Posts Tagged ‘house’

Grateful

Tuesday, April 16th, 2019

I have discovered the secret to gratitude is to move into a 500 square foot apartment with no dishwasher, no washing machine and no parking.

First off, the good news is we now live in an old house that is officially lead-free. We can write “professionally lead abated” on our sales disclosure when we (maybe) sell the house someday. The kids shouldn’t be exposed to any more lead, we should be just one blood draw away from never having to do it again, and I am SO RELIEVED.

I learned a lot about myself and my attitudes while we were out of our house and living in the lead-safe apartment downtown last month. It was like a forced march into Marie Kondo’s brain, where I had the absolute minimum number of belongings and no secret shame storage closets. Everything in my purse, my under-sink cabinet, and my kids’ dressers was accounted for.

On the one hand, it was SO NICE to be done – completely done – with all my housework for once. After I swiffered and changed the litter box and picked up the toys I could sit on the couch and not have anything hanging over me. Even handwashing all the dishes (no dishwasher) and taking the laundry to the laundromat (no machine) was more of a novelty than an actual chore.

Of course, that was my life for three weeks, not forever. When your kids get the stomach flu at 2 am and you don’t have a washing machine, nothing is a novelty. Dragging every hamper you own full of puke-covered bedding (with the pukers in tow, because obviously they can’t go to school) into the laundromat and spending $25+ to get everything cleaned an sanitized is beyond stressful. I had to do that once (Well, once for Evan and once for Finnegan) knowing full well that in the near future I would be back in my house with the second-floor laundry and several sets of extra sheets. I knew all my stuff and my conveniences and shame closets were waiting for me. Yes, it’s a much bigger house to clean, but I felt very grateful I was going back to that mess.

Now that I’m back in the house, surrounded by things that spark joy (and even more things that do not), I am trying to hold on to the feelings of gratitude and lessons I learned.

  1. I do not need as much as I think I do. I need fewer clothes, fewer shoes, fewer kitchen gadgets, books, toys, pens, trinkets, makeup, everything than I currently have. I need to seriously consider any additional items I bring into the house. And I should take better care of the things I do have, because I am lucky to have them.
  2. I live a very easy, privileged life. It costs SO MUCH to use a laundromat. A couple of weeks worth of laundry for 6 people would pay for a serviceable washing machine. Of course, you need somewhere to put a washing machine, so if your apartment doesn’t have hookups you’re out of luck. If your laundry hookups are in the basement and you can’t do stairs, you’re out of luck. It also took me 3 hours to get our laundry done the first time. I don’t have a real job, so I have 3 hours to spend. But if you had a job, or two jobs, or three jobs it would be so exhausting. I could afford both the time and the money, which makes me a very lucky person.
  3. That being said, I can do hard things and survive them. Hard is an extremely relative term. My problems aren’t BIG problems but hard things are still hard. It can be hard to just get out of bed in the morning. It can be hard to make wise choices. It can be hard to pick up the phone even if the heat in your apartment stops working and it’s very very cold. Asking for help is hard. Raising kids is hard. LIFE IS HARD, even if your life isn’t extraordinarily hard. Right now my 2-year-old’s life is SUPER HARD because his brother got to the paper towels and cleaned up the puppy pee on the floor before he did.

I am always amazed at what humans can get used to quickly, especially young humans. My kids thought the whole apartment thing was an absolute adventure. Every time we drive past the apartment they say “HI OLD APARTMENT! Remember when we lived in that apartment? And we walked down to get pizza?!”

Add “resilient, flexible, fun children” to my list of things I am grateful for, which might be more important that any of the other stuff.

Old House Problem Number One Billion: Lead

Monday, February 4th, 2019

Sit down, friends, because this is a long-ass story.

In late summer 2017, not long after E had left for deployment, Lincoln and Finnegan had their 3 year and 1 year well-child check-ups. Because I hadn’t gotten Linc’s lead level checked at his 2nd birthday check-up, they sent us home with slips to get both boys’ levels checked.

When Evan and Caroline were babies, lead levels were done by finger prick test in the doctor’s office during the appointment. If the level was high or borderline, then you got sent for a venous blood draw at the lab. It was super easy and non-invasive and also I couldn’t lose the lab slips and then totally forget about it because it happened right there in the office.

A week or so after I wrangled two screaming, miserable children into the lab to get stabbed with needles (it always takes at LEAST two stabs, because they’re tiny people and have tiny veins), I got a call from the peds office saying their levels had come back elevated. They were both around an 11.

Up into very recently (2012), the cut-off for lead levels was a 10, which meant anything under a 10 was considered fine. Now it’s 5. They don’t actually classify it as lead poisoning or take any medical steps to treat it until it’s over 45. Just so you have a baseline for how elevated an 11 is.

Because both boys were under the age of 6, the pediatrician reported their lead levels to the town health department. I talked on the phone for a while with a health department nurse, who told me she wasn’t that concerned, it wasn’t a huge deal. We live in an old house, there’s probably still some lead paint around, although everything has been painted over at least five times. She suggested feeding them more red meat and getting a vitamin with iron.

A few days later, she called again. They wanted to come look at the house. OK.

I gave the nurse and her assistant a tour, I guess to prove that I wasn’t living in a falling down, unsafe shack. I showed them all the construction we had done over the summer when we had to have the kitchen ceiling and walls ripped out and the upstairs bathroom gutted. We talked about how the construction had caused a lot of dust and that was probably where the lead had come from. She seemed satisfied that since we weren’t doing any more construction, we were probably fine.

A few days later, she called again. She wanted to send someone out to do some lead sample testing. OK.

I scheduled an appointment with the woman who does sample testing. She was TWO HOURS late, with no excuse, and then was annoyed that I had an appointment and had to leave after 30 minutes. She also pointed at a bunch of places in my house and declared that they were DEFINITELY full of lead and going to be a HUGE problem. (Spoiler, she was completely wrong.)

She was SO rude to me, you guys. The whole thing was a miserable, degrading, exhausting mess and I’m a college-educated middle class english-speaking white lady. If I was someone who had to take off of work to make appointments or didn’t have a car to drive to the lab or all the free time necessary to fill out paperwork this would have been EVEN WORSE.  

When the surface lead tests came back, the good news is all the interior paint was fine. The lead seems to be isolated on the front porch, part of the basement, and the exterior of our original windows. But the bad news was the entire reason we hadn’t already replaced all the ancient windows in the house is because we don’t have that kind of cash, especially considering we had just paid to have the bathroom redone and the kitchen damage repaired.

The nurse from the health department suggested I look into state or federally funded grants that help people get the lead removed from their house. I spoke to a guy at the town who told me it was worth my time to fill out the paperwork, even though I was skeptical that we would fall within the income guidelines. I picked up the packet and spent days trying to fill it out. Because E was deployed and I didn’t have access to his email (neither did he) it took a million phone calls, faxes and copies of my power of attorney to get copies of his pay stubs, our taxes, insurance, mortgage, investments and everything else.

After I turned in the packet, that guy at the office assured me they would do their best to approve my application. Having four kids made us a priority, so they were going to move as fast as possible to get things started. That was October 2017.

I waited. Somewhere around Christmas, I got a call from a guy at a company called Connecticut Lead. He said since we were part of the lead abatement program, he needed to come to extensive lead testing on all of the surfaces, to make up an exact plan. I told him I had no idea we had been accepted by the program, but yay? I also told him he could come as soon as he wanted. Just after the first of the year 2018, I emailed him the original lead test I had from the rude woman at the health department so he knew where they had already looked.

Connecticut Lead did their inspection and told me they would turn in a report within two weeks to the lead program at town hall. Once the town had the report they had to review it and send it to the health department to make sure it was acceptable.

This is where things fall apart. I had hustled as much as I could to get stuff filled out, turned in, schedule inspections and answer questions within days if not hours. I had been told back in October we would get the lead fixed “before the winter was over”.

Instead, the guy I had been talking to at the town left his job. No one took over our file. When I called to check in, no one knew who I was. When they promised to find my file and call me back, I didn’t hear anything. When I followed up, I was told they HAD reviewed the report and sent it to the health department. I asked if I should follow up with the health department to make sure they were looking at it and was told we were a “priority” file because of the kids, so not to worry. They implied it would be rude to bother the people at the health department.

LIES.

E came home from deployment in February and I was able to fill him in on what was happening. He was surprised we were still in the middle of a process he thought would already be underway, but was happy about the grant approval.

In late March, FOUR MONTHS after the last time there was anything for me to do to move things along, I got a phone call from that rude lead level tester at the health department. She didn’t remember me. She wanted to schedule a lead inspection. I was polite, but VERY confused. Not only did our file already contain an extensive report from a real lead testing company, SHE HERSELF had already done a test. What in the world did she need to come test again??

She said she would call me back. I called the town to check in, emailed the nurse at the health department, and generally freaked out about what was (not) happening, but no one knew.

In early May, the town called and said we needed to update our application. They need to review your financials every 6 months to make sure you still qualify for the grant, and since they had dragged the process out for so long we were at the 6 month mark (with zero results or abatement of any kind).

We got them the paperwork they asked for.

The new lady at the town offices called and told us sorry, we no longer qualified for any grants of any kind. Oh well, bye.

I was beyond upset. All of that work for NOTHING. And this entire time I had been taking the boys in for lead tests, every 3 months. Their levels were coming down slowly but surely, thanks to the vitamins, my constant cleaning, handwashing and keeping them away from the porch as much as possible. But removing all the lead everywhere inside and outside the house was beyond our personal ability or finances.

At this point E took over. He tried to point out that we hadn’t done anything wrong but were being screwed over by people who never looked at our file. He spoke to the head of the lead abatement program and walked the guy through the timelines. While the guy agreed that yeah, it did look like both the health department and his office had dropped the ball, we were just out of luck because our last tax return said we made too much money.

Do you know why we made too much money on that return? Because E had reenlisted in the Navy and gotten a bonus. His pay and my business hadn’t made too much money. The fact that he signed up to serve the country for another 4 years is what bumped us just over the limit. If they looked at any other return for the last decade we have lived in this house, we qualified.

Once we provided as much documentation as possible in desperation (please look at this credit card we maxed out while fixing the bathroom, please please please), we were told there was a tiny chance we could get a waiver. I wanted to know who we could ask, who I could talk to, what I could do because I was SO tired of leaving everything in other people’s hands, but was brushed aside again.

We waited weeks again. Finally we were told they were going to let us keep the grant, HALLELUJAH, which meant we could go ahead with the next step of the process – finding a contractor.

At this point, my husband moved to New Hampshire. He’s still there. He comes home on weekends, mostly, but I’m doing day-to-day life alone with the kids.

There was a bid process, but only two companies bid. We were told to wait, then told we should redo the plan to include updating the heating system, but that ended up being SO expensive even the additional grant the town offered wouldn’t cover it. We scrapped the plan to update anything else and decided to just stick with fixing the stupid lead as soon as we could.

We signed contracts. We signed more contracts. We realized we will basically have to live here forever to have the grant forgiven, but whatever. We need to fix the lead, let’s get started.

BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE. Because we live in an old house, and fall within an historic district, we needed approvals on our plan from something called the Historic District Commission. I was told to put together an application and wait for their meeting, where they MIGHT approve it, but if they didn’t we’d have to wait longer. I discovered a friend used to be on the town HDC and that she was willing to put me in touch with someone still on the commission, so I sent a long email explaining what we had been through: the boys’ lead levels, the inspections, losing our files, the many blood draws, my desire to just be told WHAT WAS GOING ON and not brushed aside.

She was incredibly sympathetic, but did we know that our house didn’t actually fall under the purview of the town Historic District Commission? I don’t need their approval, although she said they could write me one based on the plan I submitted if I needed it for HUD.

THIS right here is what I am most pissed about. Did anyone ever apologize for telling us we needed this very specific approval we didn’t actually need? NOPE. No one is sorry, no one is in trouble, no one is going to check and make sure the next family doesn’t get screwed over because no one at town hall will LOOK AT A MAP.

My contractor and I were READY TO GO. Woooooot no historic approvals, which meant we could do vinyl windows instead of expensive wood windows and save a bunch of cash. He wrote up the order to get started and called the guy at town hall to make sure. They actually started work on the parts of the plan that don’t need approval, like stripping and sanding the porch, so at least the porch is now lead-free.

Hahahahaha just kidding on the rest of it though. It turns out that we fall into a STATE LEVEL historic district, which means we need a STATE LEVEL approval. I am still not sure why this wasn’t ever mentioned before. If we needed a STATE LEVEL approval, why didn’t we do that in the first place? My friend at the HDC said the HDC would still write me an approval, even if we weren’t technically under their jurisdiction, so if that approval would have been good enough a week ago, why wasn’t it good enough now?

WHO KNOWS.

The guy at the town told us he would fill out the STATE LEVEL paperwork and submit it. He told me the best-case scenario is that they don’t actually ever look at our application, because if we don’t hear from them within 30 days we can proceed. It was now October 2018, which means in 30 days it would be Thanksgiving, which means we’re looking at Christmas before anything gets finalized which means we’re already into 2019 before the windows even get ORDERED.

I was beyond skeptical. I had been told for more than a year that I just needed to WAIT. Wait for other people to look at the papers, wait for an approval I don’t need, trust them, they know what they’re doing.

I was done waiting.

I tracked down someone at the STATE LEVEL to make sure they got my application.

The guy from the town called. He was pissed. He tried to tell me I messed things up, because now the state historic people weren’t going to let us use vinyl windows and if I had just not talked to them we could have waited out the 30 day process and done whatever we wanted. I tried to point out it had been MORE THAN A GODDAMN YEAR since this process started and all I had done was wait, so I wasn’t sure I believed him.

I confirmed with the woman at the state that I did in fact need her approval, I always had needed her approval, and the paperwork could have been sent in the same day we got our contractor instead of when I was sitting around waiting for the Historic District Commission meeting. If that had been done, either the 30 day waiting period or the approval would have already happened. I sent her proof and pictures that our windows had to be replaced, not rebuilt, and she agreed with 90% of our contractor’s plan and worked out the small details before sending it back to the town.

It didn’t help. Our timeline was already wrecked. Our contractor was already booked with as much work as he could take between November and Christmas. Plus he needed to special order our authentic, historic approved wood windows. The only company that made them had a 6-week turnaround, which put us into January, but then they had a delay, so the current delivery date is FEBRUARY.

That’s February, 2019, a full year after my husband got back from deployment and seventeen months after Lincoln and Finnegan first tested at an 11 for lead.

Last month I took them for lead re-tests (that makes SEVEN venous blood draws) and they’re both at a 6. In July, Linc turns 5 and at which point a 6 is no longer considered elevated.

So this brings us to now. The current project start date is February 11th.

But wait, here’s the best part. One of the rules with this lead abatement work is that we can’t live here while the work is being done. We all have to go live…somewhere else. The good news is the town actually has an empty apartment they lend to families who are displaced because of lead (it’s an old town, this happens more than you’d think). The bad news is it’s a 3 bedroom, with no dishwasher or TV, on the second floor of a super old building with a lot of rickety stairs and no parking.

We’ll be living there somewhere between two weeks and a month. Possibly more. The dog and cat can come with us, but for most of it, my husband will be stuck in New Hampshire doing shift work so I’ll be wrangling the entire circus on my own.

We also have to pack up most of our house into trash bags, to minimize the exposure to lead dust. Everything that’s out, on shelves or walls or counters has to be covered. It’s going to take a week to pack it all up and way more than a week to put it all back.

After they do the actual work on the house, we have to wait for another full lead inspection report to come back, to make sure the abatement and clean up was complete. If this process has taught me anything, it’s that waiting for someone to finish their paperwork takes five times as long as it’s supposed to. I’m assuming it will be April before we get everything back to normal here at home.

It’s going to be a stressful month, to say the least. I was feeling a low level of constant dread even before Christmas, but my current anxiety is at defcon 2.
I realize this isn’t a worst case scenario in many, many ways: the boys don’t have lead poisoning, we aren’t fighting a scummy landlord who refuses to help, we don’t have to move permanently, we don’t have to come up with tens of thousands of dollars out of pocket, we don’t have to pay for a hotel during the work, the kids won’t miss school or activities, and the house is going to be SO much easier and cheaper to keep warm. But the process has made me feel terrible about myself as a human and as mother. I cannot wait for it to be over.

Boring Things I Recommend

Wednesday, April 25th, 2018

This is some old school blogging today, without a meaningful lesson or beautiful photographs or some sort of inspirational truth. It’s just a list of boring things. Over the past couple of years, I have purchased or been given several items that have made me wonder why I lived so long without them. Every single time I use them, I am amazed at how much better/easier/happier my day becomes. There are many times where you buy something new, think “This is AMAZING!” and then quickly fall out of love. These are not those things. These are things I am still in love with at least six months later, so I am going to recommend some of them to you today. It’s a very eclectic list.

    1. Robot Vacuum – The only thing I asked for for Christmas 2016 was a robot vacuum and I still love it just as much today as I did the first time it cleaned my floor. The one I have is a Roomba 960, but as long as you read a bunch of reviews before you buy I would suggest looking for deals. I do super love the customer service and warranty that came with mine – I’ve had both the base and the actual body replaced for free and the moving parts that break/wear out can be replaced easily. Having a robot vacuum is not the same as having a housekeeper. I still do a LOT of cleaning, including both sweeping and mopping, to stay on top of four kids plus pets. The robot needs me to keep junk off the floors so it can suck up dirt and crumbs and hair and everything else. Sometimes I get lazy and don’t empty it in the morning so it doesn’t run the next night. All that being said, it’s SO NICE to let the Roomba vacuum my room or the kids’ rooms (I just carry it upstairs and press start) while I do dishes or put away laundry or finish some other chore. My house is at least 150% cleaner than it was pre-robot vacuum.
    2. Meat thermometer – OK, you probably already own a meat thermometer and right now you’re like “Um, I got a meat thermometer when I was 18 and moved into an apartment and I’ve been cooking meat thoroughly and to the correct temperature for YEARS,” Well in that case, you’re definitely smarter than I am. For years I’ve been pulling meat out of the oven, cutting it open to check, and then putting it back because I ALWAYS misjudged whether or not it was cooked. Last fall I finally got a meat thermometer because I needed it for Thanksgiving, but since then I’ve used it for everything. I made duck that wasn’t overcooked! I made a roast for Christmas that was delicious! I made chicken last night and didn’t poison my family! This is the one I bought based on reviews. It’s still going strong although when I eventually replace it I might buy a more expensive one. I am no longer terrified to cook meat when we have company over (if you’ve ever eaten at my house, I probably served you pasta salad and now you know why) and I feel like a real grown up.
    3. Kitchen scale – Originally I wanted a food scale for measuring portions. I still do that sometimes. Or I use it for exact measures when making macarons or other fancy baking. But mostly I used my kitchen scale to ship packages. In the past few years, I’ve joined various buy/sell/trade groups for a wide variety of stuff on Facebook. (I wrote a lot about buying kid clothes in this post, and now I buy even more in BST groups.) But beyond BUYING is RESELLING stuff that we’ve outgrown or outfits the kids don’t love. It’s truly pretty easy but the thing that always trips people up is having to go to the post office to pay for postage and send things. NOT ME. I can sell a dress, pay for postage, print a label and have it in my mail carrier’s hands within minutes. Even if you only mail stuff occasionally, it’s so much easier to do it all at home than at the post office. It also made setting up a Kidizen shop a piece of cake, so even if I don’t have time for a brand resale page on FB I can list stuff and sell it for about 50% more than what I would get if I dropped it off at the consignment shop. If you sign up for Kidizen with my referral link, you get $5 off (and I get a $5 credit too).  I am SURE there are people who are anti-using-a-food-scale-for-postage, but I’ve been doing it for several years now and never had a problem with my weights being wrong.
    4. Carbona Stain Devils Stain Removers – MAGIC. I just got chocolate AND blood out of one of Finn’s shirts. Caroline spills stuff on her beautiful boutique clothes all the time that leave “water marks”, which is what people on the resale boards call grease or oil. Carbona takes them right out, so the dress I bought for $20 because it was in play condition is now in great condition. I don’t have an affiliate link or a referral link or any connection to this company at all. I just buy the little bottles at the grocery store when they’re on sale. But they’ve gotten out marks that both Shout and OxiClean haven’t touched so if you have kids (or ever spill stuff on yourself), you need these.
    5. Face cleansing wipes – It doesn’t matter which kind you buy, although if you have a brand you REALLY love, please recommend them. I bought four packs of these Neutrogena ones and I keep them everywhere so I no longer have an excuse not to wash my face before bed. I am too old for bad skin care. I’m pretty much too old for medium skin care too. It’s time to ramp up to good-to-excellent skincare, but because I am both old AND tired I don’t have the energy for a complicated, multi-step routine. Face wipes mean my skin looks significantly better even on days where I don’t do anything else.
    6. Caffeine eye serum – OK, so I do have ONE face product I use all the time. Buy this serum from The Ordinary. I just dab a little under my eyes in the morning after I brush my teeth and I swear it makes my eye bags/dark circles significantly less noticeable. I actually love all their products because you can create a whole skincare system without spending much money, but this is the only thing I would swear is super effective.
    7. Tiny, individual flossers – I don’t know know why it took me so long to just buy a whole bunch of these and keep them in my car, but if you don’t already do this I highly recommend it. I keep this bag of them in my center console so if we’re running late to practice or ballet or whatever I can just do a quick floss at a stoplight. I cannot over-exaggerate how adult and put together it makes me feel to be able to deal with having something stuck in my teeth without any angst.

Well now, wasn’t that boring? Last night I was doubting this was even worth posting and then I realized I had used four of these things within the last couple hours and maybe someone else needs something small (or big) to buy that makes their life easier/better/happier. And please tell me what things have changed your life this year.

Heavy Adulting

Monday, January 29th, 2018

So here is a thing people don’t tell you about being a grown-up: no one knows what they’re doing. I mean, maybe some people know what they’re doing in some scenarios. I hope my doctor knows what she’s doing when treating me for medical stuff. I hope my hairdresser knows what she’s doing when she cuts my hair. I hope my kids’ teachers know what they’re doing when they try to teach division. But every single day as a grown-up I am faced with things I have NO IDEA how to do or how to manage or how to pay for or how to handle and most of the people I encounter aren’t doing much better. I have a very distinct memory of sitting in a college French class, having literally NO IDEA what was happening because I had been faking my way through French for years, and thinking “Oh my God, I can’t wait until I’m done with school and things are easier.”

Let’s just take a moment to laugh at poor, naive, non-French speaking College Suzanne. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Here’s a current scenario. Lincoln’s annual blood test came back with elevated lead levels in August. Since I forgot to take him for the test last year, they couldn’t tell if it was going up or down. Finnegan’s levels also came back a little high. Because lead is considered a public health issue, their levels were reported to the health district and now it is a THING. A thing I have been worried about constantly since August.

The first woman I talked to told me the level wasn’t actually that high. But she wanted to come out at do an assessment. Two people came and I gave them a tour and showed them the house and told them about the bathroom renovation and how it took forever and the walls were all knocked out and it was so dusty and filthy for weeks. They both agreed the construction probably caused the high level and they didn’t seem concerned. Those people knew about lead but thought it shouldn’t be a big deal.

Then I got a call from someone else at the health department that wanted to do the testing the first set of people said I didn’t need. So sure, testing is fine, I’d love to know what I can do to stop the lead exposure. That woman was a nightmare – more than an hour late, unorganized, unfriendly and basically told me I was a bad person for letting the kids live here. So that was super fun. I spent days panicked over how we could afford to have all the trim in the entire house stripped and repainted while staying in a hotel so the kids weren’t exposed to more lead. Not to mention the fact that ALL the windows probably have lead and we just spent every penny of our renovation savings on fixing the bathroom and kitchen ceiling. That woman knew how to do testing but not how to keep her rude opinions to herself. Also she knew nothing about how to fix the problem.

Then I got another call from the first lady at health department. She suggested that I talk to the people at our town’s community development program because the town has grants available to help fix lead paint issues. I told her I had checked out their website and we didn’t qualify. She suggested the qualifications were more like guidelines than rules, so it might be worth talking to them. I talked to them. I filled out a ton of paperwork. I hauled the babies up and down the very steep stairs to their office to turn in reams of tax returns, bank statements and notarized forms. I’m still trying to get the last form filled out by my mortgage company. But after I dropped everything off, it was radio silence. That guy knew he could help but not how to make a phone call to tell me the status of my application. Also, he quit, so he isn’t the guy to talk to anymore.

Last Saturday I got a phone call from a very nice guy who said he needed 3-4 hours of my time to do a full lead inspection for the town. I was confused, because didn’t we just have a lead inspection? He assured me the one done by the health department is subpar and not what the town needs to write an abatement plan. Which they need, because apparently we’ve been approved for a grant to fix our lead issues. He didn’t know, exactly, because that part isn’t his job. His job was to come shoot his little lead paint tester gun at every painted surface in (and out) of my house. He was VERY good at that job. It turns out NONE of that trim has lead paint. None of my walls or radiator covers or doors or even my cool painted antique bedframe have lead. What does have lead is the outside of all our old, peeling, drafty windows, as well as the original paint on the porch and some on the basement stairs.

I am SO relieved. It’s too cold to play on the porch right now, the kids never go in the basement and the inside of the windows are ok. No one is being actively poisoned by lead. The nice inspector is going to write a report and come up with solutions for how to replace all 26 of our original windows and abate the lead on the porch and the basement stairs. He doesn’t know how, exactly, because he’s not a contractor. But he knows the people who can help.

And then, the day AFTER that inspection, I got a letter in the mail from the community development program saying we had been accepted into not just the lead hazard removal program but also a property improvement program. TWO grants to help fix the house. We’re going to be able to solve our lead problem without taking out a huge loan or selling everything we own.

I didn’t know the town even had a community development office. I didn’t know anyone was giving out money to replace old windows. I didn’t know this is something we could have done ages ago. I didn’t know because that’s not my job. But I also didn’t know who to ask for help, which is the frustrating part. There isn’t a class in college or high school or elementary school that teaches you how to just ADULT. Putting all the pieces of this (and, like, a dozen other problems I’ve had in the last month that are far above my normal paygrade) together is hard. Sitting on my couch watching Master Chef reruns and browsing Facebook is easy. I feel like that’s what being an adult boils down to most of the time – using all my energy to deal with life stuff and then waking up and doing it again the next day and the next day and the next day and as soon as I feel like I’ve actually crossed something off my list 5 new things get added. OMG it’s going to be like this forever now, isn’t it?

I’m not ready for that, so let’s just focus on how in the next few months I’m going to get new windows. Hopefully. Because until that happens I’m going to worry about it every day and never really get to enjoy anything. I know that much.

 

Bathroom Remodel Hell

Sunday, July 2nd, 2017

We interrupt this all-Disney, all-the-time blog to talk about how stupid my house is.

My house is STUPID. REALLY STUPID.

That’s what you get when you buy a house built in 1913. Especially a house built in 1913 that’s had most of the work done by half-assed do-it-yourself-ers over the years, so every time you start any project you immediately discover 10 more things that need to be fixed. It’s the worst.

I am trying so hard to remember that being forced to design a new bathroom is a first world problem. I mean, we still have a (A. One. Uno.) working toilet, so I am still living a first world life (even if I don’t have a working tub or shower). I have access to a line of credit to pay for the repairs so I don’t have to live with a hole in my kitchen ceiling. We have homeowner’s insurance that may help fix that giant hole in the kitchen ceiling. I get to choose which tile and which light and which flooring I want, I don’t have to use whatever is the very cheapest option.

But looking on the bright side and being grateful is taking up SO MUCH of my mental energy I’m completely exhausted. There are people in and out of my house all day, we have a million decisions to make (and they all involve both money and math, the two things that stress me out the most), I feel like an idiot trying to understand plumbing and electrical issues. Feeling like a broke, unshowered idiot is not a fun way to spend your summer vacation.

We had absolutely planned to remodel our upstairs bathroom at some point. We’ve been talking about it for years. Whoever did it last time (a curse upon them) used discontinued/scratch and dent/overstock/ugly ugly ugly stuff and we’ve hated it since we moved in. So when this disaster is over I’m going to have a bathroom I don’t hate. That’s the good news.

It’s also going to have heated floors. That’s the REALLY good news.

But right now, every time I walk past this room, all I can think about is living in bathroom hell.

bathroom remodel during