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.