Winter 2016: A Family

Afternoons passed the slowest.  Particularly on these gray, winter days, with the wind incessantly rattling her windows in their panes and the impenetrable clouds blotting out every ray of light.  Not that the sunlight could really come through the plastic stapled over the windows anyway.  It would be hours yet before her evening guests-a family of squirrels in the attic, a bat in the upstairs bedroom, and a family of mice in the kitchen would scuttle in and wreak a bit more havoc.  How sad that she had begun to think of them as her guests!  What had become of her?  Once a warm and stately home, where mice were driven out immediately and a bat would never have considered attempting to enter?

Of course it was partly due to her age, she knew that without truly understanding what “age” was because the many people who had come, walked through, and left never to return over the past few years were always talking about her “age.”  But even more so, it was a lack of care.  The basement was full of empty coffee cans, once filled with fasteners and tools for this project or that and the stairs up to the pantry were creaky and musty.  The first story floors had all warped as she settled, her original supports having been replaced with temporary, ratcheting poles that had never been made permanent as intended.  The walls were stained, the wallpaper peeling, and all of the carpet was rotting where it lay, old and dirty.

The kitchen ceiling was cracked and sagging after that terrible leak in the roof.  The bathroom ceilings were stained as well, dry wall giving way to mold.  There was a new roof, now, but the damage remained.  Every available surface held evidence of the rodents that had taken over when the last, human occupant had left for good.  There were holes chewed through doors, excrement everywhere, and little piles of cracked acorn shells in the attic.  Who could ever want to live with me?  She thought to herself.

She had been truly beautiful once–the envy of the block with state of the art windows and so many in every room that sunshine poured in any time of day.  Six spacious bedrooms each with their own closet, a large yet cozy kitchen, two indoor bathrooms, and . . . oh . . . was that the front door was swinging open?  A moment passed before he crossed the threshold and she realized that the man was back again.

This one had come a bit ago and looked around.  They had talked of age again and he’d pointed out several of her more serious flaws.  Truth be told, it had been an entirely humiliating visit and she’d hoped to not see him again.  She no longer got excited when a person came to look, and this one had not been any different than the rest.  But now he was back and why?  Just to insult her further?  Mock her in her lowest hour?  He paused there, in the entryway holding the door open and she realized she had been so focused on her embarrassment reliving his last visit, that she had failed to notice he wasn’t alone.

At first, she thought it must be the other man or “agent” as she had heard him called.  He always came with whoever wanted to walk around pointing out her inadequacies.  Of course, it could also be Will, coming to check on things as he often did.  If it weren’t for Will, the pipes would have burst and all would have been lost after Mamie moved on.  Then she heard it, so faint at first, but getting louder . . . a baby!  There was a baby!  How long had it been since the sweet cries of a baby had echoed against the walls?  The pitter patter of tiny feet, the squeals, the giggles . . . oh how she missed having a family of her own.

They all grew up, of course, and grew old.  She had held some from their first breath to their last and it had been her joy and her honor to shelter them as they went about their lives.  Truly, it had been a fascinating two hundred and thirty or so years!  The way styles and gadgets had changed!  She would never forget when the wood stove for cooking had been replaced with propane! Or the day they turned her first light-bulbs on back in eighteen whatever it was.  So very exciting!  She’d had her doubts when they decided to move the plumbing inside, but it had worked out famously in the end and it filled her with pride to always have the latest updates.

But it wasn’t always easy.  There were hard times for the people she held and she could tell by the way they paced or sighed or spoke in low tones the children couldn’t overhear.  When the people worried, she knew she might not get her usual upkeep and she didn’t mind; she was built to survive such times.  But this had been different.  This time she had simply stood empty, something she’d never done before, and there were no people inside to care if everything slowly fell apart or became overrun with creatures.

First, the mice had come with their scratching and nibbling.  How horrifying that had been!  In no time at all they became quite bold, chewing holes right through the walls!  Climbing the chimneys to make each and every room their own.  Then it was the squirrels.  There were fewer of them, but the damage they could inflict was ten fold!  They chewed holes right through her solid wood doors!  Between that and the leak in the roof, she quickly found herself in state of wretched disrepair.  After which, began the parade of gawkers, none of whom wanted to take her on.  By the time the first bat slipped in through a broken, attic window, she could no longer muster any indignation.

A soft sigh brought her out of her sad rememberings . . . not the man, and certainly not the baby . . . it was a woman.  She must be the mother.  Had the man brought his family here to look?  If she’d had hands she would have been wringing them, but as it were, she could only stand tall and still with her terrible hope and her terrible fear known only to herself.  She had thought herself past the point of wanting, but to see a young family, it was impossible to not yearn for them to be hers.  And in her state???  What mother would want to raise a child in her rodent infested nightmare?

But before she could work herself up any further, she heard the woman quietly breathe the words, “It’s perfect.”

Perfect?

She said it with such awe . . . as if she couldn’t believe her luck.

They proceeded to walk from room to room discussing this or that.  The man would point out flaws, just as he had when speaking to the agent, and the woman would murmur some acknowledgment then start talking about paint colors and shelves and carpets and cabinets, counter tops, and windows, and curtains . . . she even picked out a room for the baby.  It was hours before they finally stepped out onto the crumbling, old welcome mat and locked the door behind them.  When the squirrels and mice came in from the cold to scratch and skitter about, she hardly noticed them and when the bat flew in to rest upside down behind a particularly large peel in the wallpaper she could not bring herself to care.

It was, without question, her best afternoon in years.

The Old House

 

 

 

Mac n’ Cheese Manor: The Water Problem

We have a water problem . . . er, water problems, I should say.  Back when Mac n’ Cheese Manor was first built (1790), sealed windows, insulation, and proper venting simply weren’t a thing.  And, while many updates have been made over the course of the 230 or so years she’s been here, many others have not.

Our unfinished basement leaks badly enough that where there’s a window under the pantry, there are plants growing.

We (read “Carl”) tried to replace the pipes under the sink in the bathroom and found that no matter how hard he pulled or twisted, the pipe going into the wall (which should pull off without difficulty) will not budge and we’re going to have to cut into the dry wall to see why.

There are no fans in the bathrooms and we found mold in the bathroom closet (Please note, if you find mold in your home, DO NOT read ANY blogs about mold in houses!  Go straight to the CDC website where there is excellent, science-based information on what to do rather than worst case, nightmare stories.).  This means we are going to have to cut a hole through the house to install fans.  I admit I’m kind of excited to cut a hole in the house since I’ve never done that before and I wonder what it looks like.

There are no vents in the roof.  This will definitely require a professional to fix.

Before the new roof was put on (fairly recently, though I can’t remember the year), there were numerous leaks that were bad enough and went on long enough that you can still see water stains in the ceilings of the bathrooms and kitchen and the wall under the stairs.  Not to mention a huge crack in the ceiling of the kitchen that sags a bit.

And so we are continuing to compile what we lovingly and only somewhat jokingly call our “Twenty Year List.”  : )

Luckily, my husband is rather handy (give that man a YouTube video and he can do anything!!) and has taken care of all the leaky faucets, fixed our kitchen sink so the water doesn’t spray everywhere every time you turn it on, removed the extremely gross sink from the laundry room/pantry, and replaced the PVC to the outside faucet so we can fill our doggie/kiddie pool (and properly bathe our stinky dogs)!

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Goals for this week include cleaning out the second, downstairs bedroom, continue going through our clothes and putting the fall/winter things away, and making as much progress on the pantry and furniture I am (still) trying to finish sanding/painting as possible.  It’s gonna be a busy week!  : )

 

Making Bread

The laundry is started and the clean dishes are put away.  There are roughly 72 more things on my to-do list today, but I’m pausing a moment over a mimosa (I am seriously considering calling them “momosas” from this point forward.) to write and bask in a lovely week.  Admittedly, I have roughly 72 things still on my to-do list because I did exactly none of them throughout the week as I usually try to do; instead, I explored local water spots, went to a friend’s house for snacks and a chat, and made bread.  : )

(The first is a rustic rosemary/roasted garlic loaf and the second is jalapeno/Swiss.)

I haven’t made bread in about three years.  Life has been busy and other priorities have taken precedence.  But this week, I remembered thinking through all the things I’d like to do if I didn’t work a full-time job and making bread has always been near the top of that list.

I initially learned to make bread primarily because of how much I love eating it.  I also have lovely memories from when I was little, living in Ohio and making bread from scratch with a neat, old lady in our church named Eleanor.  Making bread always reminds me of standing on a chair at her kitchen counter punching the dough down (my favorite job) and then picking flowers from her garden to take home to my mom along with the fresh bread.

Once I started making it by hand, though, it became about more than just eating the tasty results.  Making bread has become a form of meditation for me.  It requires patience (not always my strong suit) and it requires focus (hence the reason I only make bread during Miss Baby’s long, afternoon nap.).  If I’m not paying attention as I knead, I might miss the moment that perfect texture arrives.  The recipe books will all give you a number of minutes, but that just isn’t how it works.  Kneading time changes with the temperture, the humidity, different ingredients can affect it.  By no means is it rocket science, but I love giving all of myself to the process.  Making bread always leaves me feeling mentally refreshed, proud, and more often than not, uncomfortably full.

So here’s to Friday (insert raised momosa glass here)!  May I catch up on all the things I do not regret not doing while I made bread.  : )

(And thank goodness for the warning on the cap to my bubbly, or I may have lost an eye this morning!)
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Mac n’ Cheese Manor: The delivery guys who didn’t deliver and why is the toilet water hot?

The weather was rather uncooperative this past week so I have no updates on my adventures in learning how to make old, ugly furniture new again.  That said, we still accomplished plenty!

My first update relates to the plumbing.  The new septic is in and the company that did the work even re-seeded our lawn!  On their last day, while they were still cleaning up, Carl and I made ourselves mimosas and went to the side yard to chat while his mama was in the shower.  As we came around the corner of the house, I noticed water just bubbling up out of the ground!  At that time, we both thought they may have burst a water pipe with their heavy equipment, but no, in fact, it was a very old school system in which the grey water was piped into the yard and ONLY toilet water went through the septic system at all!  Ew.

Luckily, we noticed while the work was still in progress and once the issue was discerned, they scheduled a plumber to run all draining water through the septic system.  When he came out last week, we decided to go ahead and ask him about an issue that had been confounding us from day one:
Why is it that our toilet occasionally refills with hot water?

Now, I don’t know about you, but until living here, I had never once seen hot water in a toilet.  But sure enough, every once in awhile, we’d flush and steam would billow out of the bowl!  Also, it was hard to tell which valves were for hot and which were for cold on all of our sinks because it seemed all of them would go from cold to hot and back again!  Very strange.  And when we asked, judging by the confused/concerned look on the plumber’s face, I’m pretty sure he thought it was very strange as well.  He agreed to take a look and went on down into the basement.

Turns out, there is a little thing called a “sweat valve” that can be placed near the inlet to the toilet and if the water is cold enough to cause condensation on the tank, it will automatically mix in some hot water.  However, on our house, instead of using an actual sweat valve, there was a two-way, manual valve that just mixed all hot and all cold together for everything.  Thankfully, all it took was removing said, manual valve and we had normal, separate hot and cold water throughout!  Oh the things we are learning as we dig into this awesome, crazy, old house!!!!

Okay, onto the furniture.  : )

Some of you may recall that we bought furniture and it was delivered a couple weeks ago but the delivery guys said it couldn’t be moved in because it simply would not fit unless we took it through the window.

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Well, our ancient windows don’t just open up. I’d have to get the drill and literally remove the whole thing in order to do what they wanted.  Also, because they would not touch anything but the furniture under any circumstances, it wasn’t going to happen because even if I got the window unscrewed, I could never have safely gotten it down without another pair of hands.  I suggested we take the doors off the hinges and they said that wouldn’t work.  Needless to say, I was not impressed with them and even though I was pretty sure the furniture would fit, I decided I’d rather not have them try because they clearly weren’t interested in doing a good job.  So I had them take it to the barn where Carl and I could fetch it later.

Later turned out to be this past Saturday.  And, with just a few doors off the hinges, we managed to get both the couch and the chaise in-in no time!  I won’t say it was easy, but it was definitely easier than “Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum Delivery Services” made it out to be.  : )

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So now we have a couch!  And a chaise!  And after five months with no furniture other than a bed and a dining room table, it feels soooooooooooooo good!  : )

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The weather is supposed to improve drastically starting tomorrow, so we’ll hopefully be able to get back to sanding and painting shelves and such for the laundry room/pantry this week.

That’s all for now, happy Monday, Everyone!  : )

Getting a Life: Five Months In

I always tell myself and Carl that I’m going to get so much done when my sweet Sunshine goes down for her morning nap.  Then, when it actually happens, I find myself at the kitchen table in front of my laptop with my thoughts and the last of the coffee instead.   So here I am. : )

Today is going to be a lovely day.  First on the docket (after quiet cup of morning coffee and writing) is Brew Barn Yoga at Stone Cow!  Living one mile from a local brewery/farm market is turning out to be even more awesome than we already knew it would be.  Next up, we’re going to New Hampshire (less than an hour drive) to pick up an old, wooden high chair we plan to buy.  As long as it’s sturdy enough for my Sunshine to use, it’ll be ours for a fraction of the price of a new one.  Also, it’s legs and tray can be adjusted into a desk and chair.  How cool is that???  Lastly, dishwasher and microwave installation.  Tomorrow will be soon enough to get back to painting and replacing ruined dry wall.

What has me smiling this morning is the realization that I’m finally beginning to get a life.  It may have taken five months, but I admit, I didn’t try very hard while we were living in Shrewsbury because I knew it wasn’t going to last.  Now that we’re where we’re going to be, it’s coming together in the most wonderful way.

Our neighbors are the best!  Two of them grew up in Mac n’ Cheese Manor (it was white then with pretty blue shutters that are in the barn and we’re hoping to put back up someday).  They have helped us with absolutely everything: getting us names and numbers of vets, making recommendations on where to go for the best oil prices and reliable car repair, mowed our lawn, invited us to their homes to meet their families, and stopped by occasionally just to make sure we’re doing okay and don’t need anything.

Other neighbors brought us homemade bread and peach honey, still others brought eggs from their farm, and one gal just pulled over when she saw me and my Sunshine in the yard to tell me she lived up the road and heard I had horses.   Apparently, she has horses, too and a daughter who works at the Co-op who can help me get them settled when they arrive.

Then, of course, there’s the farm/brewery a mile up the road where everyone we’ve met is awesome (including Henny the pig), the beer is delicious, and I’ve met a gal with a little girl not much older than ours who knits and drinks wine with friends.  It is so frightening to leave everyone and everything you know, trekking thousands of miles away to start a new life.  I’ve never felt so alone and cut loose as I felt sitting in that apartment while Carl was at work every day.  Then we moved out to this tiny town and I feel like I blinked and the most beautiful life was dropped in my lap by the kindest strangers who already don’t feel like strangers anymore.  My gratitude for these warm and wonderful people is overflowing.

So, there you have it, I’m finally getting a life, and not just any life, but a good one!  Now I’ve got to sign off so I can go live it.  Happy Saturday!  : )

barnyoga

 

We

Some of us have c-sections
and some of us labor.

Some of us do not have epidurals
and some of us do.

Some of us give birth
and some of us become parents in other ways.

Some of us put together nurseries
and some of us make room for our babies in our beds.

Some of us bottle feed and
some of us breast feed.

Some of us sleep train
and some of us are sleep trained.

Some of us go to work to provide
and some of us stay home to provide.

Some of us use cloth diapers
and some of us use disposables.

Some of us make up our minds
only to have them changed by experience.
And some of us make up our minds
only to have them changed by circumstance.

Some of us do a little bit of all these things.
Others across the world do very few.

Yet, even with the varied paths we take,
we are the same–
Bonded across oceans of difference
by our incomparable love
for our children.

Angels

There are many types of angels: guardian angels, messenger angels, archangels . . . and angels who swoop in from Oregon to rescue tired mamas from piles of dishes and laundry, watch over sweet babies while their parents have a few hours alone together for the first time in months, and smite ancient, peeling vinyl from bathrooms as well as molding dry wall from laundry rooms.  I call that angel my Mamatu (AKA Carl’s mom).  : )

For the past week, my Mamatu and my niece have been staying with us for a visit.  I was embarrassed before they arrived because our house is so far from being even remotely guest-worthy and with all the appliance/electrical craziness, I had no dishwasher or working dryer until this past Monday.  And even doing what dishes I could during baby nap-times and hanging clothes on the line to dry, I simply could not get ahead.  On the first day of her visit, she just got up, went into the kitchen and cleaned it.  Completely.  Dishes and all.  Over the next few days she breezed through the laundry, removed the nasty vinyl from the master bath, cut the molding drywall out of the laundry room, sanded and caulked the walls, and continued to do the dishes every day of her visit.

It certainly cannot be considered a vacation!!!!!!  But I am eternally grateful for the desperately needed help.  Now that the basics are caught up, I’ve already done the few dishes in the sink this morning and done meal prep for dinner tonight and the baby has only been sleeping for thirty minutes!  She gave me just the boost I needed to (mostly ; ) stay on top of things.  Along with that, she delighted and entertained her granddaughters every day with walks and silly fun, allowing Carl and I a much-needed date and freeing me up to reorganize our bathroom and clothes, removing the things we aren’t using so that we only have a few boxes to contend with each day instead of the fifteen or so we had been living out of for the past month.

In summary, God bless and keep my amazing Mamatu, who came and vanquished the worst of the chaos.

We all love you so very much and promise that the next visit will be more play and less work!  And thank you for the beautiful angel you made for us, every time I look at her, I think of how gracious you are and how much you’ve done to help us kick start a good, new life.  : )
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