May Update; See You in July

Because I need the month of June to recover.

Hello May.

I’m quiet on the house news, but there is some slow progress.  We’re busy masterminding the plans for the garage because though it would be lovely to tear it down and start fresh someday (and in the meantime have a cement pad with a basketball hoop — yes, I live in a house of boys), the cost is prohibitive to rebuild anytime in the future, and it sure would be nice to have a place to play ping pong in the rainy winter and to store our ladder and paint cans now.  And if we want to rebuild, it’s likely it will not be allowed in the same location — on the property line, butting up on the alley.  Who even knows about the electricity? I assume there’s power to the box, but all those spliced and taped cords strung across the ceiling? Not priority.  Besides, it’s still raining.

And then there’s the bathroom. We ordered the fixture for the shower, but when we got the plumber out here, he’s not very excited about the custom installation, and not very confident it’s a good idea to have it all hang from the ceiling with no wall support. Eh. I can handle this sort of challenge normally — gleefully make call after call, research the shit out of it — but… eh. I don’t care right now.

May. So far.

And maybe it shows.  But really, we’re insanely busy.  See our May calendar? There are 28 sports games (between Sam, Max, Matthew and Ben), 11 physical therapy and doctor and dental appointments for me, orthodontist and dental appointments for the kids, dog training for Booker, and not-to-mention (OK, I’m mentioning it), all the practices and laundry and school events (open house! spring concert!)… it gets to the point of… Mom=numb, apathetic.

And I hate numbness and apathy.  But in regards to the house — it’s still standing, so that’s what matters right now. It’s a lovely house, strong and supportive. Big and comforting.  It holds our family well.

(Please, house, carry us through May.)

Related

What were we talking about?

I’m certain that I will write again soon, but Little League has started, family has visited, and I have pregnancy-brain.

Until I remember to download the photos from my camera and delight you with tales of homemaking and housekissing, let me share this photo of Grandpa:

Here he is last night, 99 1/2 years old, mowing the lawn. Love you, Grandpa! What a hardworking, unstoppable inspiration. (He probably is just doing this because Mom offered to mow or something, and he doesn’t want her to touch the mower. Right, Mom?)

Small Improvements

I haven’t written much, though I want to. I have ideas, topics I want to share — the paint colors, a kitchen tour, the playroom.  The least I could do is show you the boys’ rooms someday.

But all we’ve done is make small improvements — a new bathroom faucet, some wall repair, small talk of a painting party so we can get the major painting completed (the walls, if not the trim) — and I haven’t stolen the time to tend to my blog.

Many, many apologies.

I am working a 3/4 day “from home” with a cold, sitting in front of this stove, hoping it will burn the bugs out of my head.  Basketball season is over, baseball (and t-ball for little people!) starts soon. We have more cleats to buy, rain to wish away, and schedules to juggle.  I got an exploratory quote for new windows throughout the house, took detailed measurements of our bathroom for fixture-ordering, and filed taxes.  I have a hundred photos on my camera to share, but the last thing I want to do is venture to my cold office to find the USB cord.

So I will share one picture. I couldn’t bother with the scanner (also in my cold office), so I emailed this from my cell phone.  This could be the most unexpected, inconceivable conception to-date.  Here’s the project that’s been consuming me lately (please send food):

Dealing With Lead Paint

(I had pictures of this process but can’t for the life of me find them. Betcha a dollar they’re on the camera.)

We were convinced our house had lead paint just based on the age of the house, so it wasn’t a surprise when checking the cracked and chipped paint in various areas (windowsills, baseboards) that the test kit turned an immediate bright red.

The worst area was a window that had been left open by the previous tenants for their cat to come and go. The wet weather in our area caused the paint to crack and chip down to the bare wood.

This window was in the room that was to be the playroom for the kids, and it was a priority for me to take care of this one area before we moved in.

Precautions

From what I understand about lead poisoning, my body would not absorb as much lead if I were healthy to begin with. A good blood iron level is important as well, as lead is more readily absorbed by those with low iron counts.  I tried to focus on lots of vegetables that week, drank lots of water, and thought healthy thoughts. (It works!)

I didn’t buy a respirator, but I did take care to wear good disposable gloves, and to change my clothes before going to the other house.

The Process

I wasn’t going to dare scrape the dry paint around the window.  After much research online and calls around town to every paint department, I had a plan.

  1. Strip the paint

    I used a chemical paint stripper that did not contain Methylene chloride. I learned methylene chloride could be quite nasty, and also was cautioned not to use it for lead-based paint (I can’t find my reference, so can’t be sure now).

    I used Smart Strip. It goes on like a paste, and after a good 24 hours, could be scraped off without creating any lead dust. (However, it does create a lot of sticky mess.)  It even says it’s OK for using on lead-based paint, and it says it’s green or environmentally friendly, or something. Which I highly doubt. (Seriously. It’s a chemical paste which softens paint. How can that be “green”?)

  2. Seal the wood and remaining paint

    After stripping all that I could, I cleaned up the sill and sash with denatured alcohol, and painted with Peel Bond.  This smooths out the transition from the unstripped paint to the bare wood, as well as seals it from further cracking or chipping.

    It is a bit like white glue, has little smell, and … is a lot like glue.  Dries clear.

  3. Primer

    After that, a good layer of primer.  The surface will still be uneven, but it matches the rest of the house that way.

 

I used the process above for the worst of the cases (the windowsill and sash in the playroom).  For the very small areas on the baseboards that just had chipped and loose paint, I did the following:

 

  1. I used a wet paper towel to dampen the paint.
  2. Gently chipped away the loosest areas
  3. Cleaned up all chips and dust with wet paper towels, and placed them directly into plastic bag for disposal.
  4. After the area was dry, used Peel Bond to prevent further chipping and smooth the area a little.

I’ve since read about The Silent Paint Remover, which uses infrared heat to soften the paint (without heating it to dangerous levels and releasing lead). It reportedly doesn’t create dust, and won’t require shaving or sanding.  Sounds dreamy, huh?  Might have to invest in one (rent, borrow, steal) when we tackle the stairway banister.  (When’s that? 2 years?)

Quite the Disorganized Move

(Unless we’re comparing disorganization to creature count, in which case, we rock! All 19 of us creatures great and small. Two adults, three children, four cats, four fish, two hamsters, two mice, a dog and a frog.)

We moved.

Image

The kitchen dining area may or may not look like this still.

I wish I could end the post there. Just leave it there, not look at it anymore, not dissect it, or reveal the meaning or contents of that effort. That transition. That enormously painful month: two weeks ramping up; two days (three days four days five days) moving crap, cleaning crap, tying up loose ends; two weeks soothing the children and correcting our lives.

It was hard.

The older boys adjusted beautifully, for the most part.  There is the sadness and boredom that comes after moving so far away from their best friends (three blocks away, to be exact), and no longer being able to run out barefoot for a game of catch, at least not without making a phone call, or some other huge motion, like putting on shoes and taking a short walk.

Sam — that’s another story.  And I’m not sure I’m far enough away from it to talk about it. He was really shooken up.  I’m still sore in my gut, and can’t bear to look in my heart, and I don’t want to analyze it in my head. Let’s just say he’s better now, and four out of five days, he can manage to simply tell me goodbye when I leave for work.  And when I get home from work, after a snuggle and some time together, he runs off to play with Max.

This is huge.  He plays with Max!  Max can now enter a room without Sam screeching with anxiety.

We’re all better because of it.

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And now we can get some work done.  Those tasks we left unfinished before the move?  They’re still unfinished.  But we’re chipping away at them.  The uncovered lead paint, damaged and dirty baseboards, unpainted walls — I’m working at it. The old drapery hardware is taken down. The funky shutters are off the wall. I’m *this close* to painting the trim.  We’ve removed the dead rat that was between our kitchen cabinets.  Ben has built shelves and tables and hung hooks and fixed kitchen drawers.  He’s almost hooked up the washing machine, and we’ve finally come to accept the fact that it takes a full weekend for one of us to finish a three-hour task.  Or almost finish it at least.

I might not have a full update until the new year, so hold tight and don’t forget about us.