Category Archives: Reflections

Labors Around the House

When my children were small, we lived in a cute little house. With one tiny bathroom. Where the two kids shared one teensy bedroom. As the kids got to be bigger, the home seemed smaller and we decided to look for a domicile with more space.

Golly, did we ever find it! A 2,800 square foot home, originally built in 1901, with a huge yard in a wonderful neighborhood, within walking distance of a nice park and the public library. It was (barely) within our price range, due to the fact that it had been sitting vacant for a few years and needed some work. A lot of work. So much work.

But my husband and I fell right in love with it. We liked tackling projects on our previous house and figured we could restore this one to its former glory, or something resembling it. So, some window panes were missing, and there was a hole in the upstairs hall ceiling where a light fixture used to be, and someone had removed every single rod from every single closet, and the entire house needed to be rewired, and a former do-it-yourselfer had mixed up the plumbing in one of the bathrooms so that the sink didn’t have hot water but the toilet did. When you’re in love, none of those things matter. Besides, by the time we’d fixed it up and were ready to downsize, we would have increased the value so much, buying it was like investing in our retirement. Right?…Right?

We’ve lived here for fourteen years now. There have been good times and bad. The first few years we got a lot fixed and improved. Window glass was installed, crumbling plaster was replaced with sheet rock. Knob and tube wiring was removed and replaced with safer, modern methods.

Then I picked up more hours at work for the much-needed income. My husband was working long hours as well. We found ourselves with teenagers (which is more time-consuming and energy draining than anyone can prepare you for.) And we moved my mom to town, so I could be close by and take charge of her affairs. Those years will go down in our family history as the Whack-a-Mole Era. Nothing much got done to our house, not even in the way of cleaning, beyond the bare minimum to keep it livable.

Now the two kids, though still living with us, are both grown (22 and 19 respectively.) In a nice development, they have become helpful around here. I have seen my mom out to the end and more or less settled all of her affairs. I still have some of her possessions to deal with, but am pretty sure all bills are paid off and legal paperwork finished. This year, the hubs and I finally have a little time and energy to refocus on our relationship…with the house.

We had three large, dangerously near-death trees removed. We hired someone for that – an expert who told us the locust would have ended up on top of our house or the neighbors’ be year’s end if we hadn’t called him in to take it out.

The sexiest and most exciting project involved getting a shed, a carport and – drum roll – solar panels. We are on solar energy, as of about seven weeks ago. Remember how I said the grown kids have become helpful?

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That’s my husband in the green and my 19-year-old son behind all the hair, installing the first solar panel.

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All solar, baby!

My husband is trained in electrical systems, so he knew what he was doing. We did have a licensed electrician put in the new meter and hook it all up.  It’s fun to go outside and watch the meter run backward on a sunny day.

 

 

 

 

 

Our next project involves fencing. The west side of our house has been pretty much a mess. One of the trees we got removed had been shading an area over there more than I realized. After it was gone, a new jungle sprang up. I got about half of it cleared out this weekend, along with some other yard work, including an epic battle with a sticker bush. Once it’s all out, I’ll figure out what to do plant-wise in that spot, but we already know we’re putting in a fence panel to give us some privacy from the next Google Streetview car that comes along.

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Yesterday morning, the top half of the photo looked like the bottom half.

 

Farther back along that side of the house we had an old, rotting, falling down wooden fence covered in various vines and weeds. We’re replacing that, too. In an amazing feat, the hubs cleared it all away in two days.

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Half the fence and overgrowth gone.

 

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Ready for new fence panels.

I’ll post photos when the new fence is in. Right now, the spouse and I are in the midst of a decision about buying vs. renting when it comes to posthole diggers.

 

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My Baby Off to the Jury

Sniff. Yesterday was my baby’s first day of jury duty and I didn’t even manage to get pictures.

I guess I have to admit my child really is grown up when they get summoned to sit on a trial. And I don’t get to go along to offer moral support or take pictures of how cute they look sitting with the group in the courtroom.

This was federal court, too, so not even in our city. They had to drive to the state capital, thirty-five miles away, where the U.S. District Court is located. During rush hour. On the morning when a lot of out-of-town visitors were leaving after eclipse viewing.

As it turns out, after half a day of vetting, my kid was not selected and got to come home. I have received jury summonses approximately every three years going back to the dawn of time, yet never actually had to report to a courthouse. I’ve only had to make the phone calls to find out whether to go. So I was full of questions.

Thing 1 (nickname for my firstborn) reported that the case was “Some old super rich guys suing each other because no amount of money is enough for them.” It was a property dispute of some sort. Apparently many high-paid attorneys were involved on both sides. Thing 1 was dismissed when the judge asked if anyone in the jury pool felt uncomfortable with the amount of money being sought – $80 million dollars.

So, there we go. Another milestone achieved. I need to remember where I put the baby book, so I can write it down.

 

I Grew Food!

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During the years I was sandwiched – raising my kids and in charge of my mom while also working a paycheck job – I wondered what I would do with myself once I came out the other side and ever had a minute. In that time period, which I refer to as the Whack-a-Mole Era, a lot of things got neglected on the domestic front as I spent all of my time and energy handling one crisis after another. My husband was working long hours during this time, too, and our house got the bare minimum attention to keep it livable, while I tried not to notice how my physical surroundings were falling apart.

Now I do have some minutes occasionally, which gives me the leisure to look around my house and see all of the things that could be better. Add in the fact that I’m an introvert who spent years with no time to myself. These days I find myself with a desire to simply be home and focus my energies there.

One of my efforts this year was growing a few plants. My husband has always been the gardener. I’ve helped with weeding and harvesting, but never actually grown any food myself. I’ve put in a couple of shrubs and I plant annuals every year along our walkway, and that’s about it.

This year I decided to try starting a few things from seed. My greatest hope was to put in milkweed, as food for monarch butterflies. Beyond that, I thought I’d start simply with a couple of herbs for us, some to be put in the ground and a couple in planters.

I bought peat pots and staked claim to a spot by a sunny window. I got great starts with half a dozen each of milkweed, cilantro and basil. Three basil plants survive to this day. That’s right, every last milkweed and cilantro shoot died. But I have basil! Two in a pot and one in the ground. Yesterday, I harvested some leaves and cut them up into a pasta salad. For the first time in my life, I ate food that I grew myself.

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I also threw in some of my husband’s banana peppers.

It feels good, mastering a new accomplishment, feeling somewhat competent in basic survival skills (if I don’t think about the cilantro or milkweed.)

If the apocalypse happens and the grid collapses, you can depend on me. I’ll supply the salad garnish to keep us all going.

 

My YA Offspring Handling Things

Even though my children both live with me at the moment, and even though I sometimes find myself wishing they both were more independent in some ways, they will occasionally surprise me with what they handle on their own.

This is Captain Marvelous (Marv for short), in his heyday:

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R.I.P. Captain Marvelous

My firstborn, C, has had a succession of little pets over the years — rats, gerbils, hamsters and mice who are treated to the best life and care a rodent could ever hope for. (Rats make excellent pets. They’re pretty clean and usually very affectionate and well-behaved.) Unfortunately, even the best cared-for rodent has as shortish life span. Marv was not quite three years old, elderly for a rat, and we knew his time was drawing to a close. He’d been having breathing difficulties for several days.

This morning, C told me Marv passed during the night. I expressed my condolences and started to talk about what to do with his body. That’s when I discovered everything was already taken care of. My two kids had taken him out and buried him in the yard at first light, while my husband and I slept. They put a large rock over the grave to keep other neighborhood animals from digging there.

This feels like a big milestone. They didn’t even wake us up. Or wait for us. They simply took care of it. Is burying your own deceased pet without parental help a marker denoting childhood’s end? Maybe? It’s just not one I had considered.

A Whiff of Schadenfreude in the Air

Is it wrong of me to take a little joy in hearing my firstborn vent frustrations with the difficulties of supervising a teenaged employee at work? There was no breach of manager/employee confidentiality, in case you’re wondering. Just a generalized statement about the struggle of getting a young person under your authority to see and accomplish needed tasks without being prompted every step of the way.

I can sympathize. I really can. (Laughing up my sleeve.)

Memorial Day As Mom of Draft-Age Kids

Just a short post here. My children are 22 and 19 years old, respectively. Prime age to be drafted if we ended up in a war with a draft.

It’s fully hitting me for the first time that most of the soldiers we’re honoring and remembering on Memorial Day were just kids, basically. The majority of the troops who have been killed in battle throughout all the years of our country – around the ages my kids are now. Pretty sobering.

This song seems fitting for today. Particularly these lines:

And I just turned twenty-two
I was wonderin’ what to do
And the closer they got,
The more those feelings grew

 

Old and Young, It’s All Relative

Every year we have this cluster of celebrations in our family. My kids’ birthdays are May 13 and May 15th. Mother’s Day always falls right in around there, too, this year sandwiched in between.

Unbelievable as it is to me, my oldest turned twenty-two yesterday. That’s the same age I was when I got married. Whoa if true! And it is true.

As an official adult, they spent their birthday at work. They’re employed as assistant manager at a retail store that caters largely to children, and as a result often come home with adorable or hilarious stories.

Yesterday’s tale involved a conversation with a little girl who was celebrating her own birthday and, of course, had to let everyone know. It went like this —

My kid: “That’s cool. It’s my birthday, too! How old are you?”

Little girl: “Six! How old are you?”

My kid: “Twenty-two.”

Little girl: “Oh.” Pause. “Do you have dentures?”

What’s young and what’s old? It’s all relative, isn’t it?