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Back to the house renovations.  I’ve gotta be honest about that “before” picture I posted last week of the exterior of our house: it really never looked that bad. It was quite lovely in fact. In that photo, the shutters had already been removed, leaving behind dusty shadows around the windows, all the porch furniture and flowers and door wreath were missing, and, to top it off, it was gray and overcast outside.  Sort of like the personal makeover pics that show women with no make-up, greasy hair and a scowl on their faces.  If that’s the standard we use, then I’m a makeover candidate every single morning (scowl included — I’m not much for mornings).

But anyway, that photo was definitely for exaggerated effect.  Progress is moving along in other areas as well. Here are some photos of the rear of the house (compare to these from a few weeks ago):

Boy, our neighbors must be pleased

And the side:

The porch is almost done (one more week) but the guys have spent most of their time and energy working on the inside lately.  The dry wallers came over the weekend so now the rooms are actually taking shape.

The bathroom:

Corner window over bathtub

Site of future shower

Closet:

As yet uncluttered!

And the brand new and super fabulous bay window in our bedroom:

More soon, I hope!

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Well, that was quite a homecoming. As I pulled up to the house yesterday afternoon, I was on the phone with my sister-in-law hearing all the details from her fabulous swimming experience and suddenly I started squealing, “Oh my god, I LOVE my house! I LOVE MY HOUSE!”

She said, “Go, get off the phone, enjoy it.”

Sooooooo … remember this place?

Now this place:

Love, love, love it.

Our house has been invaded. Third floor to basement, inside and out, from 8 am to 7 pm every day of the week.

It all started with the porch project. This was one of those big plans we had when we first bought the house (exactly two years ago) but put on hold until we sold the other house (exactly three months ago). We happen to live on a lot and a half, which gives us an extra large side yard, most of which we’ve decided to turn into a huge Victorian-style porch that comes off our kitchen, without losing any of the play space in the backyard. We laid the foundation last fall and then began in earnest this spring. It’s almost finished and spectacularly gorgeous and I promise we’ll invite you all over for a drink one of these fabulous summer evenings.

We’ve also long planned to paint the exterior of the house this summer, which starts on Monday. And Mark and I are actively re-landscaping the front, shoveling an awful lot of dirt on these fabulous summer evenings (instead of enjoying a cool drink with friends on that lovely porch).

There were a few windows that had yet to be replaced, so that’s been happening this week, with a crew of five guys, who are very pleasant but reek of cigarette smoke, traipsing in and out all day long, upstairs, downstairs, in between. Which is just great when Braedan starts randomly opening doors as I’m changing my clothes and — lo and behold — there just happens to be a strange man on a ladder outside the window. Great.

I’m sure our neighbors love us!

And since the invasion was already underway, we decided to do it all at once (and get it over with) and tackle our master suite renovation. Demolition started last week and we are now sequestered to the front half of the upstairs, having lost access to our bathroom, three closets and two small bedrooms.


Our someday master bedroom

Our someday master bathroom

And the someday master closet …
It really will be lovely, I swear.

Now I’m not complaining or anything (am I?) because I know I am extremely lucky to be able to do all this and we are very very excited for the end product, which will basically be our dream house. But it is a little hard to feel so invaded (especially when I’ve been caring for sick kids). The guy who is doing our indoor renovation is also the guy who is building our porch and happens to be a friend of ours. The second day of demo, as I balked at the temporary walls he was constructing to contain the dust and debris, he kindly said, “Listen, this is your house. You have to tell me if something isn’t okay and if you want it done another way.”

“Well, sure,” I replied, “except that there’s no other way to do this. What should I tell you?  Finish tomorrow and get on outta here?”

No, can’t do that. Instead we’re the ones who’re gonna get on outta here.

More from the road ….

No, not “Finally, I heard from some fabulous literary agent in New York and she said my work is fabulous and she really wants to read my full (and fabulous) manuscript.”

But yes, finally (finally!), we have sold our house on Edgehill. It is currently under contract, all papers having been officially signed today. (Donna, I wasn’t ignoring your question a week ago, but didn’t want to jinx myself.)

A huge relief, to say the least. The constant maintenance of two houses has been a bit much for us (I mean, for Mark). It’s been a long time coming, made especially obvious by last week’s one-year anniversary of our move to this house. We got a price that we’re happy with (although if you had named this particular price a year ago, we would have laughed in your faces, but, hey, it’s all relative).

So, now we just need to hold the official inspection and then move our remaining stuff (ie, junk) out of the garage and basement and hand over the keys.

Yahoo!

… of sorts.  Tomorrow it will be one year since we moved into our new house. And while that makes me feel a bit guilty about the number of boxes still stacked in the guest room, I could not be more pleased at the drastic difference between our lives then and our lives now.

We were stuck in those awful months of never knowing where we would sleep each night. I remember the Friday before we moved, eating dinner with Mark’s parents who had come by to help us finish packing, when I went upstairs to wake Austin from an unusually late nap. And he was burning hot.

Oh, the dreaded fever. Anything but a fever right now! But a fever it was. So I called the oncology department and they told me what I already knew: pack a bag and get on down here.

We spent the next two nights in the hospital, while random friends came over to pack up our house. I had had grand plans of weeding out all the useless stuff instead of moving it along with us. But no, I opened boxes over the following weeks stuffed to the brim with everything from matchbox cars to pots and pans to shoes too small for either of my boys.

I had to beg and plead and cajole and threaten the doctors and nurses to speed everything up so we could spend our very last night together in the only home either of my children had ever known. We made it, Austin and I released on noon the day before the moving trucks arrived.

What a lot of drama for one family to endure, my god. But today, this is home. And we rest assured that we will get to sleep here each night.

Hi ho, it’s off to work we go.

Daddy wears a tie to work every day, so, naturally, yesterday the boys insisted on wearing their ties (left over from a wedding many years ago) too:

Once downtown, they quickly raided Mark’s candy jar before smiling for some photos:

Then today, we visited Braedan’s new classroom, although have yet to meet his teacher.  We did, however, encounter a few “big kids” on the playground who described her as both “great” and “awesome.” I almost paid them off in bubble gum to see how that lifted Braedan’s spirits.

And later, while doing our last minute school shopping, I suggested buying a new blue soap dispenser for our downstairs bathroom until Braedan, with an exasperated huff, said, “Mom, that’s glass! Don’t you think we’ve had enough trouble with glass lately?”

I guess it’s time for that child (or his mother?) to go back to school.

In other unrelated news, remember that old house on Edgehill?  Yup, still for sale.  We almost sold it in July but ultimately turned down what we thought was a terrible offer. We’re now selling it ourselves and it’s listed here on For Sale By Owner. Please, please, please, share that link with anyone you know you might be looking for a house in Cleveland Heights. We’re hosting an Open House this Sunday from 12 -2, so send any and all possible interested parties on over.

It truly is a wonderful house, but happens to sit in that in-between price range: nicer and more expensive than a typical first home but not so large or fancy that those untouched by the economic downturn would choose it. For most of our potential buyers, it would be a second house upgrade, which means they have a first house to sell, which means (of course) they’re deciding to wait it out.

But, you know, I look at this and know I can’t complain too much about anything:

It had been almost a full year since we’d last been to Chautauqua. And that’s a very long time for us. We left in a hurry one Friday last July when our friend’s mother was in the hospital, shortening our vacation by a few days to be with them.

And then August came and our house was newly on the market so we felt pressure to spend every Saturday mowing and mopping to prepare for Sunday’s open house. Then September, and we got the keys to the new house and wanted nothing more than to delve into cleaning and painting and wallpaper-stripping. Suddenly it was October and unexpectedly cool and rainy, forcing the cancellation of a possible weekend or two at the lake. And before we knew it, all hell broke loose and we found ourselves hospital-bound for the following six months.

So a year goes by and we’re somehow older and somehow wiser and everything seems different and everything feels so, so the same. We arrive late Friday night and the boys go scurrying off to revisit their bunk beds, where they sleep squashed together on that oh-so-sacred top. The next three days are filled with trips to the waterfront to throw rocks, boat rides to Bemus Point for ice cream cones, and endless firework displays from all corners of the lake.  We eat breakfast, lunch and dinner out on the porch, usually before a spectacular sunset. We venture indoors only long enough to watch some equally spectacular soccer matches. And everything is as it’s always been.

We are a family of four, alive, together and ever hopeful for the future.

We were released right on time yesterday, home by 1 pm, no crazy last minute procedures or tests or delays. About time we had an easy visit, huh?

And we got word on Friday that someone was preparing to make an offer on our house! We thought it might come in by the end of that day, and then were told we’d have it by the end of Saturday. Well, this morning our realtor told us that the couple, whose previous offer on another house had been rejected, decided at the last minute to offer more on that house as ours was their second choice. We were bummed all day, having felt so close to scratching that massive item off our massive to-do list. Then this evening our realtor called again to say their higher offer was also rejected and the agent was finalizing the paper work and we’d have an offer within the hour. Ah, phew, finally. An hour later the phone rings and my whole family, who was over for dinner, was clamoring about going,”It’s your realtor! This is the offer!  Hurry, hurry, grab the phone!”

Weeelll, because nothing is ever so simple, the other sellers apparently called the couple back just moments before and accepted their offer after all. And that was that; in an instant our buyers slipped away and were gone.

Ugh. But we have had a lot of activity.  Ten showings in the past three weeks, which is more than we had the entire five months it was on the market last year. So, it’ll happen, it’ll happen. One of these days, it will just happen.

But, aside from that major disappointment, all has been well here. Austin feels mostly fine; threw up this morning but then had a fairly normal day. He’ll get to go to school tomorrow before heading in for labs. We expect he’ll need blood again, which means another eight-hour Transfusion Tuesday watching springtime from the wrong side of a window.

Oh, and please remember to sign up for the CureSearch Walk as part of Team Austin by clicking here. If you’re registering your entire family, choose the option that says “Register multiple walkers at once” which will save you from having to enter your contact information over and over again for each of your kids or family members.  Thanks to those of you who’ve already registered or donated or who’ve found the walks in your own cities. I really hope we can have a strong presence in honor of our little guy. And it’d be nice to see all of you in person for once!

This is like some big cosmic joke.

Last night was fine: typical, long, with many interruptions for checking blood pressure and administering medications.  In between the two bags of blood, he was given a diruetic to lower his blood pressure so he peed through his diaper (twice) and we neeeded to change the sheets at 2am. None of this is unusual; just makes for less-than-restful sleep.

His platelets had finally gone up as evidenced by this morning’s lab work and we had a new plan for monitoring his blood pressure (which I’ll explain later), so we were cleared to go pending one good blood pressure reading. Which we still haven’t gotten. After the bags were packed, we were informed we’d be staying another night to make sure the many tweaks to his meds take effect. I had conveniently run out of insulin and, thinking I’d simply be home soon to refill my pump, hadn’t eaten anything. So, my mom, the other regular player in our musical caregiver game, came to relieve me.

Mark, meanwhile, woke up early and filled my station wagon with all our lawn tools to take over to the old house in preparation for today’s showing and tomorrow’s open house.  (Had you forgotten about that old house? Yes, we had too — basically just ignoring it since our move and hoping it might disappear. After a month and no disappearance, Mark put in a solid three weeks of work, patching nail holes and polishing floors. It just went back on the market last week and we have two scheduled showings plus an open house this weekend so are very hopeful. Anyway . . .) he was heading over to do lawn work and stopped at a stop sign when — Bam! — the lawnmower backed up and the handle smashed through my rear window. Oh lovely. You know even the ever-calm Mark was dropping f-bombs with that one!

Then (because there’s more), after he cleaned the bits of glass out the car and fixed up the yard, he rented a U-Haul truck to transport the rest of the swingset (which had been frozen into the ground on moving day). Buuuuuuuttttt, turns out it was too tall to fit in the truck. Luckily, there were five guys there replacing the furnace (rememeber that little problem?) so they helped him load it onto one of their flatbed trucks and ever-so-slowly drove it the two miles over here. But (there’s always a “but”), just past the very busy intersection of Coventry and Cedar, it fell off!  Simply slid off the back of the truck onto the road! Oh man. Thankfully the person behind them had enough sense to keep a safe distance. They all jumped out and hoisted it back up and off they went. It didn’t even break, if you can believe that.

So, here we are, making room in the backyard for the swingset, overseeing the installation of the new furnace, arranging for a major car repair, . . . and trying to lower Austin’s damn blood pressure. I mean really, it’s like some absurd comedy in which we unwittingly star. Our lives have become something of a joke. Thank god we have a sense of humor.

Long awaited photos of the kitchen, with a few of the “before” ones so you can fully appreciate the transformation.

My "new" kitchen, circa 1965

The “view” towards the backyard

A slight improvement, yes?

 Another lovely view
This next picture is really and truly the “after” of the above spot:

This is looking towards the front of the house and the small door to the traditional dining room,

that we’ve instead opened up and turned into the family room, giving us the best of  modern home design within a hundred-year-old house.

That’s it for now. Nothing else is ready to be photographed yet!

(And sorry for the ridiculous formatting — I imported pictures from a bunch of different locations and WordPress won’t let me correct it.  Can’t dwell on that for too long, now can I?)

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