Monday, September 23, 2013

While Ava's away...

Ava starting preschool this month means Eli is finally getting a small glimpse of what it's like to be an only child - undivided parental attention, free reign of toys to play with (without the jarring interruption of a sister screaming "NOOO!" at him intermittently), and time to do whatever he pleases, however he pleases. Sometimes I marvel at how smoothly the morning goes when there is just one. Though I admit there are times I miss Ava's tendency to be a watch dog - like when things got a little too quiet in the living room and I peeked around from the kitchen to see Eli halfway out the open front door.

On this morning we both took advantage of the warmth we know is fleeting this time of year and headed up to the garden. When Eli is in charge of the watering, his waters his way.

You and I may not have realized it, but Eli knows the chicken is thirsty.

The rocks are too, of course.

The sunflowers that are as big as his head and the bunny tails that never quite sprouted their tails, well of course those are as well.

Maybe a little sip for the kale.

His clothes are always very thirsty.

Oh, and while we're out here on our walk, have we showed you our new garden bed? Will moved her from the other (shady) side of the yard. She is much happier in the sun. She needs more soil and compost, then we will plant her with garlic, garlic and more garlic in a couple weeks. I am enjoying the promise of an expanded garden next year and look forward to implementing the many ideas that one season almost under our belt has given us.

This boy of ours - yes, he really is transforming into a boy as the baby in him gradually fades - he enjoys his time alone with mama and all of the important work he does while Ava is in preschool. Tomorrow he starts down his own path to preschool with the beginning of Little Sprouts. It resonates as a significant shift to me - I remember Ava starting Little Sprouts back when we had just moved here from Michigan. I am happy he will finally do something that is all his own. That he will have the opportunity to make his own friends rather than always hanging out with Ava's buddies.  Our little man is growing up. 

As much as Eli is loving his alone time, at the end of the morning his smile never fails to burst forth when I ask him if he's ready to pick up his sister from school. sigh. These are precious times my friends.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Outside In

Continuing the (prolonged) tour of our home renovations I thought it appropriate this time of year to move from the outside in. So next let's talk about our porch. As I mentioned in my post from when we bought our house, some of the 'before' pictures were just too scary to look at without 'after' pictures alongside to buffer them. And while I won't say that the 'after' pictures in this post are final - there is still much to do before we declare the porch 'finished' - Will has certainly accomplished major improvements. Here is the three-season porch that sits off the side of the dining room as it looked on closing day:

The most egregious aspect of the porch was the vinyl asbestos floor tiling. None of it was friable, so the danger of exposure to asbestos was low; but Will felt the extreme heat and cold of Minnesota seasons could eventually loosen and crack the tiles. We certainly didn't want kids or animals spending time out there until the floor was replaced. And, of course, the floor was hideous. So it had to go. After taking down the once-upon-a-time-white curtains - which were probably original to this 1950s house and looked as if they harbored dirt from all six of the past decades - Will set to work.

The kids enjoyed their front row view of Dada's labor...

...until he sealed up the doorway with a large plastic sheet to keep any dust from entering our house.

After researching proper procedures for safe removal, Will donned his hazmat suit and respirator and set to the dirty work of removing the old tiles and glue from the floor. Once things were properly cleaned up, he primed the walls and ceiling of the porch to seal in any dust he might have missed when wiping the area clean. Then it was time to lay down the radiant floor warming mats that we hope will extend the use time of our porch, making the tile more comfy on bare feet as the weather cools. We used these. We haven't had a chance to test them out during the summer months, but will let you know how they work once fall is upon us.

We chose slate tile for the new flooring. Will had laid down ceramic tile in a small bathroom years ago, so figured he knew what was in store for him. He did not anticipate how much more challenging slate would be. For one thing, the slate tiles are all slightly different, both in terms of shape and thickness. They are also very irregular, sometimes being quite thick on one end and thin on the other. Then, of course, they are all naturally different colors. This all adds to the character of the finished floor, but turns laying down the tile into much more of an 'art'.

Laying down the tiles took several weekends of during-naptime work, but we were so excited with how the floor looked when they were all finally down.

Once all the tiles were laid Will used a pre-sealer which was supposed to make the grout easier to lift off the tiles. In hindsight, Will is so glad he did this as the grout was much more difficult to get off the slate than he remembered it to be with the ceramic tile.

Don't let his smile fool you, the grouting was HARD work. At some point Will enlisted my help in wiping the grout off the tile once his hands were beginning to give out. He may or may not have then proceeded to criticize my method of wiping the tiles *ahem*, but we'll pass that one off as fatigue and let it slide. After days, yes literally days, of scrubbing the tiles and then using some grout remover to help the process along, we were satisfied with how it all looked. Will applied the final sealant to the whole floor and we waited impatiently until it dried the next morning.

The kiddos were ecstatic to finally get out and dance around on the porch. To fully appreciate how excited they were about this, you must understand that they had been staring through the window of the dining room door out onto this porch for weeks and weeks calling, "Dada!" repeatedly while he worked on it. The porch had been pretty much off-limits since we'd moved in, so it was like a very special treat to finally set foot out there. And the new floor looked and felt so beautiful! In this moment, the first time we were all able to run around out there together, the weeks of hard work and missing Dada felt so worth it.

Even Lola had to check it out. 

Then we all set to work building furniture. At this point I was well versed in the art of Ikea assembly, as I had put together all our Ikea kitchen cabinetry (but that's a story for another post). Ava and Eli loved this process and actually helped screw the bolts in. Well, Ava helped screw them in; Eli mostly went around trying to stick bolts into any hole he could find (apparently the urge starts very early in life). Once the furniture was built Will replaced all the glass panes with the screens that are also original to the house. Happily, unlike most of the rest of the house, the screens are in excellent condition as they probably haven't been installed in the last 40 years. 

And now we have a porch we can use:

There is still more work to be done in the future - painting, new curtains, new pillows, base moulding, ceiling fan, etc. But at this point in our home renovations we are so so happy to achieve 'usable'.