Monday, November 28, 2011

The House: 17 weeks & Thanksgiving break

Right on the top of my post-vacation-to-do list was going out to the house and picking up the time cards, as well as doing a little tour to see how things are coming along. Now, we're actually into week 18 for building purposes (our build weeks run Saturday through Friday, remember), so I won't put up a house-by-house this week. Also because I'm really not sure where each house is at. But, I saw some pretty amazing and VERY exciting things as I did my little walking tour with Lee this morning.

#1 mostest awesomest thing ever--ROOFING ON ALL 9 HOUSES IS DONE!!! I suppose there's one house that needs about four shingles trimmed still, and then a couple of houses have some decorative eaves above the garage door that needs to be done, but the actual climbing on the roof and laying shingles and cutting out vents and things like that is now complete. What a major relief. Now the snow can be beautiful again. And, I'll have you note that this is about two weeks faster than our build manager predicted. (I'm not saying we're ahead of schedule. I'm enough of a construction worker now to ever say that.)

#2 Amazing happy thing--Our rough plumbing is done! *remember that sub contractors do plumbing and heating

#3 do-a-dance thing--Our heating is almost entirely done, including vents, furnace, floo, and duct work.

#4 leap of a heart--The front of our house has been tented and the tar paper and mesh has been applied to the front, so we are ready to roll with scratch coat and then stone.

In case you noticed and were wondering why the mesh is about a foot away from the window: shutters.

We can't wait for Tuesday when we get to go build again! It's amazing how much we've missed building while we were on our trip. We miss our neighbors and the camaraderie and the exercise and the air, and we miss our home. We're happy to be back now.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

California Extravaganza

Here I am, on the last day of our vacation. Cody is washing the kids upstairs after playing on the beach. I'm washing some laundry so that we'll have clean clothes to wear in the van tomorrow as we drive home. It has been a wild crazy week, but a nice change from the normal crazy.

Major highlights from the last week (since I think you'll probably like highlights better than a mile long travelog):

Making pies and enjoying Sara and Eric's Pad Thai
The Beach
Taking lots and lots of naps (I think Cody averaged 2.5 a day while we were here)
The kids' talent show
Reading books with Grandpa
A plethora of smart phones
Family pictures
Playing at the park
Thanksgiving Dinner, of course! (And all gluten-free, except for the rolls)
Nearly wetting ourselves with nerves from the crazy Californian drivers
Movie night
Near constant snacking

And endless fun.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

*end* of this week

Wow. It has been a big week, and my list feels rather untouched. I'm going to re-post it now, after a week of work and with my changes. Maybe after I do that I'll realize that I haven't wasted this week away, and I'll be proud of myself for what I did do.

-Finish shingling our roof, and also try to put in extra hours at the house, especially Saturday 11/19 *DONE!
-Do laundry *Done
-Clean house *Absolutely NOT done. But, we have been doing the dishes and I did get a chance to sweep and mop the floors and scrub the bathrooms. So right now it is just cluttered.
-Find volunteers to build next week, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday 11/26 *Done
-Return some clothes to Kohl's and maybe get myself a new shirt *Done, though I didn't get myself a new shirt... I did one better. New pants. Aaah.
-Finish 2 Christmas projects *Done, and can I just brag about how awesome they all turned out?
-Wrap 3 Christmas presents *Wish it were done, but I lost the tape.
-Find GF graham crackers *Removed from my to-do list when my sister Kathy found them for me.
-Pack suitcases for a 5 day vacation *Kids clothes have been packed. Nothing else though. :/
-clean the van and kid's carseats *So close to done! I have the van emptied of all the crud and was about 3/4 of the way through vacuuming it when Katie was jumped on by two little hooligans and I realized my opportunity to finish it had just passed. Hopefully that opportunity will come back before Monday.
-Make bread, probably twice. *Gave up on this one... hey, something's gotta give. We mostly ended up eating chicken nuggets and pizza this week.
-Find someone to pick up time cards *Done

Other things that weren't on my list but still got completed:
-A massive-o shopping trip in a horrible snow storm to get all of our trip supplies
-Everyone was fed, everyone was bathed, everyone was clothed... well, mostly clothed. okay. I admit it. Anna and Katie barely made it out of their PJ's every day and Cody spent the week in sweats, and I think Lee kept putting on dirty pairs of socks that he would hide at the foot of his bed at night. THERE! I said it!
-I snuck out to see Breaking Dawn at midnight on Friday with my sister Sara.
-I only lost it about four times. Pretty good, I'd say, trying to plan and pack for a week-long vacation with 3 kids while my husband worked 60 hours plus this week.

We all have a tendency to set way too high of goals for ourselves. A thought I've had a lot recently is: Decrease your expectations and increase your gratitude. Instead of being frustrated that so much didn't get done, I need to be grateful for everything that did get done. And, I need to be very grateful that I still have Sunday and Monday morning to finish the packing!

Friday, November 18, 2011

The House: 16 weeks building

I called it: last Friday's big volunteer push really revived spirits and got us excited again. Consequently, this has been a great week!

Saturday morning, which is the first day of our build week, dawned rainy, which turned to snow about ten in the morning. We simply can't roof with any type of precipitation, so our building manager told us not to come in until the weather cleared at about 2. It was actually really nice to have a few hours to take naps and play with Daddy, especially considering that he's been going out to build every available moment. Cody has been very dedicated, and the past two weeks has put in a total of about eighty hours at the site. We've been watching the weather like hawks and try to be building whenever the weather permits, whether it's a required day or not--even having dinner and FHE at the house on Monday so that Daddy could work into the night. We miss him and his hands are all scratched up, but he's been able to get a lot done and we are that much closer to a home of our own!
Driveway cutout!
Here's where the houses are at now:
House 1: rough electrical done (still tented for stone), back porch poured
House 2: back porch poured, Roof finished
House 3: Roof Finished, tented for stone
House 4: Roof started and finished
House 5: heating vents and furnace in, Roof started and nearly finished
House 6 (ours!): heating vents started, back porch poured, Roof started and finished
House 7: Roof started and finished
House 8: black tar paper on for stone
House 9: no change

Today, Friday 11/18, we have no required hours and it's also rainy--which is great. Tomorrow will probably clear up. It's good to have an excuse to spend a day getting ready for our vacation. Now, time for a quick story. As you all know, we're supervised by a licensed contractor, our supervisor Brent. He's a good guy and his primary job is to teach us what to do and to make sure we don't make mistakes (or at least fix them when we do). We asked him if we had a general time frame for when we'd be done. He's estimating mid-April, and roughly around this schedule: Finishing Roofing--Mid-December; Finishing stone work and all exterior--Mid-February; Finishing interiors and the open-house--mid-April. At first we were all kind of depressed at this news. But I'd much rather look at is as a challenge. He thinks it will take 4 more weeks to finish the roofing--let's prove him wrong! 9 weeks to rock? Let's do it in 8 or less! Already we're ahead of his little schedule. We have less than 3 houses to shingle now, and that won't take four weeks. But anyway, that's the "plan" as of now. Good thing to have for posterity.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The House: A beautiful sight

I was going to save this for the end of the build week, but I'm just too excited about it. Cody, with the help of some great volunteers and group members, finished this on Tuesday, 11/15:

(there's still a few shingles that need to be trimmed and we plan to paint the plumbing vents black... but all the shingles are on. AMAZING!!!!)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sometimes I just love myself.

I forgot how awesome all my Holiday Prep posts from last year were. I hope you all are having fun getting ready for Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 14, 2011

This week

This week is going to be another very busy week. Just for fun, and for posterity's sake, I thought I'd write up my to-do list. And, so I have an easy place to check what we still have left.

-Finish shingling our roof, and also try to put in extra hours at the house, especially Saturday 11/19
-Do laundry
-Clean house
-Find volunteers to build next week, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday 11/26
-Return some clothes to Kohl's and maybe get myself a new shirt
-Finish 2 Christmas projects
-Wrap 3 Christmas presents
-Find GF graham crackers
-Pack suitcases for a 5 day vacation
-clean the van and kid's carseats
-Make bread, probably twice
-Find someone to pick up time cards

And why is my list so long this week, other than it's always long? (and why doesn't my list look more like this?) Because next week we're going to California for Thanksgiving! It's been months since we even left our city, and over a year since we've gone on any type of vacation. We really, really need this trip. We've been so overworked and stressed with the building and Cody's 2 jobs and three kids... yes, it is time for a little vacation. It's going to take some major organization to make it happen, but we're determined. Here we go!

Friday, November 11, 2011

The House: Alisa's Volunteer effort

Cody's sister Alisa is the bombdiggity. She is a college student and has classes during the weekdays (well, duh), which makes it really hard for her to volunteer at the house during weeknights. We totally understand, and told her not to worry about it--but she asked us if she could come out on a Friday. Well, even a week in advance today's weather looked good, so we told her to come. She asked if while she was coming out, if a few of her friends could come with. I heartily agreed and promised dinner to whomever she could round up.

What was going to be a small group quickly escalated, as things with dinner tend to do in a college environment, and soon we had a huge list of volunteers signed up! I made two massive pots of soup (about 4 gallons total between Bacon Corn Chowder and Chili), and recruited some help to make desserts and bread. Then, we toted everything out and put people to work.

All in all, Alisa was able to round up 25 volunteers--more than we've ever had on the site thus far. Add to that several family members who came, and also we had most of our group come out to help teach people what to do, and this evening--which is normally not required hours--we had 38 people on the site! That's incredible! We usually average about 14. In a matter of about 3 hours, we worked hard on roofing, keeping 6 nail guns unusually busy; did scratch coat on another house, and installed the last of the basement windows that arrived. It was an amazing few hours--just what the doctor ordered before we get more snow this weekend.

I feel like I should give another quick update, since things changed so much tonight from where they were even yesterday (I won't put anything in that didn't change from yesterday, so you can see exactly what happened today):
House 1-Tented for stone, basement windows finished
House 3-roof nearly completed
House 4-Scratch coat on
House 5-roof started
House 6 (ours!)-roof started, nearly 1/2 the way done
House 7-roof nearly completed
All 9 Houses: stone delivered! I had a fun time going from house to house, looking at each family's choices for stone. Our grey, square stone has beautiful hues of blue in it that I think will be highlighted by our siding. I couldn't be more thrilled with our choice.

Today was a good, hard work day. We needed it. We needed to see some fast, big progress to rev our spirits back up. Thanks Alisa!!

8 months old

Today Katie is 8 months old! My how time flies! I like looking back at my monthly posts about her and seeing her developmental progress.

This month Katie likes to stand up more than she likes to sit down. She won't hold still unless she's asleep, and even then she moves around. She will pull herself to a stand on anything she can grab, including mom's pant leg, or a scooter Anna is trying to drive, or even just a pillow on the ground. She's getting better balance at it every day, and only needs to hold on with one hand to stay steady. She also likes to dance when she's standing, and is getting better about sitting on her bum instead of face planting when it's time to get back down.

Katie has two new little friends in her mouth now, and boy are they sharp! She hasn't bit mom yet, which we hope stays that way. Teething has been kind of hard for her, and she's been drooly and grumpy. Anything that touches her hand goes immediately to her mouth.

Speaking of going to her mouth, Katie has taken a serious liking to solid foods, as long as she can feed herself. She hates having a spoon jabbed at her face, so we do a clever little dance of letting her hold her own spoon. It takes a lot of concentration to feed Katie a bowl of baby food! She also likes to eat little bites of cooked vegetables, bread, rice, pasta, or her little "baby treats." She also loves drinking from a cup, when she gets the opportunity.

Katie is a fast crawler and wants to be where the action is. As I'm typing this, Katie is trying to get in the bedroom where Lee and Anna are playing. They keep closing the door so she can't see them, and every time they do, she cries. Then they open the door, and she's happy as can be.

Katie handles being away from mommy pretty well. The acceptance of solid foods and the ability to crawl really helps her to be independent. While I spend as much time as I possibly can caring for my children, we're also trying to build a house and I occasionally need some alone time (Heaven forbid!). It's good to know that she can be happy when someone else is in charge.

Lastly, something very cute that Katie does and is unique to her: we call it "sniffy nose." She scrunches up her lips, squints her eyes, and breathes nosily through her nose. Then she smiles. It makes us laugh every time!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The House: 15 Weeks

This week has been kind of slow. On Saturday--our biggest work day--there was an inch of fresh snow everywhere that kept us wet and very cold. I took Cody and the crew lunch on Saturday, and when I got there, Cody was soaking wet and half frozen to death. He'd been installing drip lip without brushing the snow off the roof first. He used his rock climbing gear to harness himself to the roof, and he was just sliding back and forth to get where he needed. So, I ended up trading him pants and buying him a package of socks just so he could dry off and get warm. Yes, that did mean that I drove home with a baby blanket over my lap. :)

Things we've been working on this week: Cody has been the lone man on the drip lip job. Then we have two small teams of roofers, a small team of guys doing scratch coat (the first coat of mortar on the front of the houses where the stone goes), and the girls have been working on the metal frame work, the black tar paper and mesh backing for the stone.

Meanwhile, we did have some good work done by our subcontractors this week--and it's a good thing too. Cody went out for a few non-required hours on Monday simply because the weather was good. He talked to our plumbers and heating guys, and they promised us all nine houses would be ready to roof very soon. It's been good to see the plumbers out there, since they've been MIA for a month or so.

Here's where the houses are:
House 1: Shingles finished, scratch coat on for stone.
House 2: Shingles almost finished, scratch coat on for stone.
House 3: Shingles about 3/4 done, scratch coat on.
House 4: Drip lip done, mesh framework for stone on.
House 5: drip lip done, plumbing done, heating vents done.
House 6 (ours!): plumbing done
House 7: Shingles started, drip lip done, plumbing done
House 8 & 9: drip lip done, plumbing and heating vents cut through roof so we can shingle

*At this point, all 9 houses are either getting shingled, or are ready for shingles. To be ready for shingles, they must have tar paper/roof underlay down, drip lip on, and have the plumbing and heating vents run through the roof.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Quiet Kindergarten moments

I'm sitting here enjoying the warm sunshine streaming through the front window and hitting my toes. I realized it's been a while since I've sat and rambled about life, other than building the house, that is.

With Lee in Kindergarten, I get a few hours of just two kids at home a day. I always have these grandiose plans that I'm going to pack boxes or deep clean a bedroom or scrub the kitchen. And somehow, it rarely gets done.

But occasionally, I get one of these quiet moments where Katie is napping and Annalisa is playing nicely and I try to decide if I should quickly attempt one of my projects or just enjoy the quiet. Today, I'm just going to enjoy the quiet and de-stress a bit. I encourage you all to do the same. :)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Meet Napoleon.

"I caught you a delicious bass."

I probably should have seen this coming, but I thought I had put my foot down hard enough to avoid it. You see, we have a friend who likes fish tanks. He decided Cody should have one, so he brought us one one day.

I'm not talking about a little bitty fish bowl. I'm talking about a 50 gallon behemoth. "Now you can have your own fish tank!"

50 gallons? For a family who will be moving in a few months? NO, I said, unequivocally NO. NO fish until after we move. The end. Period. Do I make myself clear?

Cody called me one day and asked me to go take measurements so he could build a reinforcement for the tank in the basement. I asked him why he needed to reinforce the tank if it was going to remain empty until after we move. He avoided the question. I went downstairs with a measuring tape and saw two inches of water and some rocks in the bottom of the tank: cleansing solution.

NO! NO FISH until AFTER we move! THE END! I do NOT want to move a full 50 gallon tank in the dead of winter! PERIOD! Do I make myself clear?

That night, Cody came home and built the reinforcements himself.


The next day, after church, our friend calls us up and says, "Hey! I've got a surprise for you! Can I stop by?" He comes in with a...

large mouth bass.

Then he tells us we'll need to go to the pet store in the morning and buy a filter for a 50 gallon tank so that the fish won't die.

For the record: Fish are not good gifts to give friends.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Thanksgiving Turkey Hairbow Tutorial

Because of the raging success of my other tutorials (that is sardonic), I thought I'd put one up of my Thanksgiving Turkey Hairbows! Please let me know if you like these tutorials, because they're kind of a lot of work to put together, and if nobody likes them, I might as well save my time. :)

How to make a Thanksgiving Turkey Hairbow
Preface-- This is one of the more complicated hairbows I make. I find a lot of joy in making these, which is why I do it. It takes some time, and is more like sculpting ribbon than tying knots. It also uses a lot of small pieces that have to be hot glued, so I try to hold things with clothes pins or use my scissors to push down on them so I can avoid burning myself. I must also apologize for the quality of the photos: they were taken on my phone. I hope you can see what to do, even if the photos are kind of poor.
Tip #1--If you want to make two matching bows so you can put them on pig tails, make two at the same time. Cut your ribbons at the same time, do each step twice in a row. That way you'll end up with two that look almost identical. If you make them one at a time, you'll be more prone to cut a ribbon longer on one or put your feathers on in a different order, and end up with Turkeys that don't match. I always make 1 bow for my baby on an alligator clip, so I can attach it to a head band; and 2 bows on barrettes for my 3 year old who has enough hair to put in pigtails.

You will need:
-brown ribbon (in this tutorial, I use 1/2 inch thick ribbon because that was what I could find at the store. I've also used 3/8 inch thick, which have been very cute as well, just a little less chubby.)
-Other "Thanksgiving colors" for your feathers. I am using red, yellow, and green. Orange would also be great, or even cream.
-Red and orange/yellow ribbon for the beak, wattle, and feet
-googly eyes
-alligator clips or barrettes
-hot glue and scissors, of course!

1) Cut your ribbons for your body and feathers. I like to do each of these about 2" long. You'll need three pieces of brown for the body, and a total of five feathers (I really like 2 red, 2 yellow, and 1 green). You could do extra long feathers, of course, or do each one a different color, or do more than five--it is up to you.
2) Glue your brown strips into plain loops, so they make O's. Cross over the feathers and glue them together at the ends, so that they look like this:
3) Glue your brown loops together, putting the outside loops in the middle of the inside loop, like the Spider body tutorial, like this:
4) Now make the head. This is probably the most complicated step, so if you find it too tricky, just make a regular round loop. But here's how I do it: use a clothes pin to clip brown ribbon to a dowel. Then cross the ribbon over itself and glue down.
Repeat in the opposite direction (loop around the dowel, cross over itself, and glue down). In the end, it will be almost a figure eight pattern and you will have a wide side and a narrower side. Your "wide" side will have two pieces of ribbon that barely overlap, and kind of form a more rounded face for your turkey. This is the same way I make the heads on my Halloween Spiders. While the head is still on the dowel, I like to glue on my googly eyes. Then I cut the extra ribbon and slip it off of the dowel. Voila! nice round head!

5) Make the beak by crossing over a very small piece of yellow or orange ribbon and pulling it as tight on itself as you can, so it makes a triangle. Hint: fold it over and pull it tight, glue it, then trim off the extra. Don't cut it super short and try to glue the short ends together. You'll just end up burning yourself. I still use a clothes pin to hold it together so I can avoid touching the hot glue. These pictures should help:The red wattle is very simple: just a short piece of red with one angled side. The neck is optional, but very simple: fold over a 2" piece of brown ribbon on itself and glue shut. From the side, it will make a teardrop shape. Here's all my assembled pieces, ready to put together (body, head, feathers, neck, beak, wattle). I forgot to do the feet until later, but that's just an angled piece folded in half and glued on a slight angle so that they make a V.

6) Assembly time! On the bottom of the head, put a drop of glue and put the wattle on so that it sticks out under the eyes. Then put another drop of glue and place the beak on top, again making sure that it pokes out underneath the eyes in the direction you want. In other words: make sure you look at it from the front before gluing them on. I slipped my head back on the dowel to do this so I wouldn't burn myself.
Then put the neck on the back of the body.

Now attach the head to the neck, making sure the beak and wattle are between the head and the body... so the head is on straight. Look at it from the front as you do it, and you might have to kind of work at it to get the head on in the right direction to maximize cuteness.
Now flip the turkey over and put the feathers on the back. If you've lined your seams up right, all the feathers should go over seams and kind of cover them. I like to start with the outside feathers first and go in, so red first: Then yellow above and slightly on top:
And lastly the green one right in the middle.

Attach the feet of the turkey off the bottom. I forgot to take a very good picture of this step, but in the following picture's background you can see my partner turkey with the feet already on. It's not hard though: just dab glue and make sure the V feet poke out the bottom. 7) If using alligator clips, line one with ribbon (any color that matches, but I usually use brown for this one) and then put a line of glue on the clip and adhere it to the back of the turkey. If you need help knowing how to line the clip, see my Halloween Pumpkin tutorial.

At last, the final product:

The House: 14 weeks, 3 months done

There have been some pretty exciting changes this week! The most exciting for me (other than the free hot chocolate cards our neighbor gave to us): a DRIVEWAY! I literally squealed when I saw the forms and gravel delivered. On Tuesday the metal forms were there, the rebar was sticking out when we arrived. At about five, some guys came in and filled it with gravel. On Wednesday (11/2), during the day, they poured the concrete, then promptly covered it with blankets so that it wouldn't freeze and crack. They also put up big "Stay off the driveway!" signs. Our house is the third to get a driveway. I told you we were mixing up the order. When you see the layout of the neighborhood, you can understand it better... Here. I'll just show you.

*Map NOT drawn to scale, or even close to scale. Map Key:
White-A lot we're building on
blue-a lot that already has a house on it
green-empty land

So, now you can see how we're next to "House 2." Since House 1 and 2 were getting driveways this week, we got one as well. House 7 has a big pile of mortar in the front yard, so they weren't ready for a driveway yet; besides, the subcontractors are planning on doing 3 at a time. That's how many they can get done in a day, and they don't want to prep a house for a driveway and then leave the forms sitting there for very long. Like I said, right now we are moving around as it is convenient for us. When we were framing, we needed a little more space between houses so that we could frame and subcontractors could put in foundations and roofs and stuff. It's always been about what's the easiest to do in what order.

We've been building hard for over three months now. It's hard to say how far along we are, especially since we're now fighting the cold and dark, but I think we're hovering around a third to half way through the build. That's based off of comparisons with previous groups, and with the total hours we've put in so far.

So this week, Cody finished all the windows he possibly could put in (some haven't been delivered yet, or were delivered wrong), then moved on to "drip lip." This is a metal trim that goes on the eaves of the house, right under the shingles. It helps move water away from the house. Cody said it's not all that hard to put in, but you have to be on the un-shingled roof to do it. That means standing on the roof underlay, which is very slippery (especially in the dark, when the frost is forming). Cody is the smallest guy in our group... well, probably the smallest guy I've ever met... so he's good for this job. He doesn't fall as easily.

Now, on to what happened around the neighborhood this week.
All houses: power boxes put in! We have all underground utilities (no overhead power lines), so our power boxes are outside and the pipe that will contain all the cables was buried. This is pretty momentous: we can now get electricity to the houses.
House 1: Shingles on, driveway poured, mesh/framework done for the stone, first layer of mortar for stone
House 2: Shingles half way finished, driveway poured, mesh on for stone
House 3: mesh on for stone, drip lip done, first layer of mortar for stone
House 4: heating duct work done (by sub contractors)
House 5: no change
House 6 (ours!): driveway poured, drip lip done a few things fixed (like a door frame, some missing nails, a strip of Tyvek behind bathtubs that will hold up the insulation, etc)
House 7: dry-in done--including windows and doors, drip lip on, mesh on for stone
House 8: code wrap done, windows all installed, "clean up" completed. No exterior doors have been delivered yet.
House 9: code wrap done, windows installed (except for the gabled dormers, which we have to figure out how to do, and 2 windows which were delivered wrong), "clean up" completed

It's still hard work. Instead of coming home hot and sweaty we come home cold and shivering. But it's still exciting, and I'm still grateful for this opportunity and everything we're learning.