Let us pray....

Gwen said the following at our dinner table last night, before we began eating:
"Before we start eating I'd like to make an announcement! Dear Mom, I love you.  You are nice to me and I would like you to come for a sleep over at my house.  Thanks so much! In Jesus name, Gwendolyn."

Basically she cobbled together all forms of formal speech she'd ever heard (prayer, letter writing, announcements) and made her version of the St. Crispin's Day speech before we began our turkey chili.  
Inspiring and awesome.  PLAY BALL!


Cutting the Cord

Hoo boy, have we done it now.  For the first time in about 4 years, we are going to live without cable television.  This choice was made with two major considerations in mind: 1. Cable is mighty expensive, and with the new house we need to trim some fat from the budget.  And 2. DEAR LORD THERE IS AN UNHOLY AMOUNT OF CRAP ON TV.  Like seriously you guys, there is a reality show about competitive taxidermy.  For reals: 

Any who, we came up with a couple of alternatives.  First, for only a little more than the cost of one month of our cable service we bought an Apple TV.

Basically it allows us to see content like Netflix, Hulu, etc. on our TV.  And because it's in with the Apple Cult to which we are fervently devout, we can listen to our music on our computer, and anything we download via iTunes is available on all our devices (laptop, phones, iPad-if-we-had-one).  So we are not bereft.

Granted, Gav is going to miss sports.  But he can watch quite a bit on the computer and, well, life is pain, Princess.  I think this will help keep our kids from being sold plastic piles of crap during their favorites shows and will help us to do more working on the house and less mulling over the woes of various Real Psychic Chef Runway Teen Moms of New York.  And oh, there's that 100+ bucks a month.  So yeah.

When I called the cable people to disconnect the guy acted like I was breaking up with him.  He tried to plead with me ("Ma'am, don't you think you'll MISS your local news shows?")  He tried to bribe me ("What if I can give you $75 at the end of a three month period?? THAT'S FREE MONEY, MA'AM!") Finally he resorted to scorn and sadness("I'm sorry, I just CAN'T BELIEVE you are not taking this deal.  With all due respect, I just don't get it.")  But finally, with a resigned sigh he sent a guy out to do the deed.

It's just been an hour since the roly-poly rosy-cheeked cable man took my DVR away, and...um....I do feel the beginnings of withdrawal.  Like, how will I watch Ru Paul's Drag Race and learn who is America's Next Drag Superstar? Or find out if they'll pick house number 3 even though there's no double sink in the master bath??    

I'm gonna go chew some gum and find some Steve Guttenberg movies on Netflix.  Wish me luck.



Oh, sooo belated in writing this.  But when you understand the scope of the past 2-3 months, you'll forgive us, won't you? Thanks!

Ok, so where were we? After that brat Sandy came in and pooped in our applesauce, we (Gav and I) had about 10 minutes of feeling deflated and shoving our move-in date to "some time in Spring".  You see, not only did we need to now work just to get us back to our pre-storm state, but everyone in my family who'd been helping us was now busily digging themselves out.

But we could just not get comfortable with moving the time table for so many reasons: we had set our hearts on Christmas in the new house and Gavin's parents were flying out to spend the holiday with us to that end.  It had been nearly nine months since we bought the place and those nine months had meant spending nearly every day off apart as one of us watched the kids while the other shlepped to the house to work.  And frankly, I was just about at the end of my tether, straddling two lives and being in complete control of neither.  And the biggest reason of all was a practical one- MaryJane and Michael (the Super Inlaws) flying out here meant we'd have live-in baby sitting during the move, which would damn near be impossible without it.  My mom's house was gutted from Sandy, so without someone to watch the kids at our old place, we'd be S.O.L.

So we made a big decision.  We had the guys who were finishing our Sandy-repairs complete the walls.  It killed our (5th) budget, and meant the impeccable job we envisioned for the taping was not likely, but it put us on track to be actually LIVING in the place we'd bought so long ago.  Enough, as they say, was enough.

In about 2 weeks time we had guys tape and prime the walls, the floor guy come in to finish all the floors, and another guy come in to install our new (!!!) lower kitchen cabinets.  I used "all my skills, and all my powers" to convince a fraught-with-storm dig-out National Grid to get their butts to my house and get some gas turned on.  Seriously, you guys, I ended up calling them dozens of times a day, got the cell number of a manager, flirted, cried, cajoled, whatever it took until there was a crew of hunky men digging a big hole in our yard and laying new gas lines.  Heat! Hot water! BAZAAAHHH!!

And then it was time for me to get serious on this house.  Gav and I decided that just as the first half of the reno needed his "man strength", this second half needed...well...me.  For six weeks I was there literally every spare minute of the day that I was not sleeping, working, or with my children.  Every surface, and I literally mean EVERY surface needed to be cleaned, painted, and generally made ready for human habitation.  My brother painted the ceilings so that when I came it was just walls and moulding to be done. And a rotating cast of friends and family (thank you Joy, Zac, Leigh, Kelsey, Joey, Kelli, and of course Uncle A) came in to have painting parties, nail-hole-filling parties, sink-installing parties until it started to feel that maybe, maybe we'd make our Christmas date.  I attached duct work in the basement that had been left dangling, and thanked God for Google.  Slowly, slooowly, our vision started to come into soft focus.

To be sure, there were a few things that got done in a rather fly-by-night way.  We paid some guy like 600 bucks to case all the windows in the house so that I wouldn't have ragged holes around them with insulation hanging out like a fiberglass goatee, and his work was....well....good enough for now.  I slapped paint over things that were as ugly as Satan's heart and called it workable.  There were doors that should have been sanded all the way down to bare wood for a perfectly even surface but by the time I got to that point, I didn't care if I was painting over a corpse, just to be done enough to MOVE THE HELL IN FOR GOD'S SWEET SAKE.  But the progress in a short time was just startling nonetheless.

The best part was to see things actually start to go IN the house, rather than come out.  One day, there was a giant open shell of a kitchen, and the next, all my base cabinets were in.  And the day after that, the marble arrived for the island top.  I made the guys delivering said marble exceedingly nervous I'm sure by snapping pictures of them carrying the slab into the house, but I was so damn excited.  It was like a new baby coming home from the hospital.  Well, no, not like that, but lovely just the same. The day the floors were done I sat down on the steps and had a small cry.  It was just so freaking beautiful after so much ugliness. We were almost there.

The day before my inlaws flew in my friend Zac and I had a tying-up-the-worst-of-the-loose-ends fest. We hung light fixtures, a learning experience for us both, but VOILA! the lights came on when we were done.  And then on a whim I made a kamikaze run to Home Depot (where else? I feel like they're going to hang a picture of me up in that joint) to grab a late Christmas tree.  The only one left that wasn't 3 feet tall was a shaggy 9 footer hunched over in a corner by itself.  When I dragged it over to the guy who cuts the trunks he said "I was wonderin' who'd pick up that tree!" I felt like I'd saved a last-chance dog from the pound and happily crammed our shambling dinosaur tree into the back of our little SUV.  It smells like pine sap to this very day.

And then the move-in day actually came.  A cast of friends and family made it, dare I say, easy.  My mom's church donated a truck and 3 strapping gents to help with lifting, and between them, my friends, and my intrepid inlaws who managed to entertain two small kids in a house of total chaos, we were in before 2 pm.  Really, something I had absolutely dreaded for so long was the least painful part of the whole damn process.

And then Gavin drove back to pick the kiddos and their grandparents from Brooklyn while my friends and I ran around getting the house as "ready" as we could, so the first sight MJ and Michael had would be as perfect as I could muster.  Because, well, of all wonderful people involved in this project, those two have been our rock.  We simply could not, would not, have done any of it without them, and I will never forget the pride of getting to show them what their unwavering support had amounted to.

We flew around like manic elves, lighting the tree, cleaning the windows, even hanging garland and stockings on the stairs, and so when they pulled up that driveway, it felt as much like a home as we could muster.  And after a tear-filled tour, and a million hugs, and neighbors who showed up with wine and eggs from their backyard chickens (!), we dug into Chinese food and prepared to sleep in the house we'd gotten the key to nine full months before, on December 21st, with 4 full days to spare before Christmas.

On December 23rd, after much debate and trial and error (and a mental picture of what would happen if my poorly designed shelves were to collapse with all my china on them), we gave up on our "open shelving" concept for the kitchen and bought and installed the upper cabinets our damnselves.  As an aside, before installing cabinets from Ikea, get yourself a nice pint of something strong.  Drink half of it.  Save the rest for after.

On Christmas morning, we woke up in our own house.  I mean, we literally slept under the Christmas tree, having given Gav's folks the bed, and saw our small children toddle down their own stairs into their own living room to open gifts.  It was one of the best mornings of my life, and I can say now that this whole damn (ongoing) process has been utterly worth it.

This blog has been long and rambly and full of crap writing, because I'm trying to cram about a million things into one long overdue blogpost and because my kids are literally climbing my legs as I type.  So I'll cut it off here and let the pictures say the rest.  Below is some "befores" to get you in the mood, and then some "after a lot of progress" photos that show where we are now.  There are endless projects to do before these rooms are "done" (like, I dunno, decorate and finish painting and hang curtains) but I wanted to show how far we've brought them since March of 2012.  Oh, and I was gonna add some bedroom pictures too, but I hated how they came out (out of focus, bad angles), so stay tuned for those. Enjoy! :)

Foyer Before

And now

Stairs Before

And after four thousand hours of painting!

Another Foyer view Before

And now- holy crap, so much brighter!

View from living room through pocket doors Before

And now.  Don't worry, the doors are still in pockets (but not yellow)!
Dining room before...
And now, complete with Wes photobomb!  And sliiightly crooked family pictures..
Living room into dining room

View from dining room into kitchen.  This was once the wall with the buckling chimney, etc.
Kitchen Before (blech)
Kitchen now! I did the tile a couple of weeks ago but still need to grout it and install range hood...
New Sink!

It's important to have standards...
Emmy seeks out the sun...
Bathroom before- try not to puke.
And now! Bright, white, and clean! And with our shampoo on the windowsill ruining picture(derp)!