroom.)

This weekend we are decompressing and prepping for a new round of houseguests on Wednesday. In the meantime, here are a few photos of the activity. It looks strangely calm in these photos. Not really how I experienced it, but, anyway:

My brother, mustached mugging mopper extraordinaire!
The boys use Ikea boxes as sleds. Let us not talk about what they did with the styrofoam.
Toddler helps grandma measure.
Trixie and I test out the bench.
The mudroom construction crew, midway to completion, minus Fritz and yours truly.
Toddler watching grandpa pour paint. 
Repainting the stairwell. Still white, but a cleaner, brighter white.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Bulb Trials

After we finished planting the African Dogtooth Grass in our street lawn, my aunt, who had the idea to plant dogtooth grass in the first place, decided we should fill the same area with, "bulbs that will naturalize and bloom in the early spring."

One of the drawbacks of the dogtooth grass is that it stays brown until the ground reaches a temperature of about 55 degree Fahrenheit. That means that everyone else's lawn will turn green and lush in April or so, and we'll still be waiting for another month. My aunt's strategy to combat brown grass? Crocus, hyacinth, naturalizing tulips, and any other low-growing spring bulbs she could dig out of her own garden and send my way. The idea is that the grass will still be brown, but under a sea of spring flowers.

Oops. That would be a fall crocus, in the planting beds. Double wrong.
It's totally cool to have an aunt who can dig up some vegetation and share. I've started to think of gardening, in general, as an indulgence: buying plants is costly, planting can be time-consuming and the results aren't always alive as vibrant as I would like. No, actually I really have killed several lots of too many plants. There's always wild cards: bad weather, wandering toddlers who like to live head as opposed to dead head, hungry rabbits. Results are slower than I wish. Before I ever tried to establish a yard myself, I took all that stuff for granted. I mean: I've always loved trees, and I've always appreciated a colorful garden, but I never saw the work behind it. Beyond the financial outlay, I never really recognized the devotion or the patience or love that nurtured it through the years.

My aunt has been generously giving hundreds of bulbs to me. I don't know exactly how she has the time or the energy to dig them out of her garden, shift them from the dirt and rocks and put them in bags for me. About two months ago, my uncle, her husband, was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer relapse. It is less than 2 years since he went through the first round of chemo and a stem cell transplant. Mantle cell lymphoma. There's not a cancer anyone wants to get; this one is particularly unkind. My uncle has chosen to do a Phase I Drug Trial instead of returning to chemo. Here is how the NIH defines Phase I Drug Trials: "Researchers test a new drug or treatment in a small group of people for the first time to evaluate its safety, determine a safe dosage range, and identify side effects." Later, in Phase II, researchers determine whether or not the drug is effective.

So, those bulbs. Bags and bags and bags of bulbs. At first, my aunt tried to sort them and identify them by type. She bought a book about bulb flowers at Goodwill and thumbed through the pages gesturing at different pictures and different bulbs while I restrained Trixie from sampling them as snacks. We tried to employ the boys in sorting them by type. Then we gave up and simply sorted them by size. The smallest bulbs go in the lawn she told me, the bigger bulbs in the planting areas. And after my aunt gave me hundreds of bulbs, I bought MORE. Just in case. I'm determined to get them in the ground. Determined that they won't sit in my garage and decay. Determined that I give them the best possible soil and phosphate and whatever else they need to bloom in the spring. I can't be the limiting factor in this project. Bulb flowers over brown grass may not be everyone's idea of the ideal lawn. But when and if they bloom, they could still be beautiful.

Friday, November 7, 2014

That Solved That

The Switch Witch visited us.

"Who is that?" the contractor (foreshadowing!) asks.

"It's like Santa Claus," I tell him.

Her rules worked like this: the night of Halloween, the kids can eat as much candy as they want. Then they put all the rest out for the Switch Witch. She takes all the candy and leaves them a non-food present.

When my neighbor first told me about the Switch Witch, I was skeptical. What kind of lesson is that teaching? I thought. Well, I'm still not sure. But now that she has visited our house, I LOVE THE SWITCH WITCH! The kids woke up the next morning and were still excited, but there wasn't lingering candy that I/they/we agonized over for days/weeks. It was simply gone!

The Switch Witch was a little worried about what she was going to do with all that candy. The answer came in the form of a late-in-the-evening 6 foot tall trick-or-treater. He dumped a whole bowl of Switch Witch candy that had been left on the dark front porch into his bag.

That Solved That.

Ragedy Ann (not me!) and friends

Monday, October 27, 2014

Lingering Autumn

We are having a really long, lingering autumn. At least by Colorado standards. It seems that many years, snow falls before the leaves. This year there is still no snow. And the leaves are falling. Noah is still wearing shorts. Daily.

This dahlia: I planted it two years ago, and never dug up the bulb. Dahlias are NOT suppose to last overwinter in Colorado.  (You are suppose to dig them up.) But sometimes, somehow, you get lucky. This year it bloomed! I credit the weather.

I am especially looking forward to Halloween and Trick or Treating. Fritz spent the last several years chairing a department retreat that always occurred within a week of Halloween. It was difficult to do Halloween as an almost single parent, with Fritz worrying about his own stuff. I'm really enjoying – and looking forward to – his presence this year!

We are putting out a Teal Pumpkin. (Well, it's sort of teal. I tried to mix the color myself. Uhhh... no future for me as paint mixer, I think.) None of our kids have food allergies, but I think this is a really important topic. Idena wrote a really great post about her son and food allergies a few years ago, and it opened my eyes to how food allergies must make a child feel quite excluded. No child should be excluded on Halloween! Beyond that, we have an awful overkill of candy every year. We've been giving out play doh for several years. I'm always shocked how many kids actually seem to PREFER the play doh when given a choice to choose their treat. So: putting out a teal pumpkin was no biggie. (As long as we don't talk about the part where I tried to paint the damn thing teal. Grr.)