Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Fall brings new hope... and a ton of dust.

Hi friends,

I apologize for my lack of communication these summer months. We moved back into the house (as you may have seen in my previous post from July) just after heavy demolition had been completed and the new floors installed. Everything was unfinished. Our kitchen had been taken literally down to the studs and that's how things have stayed until today... more or less.

I'll backpedal a bit and explain that in order to adhere to our tight budget (around 150k when all is said and done TOTAL), each contractor comes once. We're going step by step rather than room by room. That means for example, the sheetrock crew comes once... so no walls could go up until the addition was also ready for walls. Same thing for counters and cabinets. We can't have a kitchen until the bathroom in the addition is ready for cabinetry and so on.

So, in August, the addition was structurally completed. Eric and our amazing pal Ryan ran duct work over to the addition. Electrical and plumbing were run. A roof went on. Insulation went in... all working up to today when we got walls.

Next, the sheetrock gets drywalled (mudded and sanded). Then we're ready for interior paint.

Meanwhile, siding will go on to the addition and I'm hoping beyond hope that it will match the existing siting as well as the new roof matched the 2 year-old roof. The siding is original from 1949, so not sure how they're going to do it but I'm choosing to have faith.

Then floors can go into the addition. The halls will get the beautiful Hickory continued from the house. The master bedroom and recording studio room will be carpeted. The bathroom will be tiled.

There's so much still ahead, but I feel like I can finally see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. This week my homeowner homework consists of things that feel like finishing touches like choosing paint swatches.

The air quality in the place has been affecting my health - though thankfully my three guys my propensity for "wuss lungs" as my husband so delicately put it.

Oh! Also the fireplace insert was ordered and it's lovely.

It's allllll happening. One little step at a time.

And we're living in chaos... but managing ok. I was telling a neighbor friend this evening, aside from the whole dust-mascarading-as-air dilemma, we're sort of used to living this way. We're an adaptable bunch. I've stopped counting how many weeks I've been without a kitchen and have just gotten good at doing dishes in the bathroom. My kids have adjusted to granola bar breakfasts and meals out. We're liking life without TV and enjoying more time in close quarters. All in all, we're ok.

All silver linings aside though, I'm juuuuuust about over it. Someone asked me how my summer was the other day and I snapped some salty quip at her... I won't repeat it, but it was a clear sign that my ability to see this project through rose-colored glasses all the time is waning. I'm ready to be done.

The first real fall-feeling day happened last week. I longed to whip out the crockpot and make autumn risotto or chicken soup from scratch. Bake banana bread and muffins for the kids... Looking forward to baking up a storm sometime soon.

Alas, life has moved on! I'm in my 4th month at the new job and finally feeling like it's where I belong rather than like I'm just the newcomer. The twins started Kindergarten and are settling in well. Eric's insane work season as tapered off to a manageable flow. We're planning Halloween costumes and looking forward to what's ahead. The band has a couple of new members and we're gelling and co-creating.

Life is good. And messy. And wonderful.


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Moving in... what have we gotten ourselves into?

Friday, we moved out of the lovely house we'd been renting rooms in from our wonderful neighbor... and back into our house. Right smack into the middle of something straight out of the HGTV channel. All drywall dust and unfinished business.

The heavy demolition has been completed. The floors have been laid in the main house and they are lovely:

We sent the boys to Papa's house so we could tidy up the place and make them some semblance of normalcy to return to. Dad rebuilt an insanely complex (even for IKEA) bunk bed and I unpacked their room and made it cozy and bright.

That night, the dust was so bad in here that I slept in a painter's mask:

So the next morning, I picked up some air purifiers. One for each bedroom and a borrowed BIG one for the main living space. They are all working overtime, but it has helped incredibly.

So, the here's the current state breakdown:

The addition has been plumbed and is awaiting windows and a roof before the wall can be cut through to the existing structure.

Floors are in the existing structure (not in the addition)

Walls have been knocked down in the existing structure and framed in - including the removal of two closets to gain kitchen square footage.

Wall knocked down and new closet framed in what was the boys' room.

Our future kitchen is plumbed, but literally nothing else has gone back into it. See for yourself the gaping hole where a kitchen once stood:

The kitchen, currently. 

So, yeah.

My best friend started us a meal train if you feel like feeding us over the next 4-6 weeks :) I'll let you see my un-kitchen!

So, we've got a fridge in the garage and have gotten creative with the bathroom sinks. Grateful that we have clean running water and a roof over our heads. I keep telling myself this will all have been worth it. I told myself that when I threw my back out swinging a mattress on to a bunkbed. I told myself that when the movers broke our TV. I told myself that when I couldn't shower for three days because the hot water heater couldn't be used... and I'll tell myself again tonight. Grateful that we're getting to make our home just right for our little family. Grateful that the location is where we want to live among wonderful neighbors.

Right now, we're in the thick of it, folks.

But gratefully so...


2/4th of Longbines down...

Today was the day.

I hopped out of the house early for important work meetings... after my first, I see texts from the Hubs saying his back was causing him so much pain that he'd become stranded at a meeting and couldn't drive. A colleague helped him to urgent care where he collapsed in the parking lot and had to be hauled into a wheel chair by a Good Samaritan.

After meeting 2, I sped out to get pain meds and then to pick him up from urgent care and get him home and settled. Then back to work.

THEN home to get Easton for a last minute dental emergency. He'd woken in the night crying in pain. I gave him Motrin in the morning and crossed my fingers that he could make it to our 4:30 appointment.

Luckily, Eric's prognosis isn't as serious as we'd feared. He should be back up in a couple of days. As for Easton, no major dental issues. The theory is that he's been grinding his little teefers while he sleeps causing jaw ache. Totally normal for his age and we walked away with tips to help.

Easton also found himself a new lady love and now has a new future aspiration: to become a dentist.

This too shall pass...


Thursday, July 7, 2016

Moving out, in, and onward...

Holy cow I don't even know where to begin... so I'll begin where I left off.

Last Friday, we moved out. The movers that were estimated to take 4-5 hours took 10.5, largely due to the fact that Eric and I had only managed to pack maybe 8 boxes ourselves with his work in peak season and my new job (which is amazing) taking up all my available brain cells. So, a very long day (and a workday none the less) we moved EVERYTHING out of the old house save a few items stashed in the twins' bathtub and the laundry room for "safe" keeping... and into a lovely home where we're renting two bedrooms from a fabulous lady here in our neighborhood.

So, we slept here one quick night and then hauled off to the coast for the long weekend... we hiked on the bay at Ledbetter Point, taught the kids how to shoot off Roman candles on the beach (it's cool, we were in Washington), and had some sparkler fun.

Back in town, now we're seeing BIG progress on the interior existing structure of the house, truly every day. It seems the crew have shifted focus from the addition work in an effort to speed through some of the heavy demolition and get old floors out and new floors in so we can move back in a couple weeks.

Yesterday they tore up all the flooring.

I popped over to check it out and saw one disturbing thing... there appears to be some water damage in what was our bedroom and will become the boys' room. Fingers crossed it's nothing major.

Today, they demo'd the kitchen. I'll pop by for photos in the next day or so. For tonight, I'll leave you with this pretty sunset snap I grabbed on Long Beach last weekend. Hope you had a safe and happy 4th!


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The dream of the 90s...

The dream of the 90s was alive today, indeed. The framers are in the home-stretch as you'll see in the pictures below. Their productivity today was motivated by a 90s playlist that was second to none. REM, Goo Goo Dolls, Third Eye Blind, Everclear, Sublime, Counting Crows... all since I've been home. I can only imagine what I missed earlier in the day. Luckily, the crew is working overtime tonight so the hits keep on coming.

I'm happy to know that those sweet 90s vibes are being infused into the very walls of the addition. I'm sure we'll have nothing but good luck (albeit maybe bad hair) in there.

The roofers are staging their portion of the project which they'll start soon. Friday, we move out. That's a post for another day...

For today, I'll leave you with this little gem:

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Raise the Roof

It's been a slow process these past weeks, but we're seeing progress once more. The bank has been super slow to grant our first big draw request, so not much we can do.

This week however, the crew popped out our south facing master bedroom window and walled it off. With two more windows in the room, there's still plenty of light.

Now the interior walls are done on the addition and the roof is beamed and ready. Picture attached!


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, May 20, 2016

Wall to Wall Walls

Framing is almost done on the addition and it's really coming along. I can tell they're getting serious because they brought in a HoneyBucket.

The walls are up, the subfloor is complete, and they're framing out doors and windows. Take a looksie:


As a wife, mother of two, and career woman... one might assume I'd have at least begun to settle into my impending adulthood. Not the case.

I've never felt more like a grown-up... or at least like I'm pretending pretty well... than I do under construction. There's also the whole getting laid off from my job after more than 11 years thing.

Here's a list of some of the most adulty things I've done this month:

1. Shopped for and bought a bathtub, toilet, and kitchen sink

2. Made resume/interviewed for jobs
3. Turned 37
4. Got a severance package
5. Got a job offer
6. Took a family vacation to Disneyland
7. Bought appliances for the new kitchen
8. Registered the twins for Kindergarten
9. Got a massage
10. Bought my Mom a set of tires
11. Mowed the lawn

but the MOST adulty thing I've done this month is...



wait for it...

12. Had a conversation with the framer on our project where he said his "wood was hard" WITHOUT laughing! Not one giggle. I know, it's a miracle. I'm SUPER adult.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Frame Game

It's happening!

Little by little.

The framers have had to pause around plumbing work. There's a 10 ft hole that we've coined "The pit of despair". They're digging down to connect the sewer. This is glamorous stuff here, people. Glamorous stuff.

But, the subfloor is going down! Then they'll frame the walls.

It's all happening.


Friday, April 29, 2016

Hurry Up & Wait

Ok, so we broke ground over a month ago. This project is supposedly going to take just four months, soup to nuts. We were off with a bang - tree came down in a day and then excavation was done and the foundation framed before the next week passed.

Then, no one came for a few days.

Then, inspections began. Inspecting the size/shape/placement. Inspecting materials usage. Inspecting inspectors... and that set the tone for these past weeks. Someone was here until like 8pm on a Saturday finishing the foundation frame which made us feel like the project was kicking into high gear when in fact we paused for another FOUR days for more inspections. An inspector comes, then we wait for his report. Then there's a follow-up inspection... then someone inspects that. Then someone inspects whether that has been inspected. Then someone comes and hammers in one nail. Then nine inspectors come and contemplate whether we can move forward for another few days.

Ok, maybe I'm embellishing a teensy bit... but here we are nearly five weeks in and it's a bit anti-climactic.

You can imagine how excited I got just now as the lumber guy arrived to deliver all the framing materials. Frames will go up on the addition in the week ahead! Then it will start to look like house. Still no work has happened in the existing house - which is actually nice. I'm being laid off at work after 11 years, so things are a bit stressful at the moment. In addition to my job (which doesn't end until 5/6), I'm job hunting, interviewing, networking... exploring the possibilities. I don't think I could handle having my office in shambles this week. I'm close to what I hope will result in an offer from my top pick company and heading up to interview with my #2 pick Monday. Anyway, more on this later... BUT we're taking the twins to Disneyland the week of 5/6 and I think the builder plans to demolish our kitchen while we're away. I hope the house sitter likes takeout!

Oh! Also, we picked floors. That has been a huge hold-up on my end. We have cork in the house now which is amazing for many reasons. It's durable, looks nice, damage is invisible, dirt is invisible... great for the twins. On the downside, it's badly sun-bleached everywhere there's a window.

So I was on a flight this week coming back from a job interview in the bay area and sat next to a veteran flooring saleswoman. I told her we'd been vacillating on the idea of hardwoods but were deterred by the cost... and that I'd found an engineered hardwood that was less expensive but didn't know if it would last. She happened to know a lot about that brand and said it will outlast our other options by "years". So, the front center sample below is what we'll use in all rooms but the bathrooms.

I love how the colors vary so it will camouflage dings and scratches. So pretty! So, now that I had to rush to make that choice... we wait a couple of months or more to actually install it.

For an action oriented type-A like myself, this whole process is a massive lesson in patience. Deeeeeeeeep breaths.


Sunday, April 24, 2016

An Exit Strategy

Yesterday, the crew started in on framing our foundation for the addition.

They were pounding on the wall where my husband and I were sleeping. Then they punched a hole in the living room wall where the existing structure meets the slab. There were three bees in the living room before I'd finished my morning coffee.

I know what you're thinking... and I know, these are small inconveniences compared to what's to come with this project. We've only just begun and all that... but I was feeling the mounting stress all the same. The stress of other things. Things changing at work that has me seeking new opportunities after 11 wonderful years with the company I've loved beyond measure. The excitement and anticipation (and what to wear/say/prepare) for upcoming interviews at a few potential suitor companies. Worry over the financial implications of a career move in the midst of such a massive project. The need to pick flooring, appliances, fixtures... and more on a list that continues to grow; meanwhile I'm painfully aware of my own lack of aptitude in choosing things like doorknobs and subfloors. My to-do list is a mile long in the Mommy department too. Finish the kindergarten registration packets and get them turned in (by a week ago), get the boys in for their dental checkup, find a new swim teacher or move on to something else like karate or gymnastics, send thank you cards from their birthday parties, buy them new shoes because they've outgrown every pair again, work on phonics together, get X signed up for physical therapy for his hips... you get the gist.

It would be easy to let it all bury me.

But thanks to friends and other blogs out there, I knew the implications of living through renovation and planned an exit strategy. The twins have been saving up their money for more than a year for Disneyland. I was waiting for them to be 40" tall so they can ride Space Mountain just incase they've inherited my love for rollercoasters. So, we're going in May. The week the building crew demos our kitchen.

That will be fun, but it's not enough. I see that now. My exit strategy needs to include regular escapes. Some as simple as a hike nearby. Last weekend, it was a day riding around on a motorcycle. Some like this weekend were I looked at the Hubby and said, let's go to the beach... like now! And that's just what we did. There's something so cathartic about the simple act of driving away. Putting physical distance between myself and home. Last night, we went to FunLand and played arcade games for hours. Today, a hike to the lighthouse and naps for all of us. I feel my responsibilities losing their ability to cause anxiety. I feel my shoulders un-tensing hour by hour.

Life is all about balance. When the heavy is extra heavy, the light needs to get lighter.

Off to hit the trails!


A Solid Foundation

Sorry I haven't been on top of this whole blogging thing... lots happening in my work world... I'll tell you all about it in a few weeks, but for now - I am stretched pretty thin. It's funny how the universe provides though. Someone asked me the other day if the stress from the build is getting to me. I had to say honestly that I've been to distracted to really give it much thought. All these other little stresses may be a blessing in disguise.

Anyway, so far we've had 27 people here since we broke ground. From contractors to inspectors. I never realized how many people it takes to tackle a project of this magnitude. This past week, the foundation was completed and the framing work began. They also began piping the plumbing for the new bathroom. They'll work the strangest hours - like all day long on a Saturday, and then have three days of no action while we wait for various inspections. It seems there's a separate inspection for every nail.

I'm so grateful to Bill the Builder for keeping track of all these moving parts. I also love everyone who he's contracted so far, without exception. The framers are a father/son duo. The wife even pitched in for a few hours.

I can't wait to tell you more about Bill the Builder (WFScott Construction) but I'll wait. He has no website. I'm going to build him one. I think there's a story to tell in terms of who he chooses to contract and why, so I'm digging to get to the heart of the matter. I can't find a single construction website with any depth or personality. Bill's will! I've had to convince him... because the reality is, you're online whether you intend to be or not as a business owner. If you're not curating the content, someone else is. He's just a grayed out head silhouette on Angie's List for example. While he makes us a home, I'll make him a personal brand. Stay tuned! Sound off in the comments if you have any ideas you think I should incorporate into his site!

Anyway I'm rambling. Off to watch the season premiere of Game of Thrones! Eeeeeek! So exciting! Lots of foundation pictures attached.


Friday, April 22, 2016

Bugs!!!!!!!! (Alternate title is just a bunch of swear words)

So we woke up Wednesday morning, all around the same time... and groggily made our way out to the living room together. I looked out over the living room floor and something didn't look right. I blinked my tired eyes a few times to try and compute what I saw. You know when something is so out of context it take a minute to get your brain to catch up? So yeah. It was ants. No less than a thousand of them. Absolutely covering the floor. Our normally tan cork floor was a sea of black.

I mean, there is a hole in our living room wall at the moment so I couldn't say we were shocked - but there were SO MANY ANTS!

I'd been meaning to get an exterminator out here anyway, so this was just the motivation I needed to check that off my to-do list.

So, I took the kids to school and got one of those jugs of bug killer that's so big it has a gun on a hose... threw it over my shoulder like a ghost busting proton pack and went nuts on the house. They weren't just isolated to the living room. I'll spare the rest of the details, but let's just say many many deaths occurred at my hands.

At the end of the day, I walked out to offer a cold drink to the day's foreman and saw some of the trenches he'd dug for the new plumbing. In one of them, deep down... I saw the source of all evil. The hell-mouth of the dark sugar ant dimension.

Thursday morning, we hired housecleaners to come at 9am and "deep clean" floors and surfaces. At 1pm, the exterminator came. Not the eco-friendly "pest control" folks we've used in the past. This company is called The Killers. They take no prisoners. We had to leave the premises for a couple hours. He found "quite a lot" of spiders including two poisonous species (two hobo-spider nest in our front yard where the kids play), a wasp nest, and several ant colonies. He was so thorough. He did the garage, the entire property, eves, the roof... the crawl space... he's a modern-day hero.

Haven't seen a single bug since. The Killers will come once a month and as needed between now and when we're done stirring up the earth. This is the stuff people don't tell you before you undertake a project like this.

So. Many. Bugs.



Friday, April 1, 2016

Excavation Complications

Now that the land is cleared, the excavation crew has arrived. The city held up our permits for a week because they weren't satisfied with the drainage plan, so now we're pulling from our contingency budget (on day 1!) to dig a trench filled with river rock so that the property drains in the right direction. In lucky news, that solved another problem on the other side of the house - so I suppose it's all good.

It's baffling to me how complicated this process has already gotten and we've only just begun.

The city also happened NOT to have our sewer records on file, so a team came out today (more unscheduled money) to scope the sewer in order to locate the pipes. We need to make sure they're not hit while the crew digs, but also that the main line is near the new bathroom so we can tie in easily.

With all this going on, we had LOTS of trucks and machines here today! Excavator digging out the new foundation, a dump truck to haul away the dirt... we are the talk of the neighborhood.

he twins' preschool class decided to take a field trip to our house. Many cute 4&5 year olds came to meet Bill the Builder and see where the tree used to be.

Check out the work in progress:

To tree, or not to tree?

So there's one thing standing in our way.

There's this tree.

A big, gorgeous evergreen tree.

To tree, or not to tree? That is the question.

I'm talking, one of the largest trees known to the planet. Definitely the largest I've ever seen in someone's yard. And it has to go. Because of codes and such, we can't build up. If we built forward, we'd need to redesign our whole home and at least double the budget. There's no room in the back or to the right. The only place to build is where the tree is. I feel barbaric even considering taking it's tree life.

We vacillated for a solid year. That tree being the singular hold up.

Alas, we decided to move forward (obviously). Every day leading up to the murder of the tree filled me with guilt and dread. I found Friends of Trees and made plans to plant trees to makeup for this one. We've invited neighbors to join us in doing so. That helps a tiny bit. We'll have the opportunity to use this as a teaching moment for the kids as well.

Then of course the cable/internet and power lines are all anchored to the tree. Nothing is simple, right? Try getting PGE and Comcast in the same place at the same time. I'll spare you the details.

Then there's the cost. $1750 to take it down, another $1200 for the permit.

So, the day finally came and the tree was to come down. I walked out to take pictures and pay last respects, hanging my head in shame. Still wrestling with the decision we'd made to take it down all in the name of progress.

As the limbs began to fall, the man shimmying up the tree trunk cavalierly turned to me and said "it's a good thing this tree is coming down with this infestation."

"With the WHAT?" I asked in disbelief.

As it turned out, this mighty beauty was absolutely infested with creepy crawlies that would inevitably overtake it. A weight lifted. Sigh.

Still, I couldn't watch. I worked from the neighborhood coffee shop and came home to find it done and gone. Goodbye, great tree. Thank you for freshening the air and shading our home. Thank you for beautifying the neighborhood.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Money & Plans

I'm having so many firsts in this process. ALREADY! We haven't broken ground yet and I already feel like I've experienced a lifetime worth of financial learnings.

Spoiler alert - we're not independently wealthy. Also, this is our first home so we don't have much to speak of in the way of savings. So in order to renovate and build, we knew we'd have to borrow the money. While online research and subsequent horror story findings nearly deterred me, my love for our neighborhood kept me going.

We have a mortgage broker we love to the moon and back who saved our home when we lost funding in the middle of the escrow process when we bought the place. That's a LONG story for another day. She's a superhero and a dream to work with. Write this down for the next time you buy a house: Karin Hammer KHammer@mtgxps.com 503-330-3155 tell her I sent you. If you're even thinking about buying a house, call her. Seriously. There is no one better.

So, I called her to ask about construction loans. Because she's the most caring, honest person in the world - she shared that she doesn't have a product she loves for construction loans and mentioned Umpqua bank. Our architect and a neighbor had also recommended Umpqua unsolicited, so I gave them a call. Sure enough, after much research, they have BY FAR the best product for this type of loan. They're local which I love, so underwriting happens here in town by real people who get that we are also real people. We were partnered with Osha Roller who has been awesome to work with.

Let me back up - the order of things is important. Before we could get the loan, we needed building plans and a builder.

Here's my advice on this: If you're borrowing money to build, trust me, use an architect! Before you even know how much you can borrow, the bank sends an appraiser out. They appraise the current home value and the anticipated home value post-build based on the architect's plans. They send that same appraiser out when you're done to make sure you build what you planned to build with the same quality of materials etc. A builder alone may change his mind along the way. If there isn't a solid plan in place, you risk losing your loan/home/shirt.

I interviewed architects all last summer before finding Keith Abel. He got this look in his eyes when he came to see the house and I could just tell he was excited about it. Knowing what we're undertaking here, I really wanted this to be a passion project for whoever worked with us. He's done countless projects like ours and loves revamping older homes. We spent a couple of months together in the design phase getting it just right. The kitchen reno and the 700 sq/ft addition. Once the plans were complete, they were sent off to the engineer. The engineer takes the plans to an astonishing level of detail - from the size, weight, and circumference of the beams in the ceiling to mapping the electrical.

Meanwhile, we chose a builder. Eric and I really vacillated here. We "know a guy" who is fantastic and we felt that loyalty obligation to give him the work... but at the end of the day, we went another route. I think it's better not to work with friends on something so complex. Also, I felt that the relationship between architect and builder was far more important than the relationship between us and the builder. So, we chose a builder who has done 2-3 builds per year with our architect for over 20 years. Tried and true.

Now back to the money.

So, when we bought the house, we had an FHA loan. People feel strongly in support of and against this type of loan. For me, I wanted FHA because they inspect a home and an agreement a million different ways. As a first-time buyer, I was painfully aware that there were a lot of things I didn't know. I felt the the FHA process kept me from making bad decisions. If I could go back in time, I'd do the same thing.

With that said, with an FHA loan you have to carry mortgage insurance for the life of the loan. In a conventional loan, you only have to carry it until you pay your loan down 20%. If you owe 80% or less to value, you get to drop it. For us, that mortgage insurance was a couple hundred dollars a month, so it was significant. With Umpqua, we were able to refinance the house into a conventional loan and take out a construction loan in addition. Based on our post-build appraisal, this allows us to never pay mortgage insurance on this loan (because the ending value will be worth more than 20% above what we'll owe including the money to build) and we can keep it all in one process instead of refinancing with one bank and borrowing construction money from another. It's a win/win.

It's complicated. We were in "escrow" for sixty days. It involved appraisals - and us crossing our fingers and praying our design plans equated to the end value we needed to not pay mortgage insurance. It involved the builder breaking down the plans into a line itemized budget estimate to make sure we can build all that we've designed for the amount we're approved to borrow. There have been so many moving parts.

Now that the loan is closed, we can request draws. To get the money, we have to submit several different forms stating what we're using it for - and then all parties must sign. So me, builder, plus whoever he contracts for said work - all around the kitchen table each time we request money. We had a conference call yesterday to learn how to do this. I feel like I need to go back to school and major in finance to not screw this up.

Luckily, the bank and the builder have been very patient with me so far. Again, I cannot recommend Umpqua bank enough. I love them so much I have now moved all my checking/savings/line of credit to them. If you're in the Northwest, check them out.

I keep telling myself it will all be worth it... it will all be worth it... it will all be worth it... and in the end, we'll have the same amount of equity in the house as we have now. That's pretty cool. So, it's a good deal no matter how we slice it. It's just a little scary. There are so many factors. So many details that need to pan out in order to achieve the end result within the budget. Prayers and good vibes appreciated.

We'll go from a 1291 square foot 3 bed (but really 2, because one has no closet)/ 2 bath to a 2000 sq/ft 4 (real) bedroom/3 bath. I'm attaching the drawings before and after. I'll tell you more about it in future posts.

Next, we break ground!


The Longbine Group (our family as a company)

Before delving into something known to destroy marriages, bring on bouts of depression and anxiety, and cause financial hardship - we knew we needed to circle our wagons, proverbially. Eric and I planned a date night and sat down over dinner at one of our favorite restaurants (Meriwether's) for some quality time. I confessed to him that I was feeling overwhelmed. As a classic type-A personality, I love having ownership over our household details under normal circumstances. Even in the preliminary phases of this endeavor - appliance shopping, starting the loan process (more on that in my next post), and hiring the architect and builder, I felt the stress surpassing optimal levels. The thing is, it's not like life just stops so we can do this. Meanwhile, I was planning an epic birthday bash for the twins, trading in our two cars for one new car, going through some major transition at work, and winning the John Lennon Songwriting Contest (more on that later). 

"Normally I like being the CFO" I told my handsome husband over my pear martini. "but right now, it feels like a lot. I'm CFO, HR, merchandising, childcare, cleaning and maintenance... and now project manager." 
"Hmm" he said thoughtfully. "I like that. Let's think of our household like a business. So if you're CFO, what am I?" 
"You're COO- Chief Operations Officer" I offered.
"I like that" he smiled. 

And just like that, we had a plan. He would be COO and step up his game on all things facilities and household management. We named our kitten Steve CEO (obviously) - you know, the nepotistic twenty something playboy type who just wants to ruffle some feathers. Older kitty Ella would be head of security as she can most commonly be found guarding a door somewhere and hissing at passersby. The chinchilla would be customer relations as the most social being in our home. Easton we named CTO - Chief Technology Officer since he's clearly the most tech savvy Longbine. Xander will run R&D. 

We had a family meeting and talked through how we'll all be more mindful of this family unit and our respective roles. I'm pretty sure it sunk in. Easton put a finger in his nose, which I am pretty sure means "I'm in" - and Xander stripped down to his undies. 

All joking aside though, I think before any family enters into something like this, it's important to put love and respect first. Keep the family focus. Hold hands more. Hug more. Take more road trips. Laugh as much as possible. That way, the bumps ahead won't feel so bumpy. 

Also, we couldn't do any of it without our "village". Nanny Kamina, Babu, Grandma Sparkle... and everyone who loves this little family.

Wish us luck? 

CFO - The Longbine Group 

PS - Special shout out to Josh and Jessie for naming our company... 

Why? (It's a long story)

I know what you're thinking. Yes, we're of sound mind and yes, we have internet access. So with more horror stories than we could ever possibly read in a lifetime at the ready, why would we decide to renovate + add an addition + live through it all? 

Before I answer, let me take you back to the beginning. Like way back. 

When I was a child, we moved around a lot. With songwriting parents and an adventure seeking Mama, we didn't stay anywhere longer than a year or so. While I wouldn't change a thing about my upbringing, I sometimes wished I wasn't the "new kid" all the time. I always figured whenever I had kids of my own, I'd give them a home they could grow up in... in a neighborhood where they'd have the same friends from pre-k through to college.  However, as an adult my wanderlust came naturally. I moved all the time - finding a job I love with a global company who shared my desire to stay flexible and follow the work. I moved up and down the west coast well into my early 30s - never buying a home because I was afraid to be tied down. I knew someday I'd want to be back in Portland... but when someday came, I was afraid to commit. 

When we moved back to Portland in 2010 pregnant with the twins, I knew we were home. Still, renting seemed like a fine plan. That way, we had options, right? After the boys were born, I wanted to be involved in community service but didn't have time to organize activities - so I joined the Junior League of Portland. They're a community service organization committed to promoting voluntarism and developing leadership skills in women. One night, early in 2013 I attended a JLP training on finances. The expert who facilitated the training had some tough words for me. 

"You're in your 30s and you're not a homeowner?" he asked, shocked and appalled. 
"Uh. Well... I um... I like to move. What if I want to move? Seems like a big commitment... (additional unintelligible yammering)..." 
 "Well, let me give it to you straight" he said, abruptly. "You are never going to retire." 
 "Never?" I asked, in barely a whisper.

He went on to make great points about longterm investments and the importance of real estate. 

That night served as a wakeup call. I realized I had to start acting like a grown-up, at least from a financial standpoint. So a few weeks later, Eric and I set out to find our house. We targeted SW Portland for it's proximity to everything, good schools, and it's low-key and wooded vibe. We stumbled into the Maplewood neighborhood - neither of us ever having known it existed. We found a house we loved and didn't hesitate to make an offer. An adorable little 1300 square-foot bungalow with a detached garage on a big, fenced, grassy corner lot. Was it small? Sure - but it would make a great starter-home. We figured we'd stay a few years and then buy our "real house". Get to know the neighbors, get that pre-market intel when someone was going to sell a bigger home... and voila. We'd move! 

What we didn't anticipate was how quickly home values would rise here - nor how scarce the inventory would be. We were quickly priced-out of the idea of buying a large home in this neighborhood - and by the time we realized it, we were attached. So, we had three options:

1 - Stay in a too-small house in a neighborhood we adore. 
2 - Move out of Portland into the burbs into a big house. 
3 - Turn this little house into our "real house". 

So, here we are. Firm believers in the ideal that location is everything. We're a two-block walk to the twins' fantastic school. Near friends, a cute coffee shop, and multiple parks. We're a quick drive, bike or bus ride from downtown - and an easy 30 minutes from the airport (which for my job, is a must). We have a big lot (over 1/4 acre) in the city and room to build, so what the heck. 

Join us on this wild ride as we live through our renovation and addition project with twin little boys, two cats, and a chinchilla.