Wednesday, February 25, 2015

crawling along.

Okay! After a morning of hot chocolate (from scratch!) and Girl Scout cookies with a friend, I'm at least partway back to feeling like tackling some work. Know what else helps? Before and after pictures!

Oh yes. The dudes came last Wednesday to encapsulate our crawl space. Ahhh...a whole week of knowing that the spider hotel down below (note: not a vagina euphemism) has been eliminated. The difference is intense:

Doesn't it look ready to become our indoor pool?! THAT WOULD BE SO COOL. At the very least, it's completely prepped to house our hot tub, which would be built into the floor of the family room above the crawl space. THAT WOULD BE EVEN COOLER.

Anyway. Obviously, part of the huge visual difference is that we haven't put anything back in the crawl space yet, so it's not currently a wasteland of unwanted furniture and old closet doors. But I hope you can tell from the pictures how much lighter and brighter it is. Turns out sheets of spiderwebs and black-papered insulation really ruin the view, you know? 

The crawl space dudes were here for about three hours. Yep, they worked fast. Good thing, too, because Rowan and I were confined to the front playroom pretty much the whole time, and we ran out of fun activities in there after about an hour. Plus, it was freezing. Not only were the dudes coming in and out of the front door constantly (and it was all of, like, six degrees outside), but our furnace chose last week to try to die, and our space heater also quit. (Can't blame either of those appliances. I've never been so over winter in my whole life.) The upshot is, it was pretty chilly in the house while they were working in the basement.

Overall, I'm really happy with the work they did. Not 100%, though. Here's the breakdown:

What I love: 
  • How quickly they worked (8:45 a.m. to noon, finishing just before naptime, thankfully)
  • How much lighter, brighter, and warmer the basement is
  • That the gross insulation from the walls and ceiling of the crawl space is gone (it was super smelly and moldy, as I discovered while they were removing it...yuck)
  • No more zombie holes in the plastic ground covering; the new covering is thick, durable, and has a 25-year warranty

What I don't love:
  • The dudes weren't the friendliest (four guys total) or the most professional (inappropriate music blaring the whole time)
  • Subpar job with the floor grading - I knew it wouldn't be laser-leveled or anything, but the guy who came out for the estimate oversold their capacity to grade the dirt. I haven't actually walked on it yet, but it's not nearly as level as I'd hoped.
  • The random chunks of the old insulation they left hanging from the ceiling - not a big deal, but it would have been easy for them to double-check and make sure they got it all
  • The huge muddy mess left on the floor - they covered the upstairs entry area and the basement stairs with plastic, but not the floor in front of the crawl space. Between the snow outside and them standing on the bare earth to grade the dirt...well, it took five rounds of mopping to clean it all up. They warned me it would be messy, but it was more extreme than I'd anticipated.
  • The fifteen bags of debris (plastic sheeting, insulation, spider colonies) and twelve or so sheets of Styrofoam insulation they removed from the basement and dumped into/next to the garage. Again, they told me they wouldn't be removing the garbage, but I underestimated how much it would be. Not sure how to get rid of all of it!

Hard to appreciate the scale here, but these bags are too big to
fit even one at a time into our garbage can (pictured below).

Huge sheets of Styrofoam insulation just covered in spiderwebs and who knows what else. :(

The good news - great news - is that it's done, and at a reasonable price (made even more doable by some generous help from my amazing mother-in-law). Despite my recent motivation stagnation, I really am excited to whip the basement into shape and make it a cleaner, brighter, happier space. J.J. and I brainstormed and came up with ideas for the different "zones" we want to create:
  • Storage: Obviously, the crawl space will be the primary storage area, but we also need some easy-access storage for bins we use frequently. The Christmas decorations can be shoved in the back corner of the crawl space, but the boxes of clothes/toys that Rowan isn't quite big enough for yet - we dig through those often. Not sure if we'll just put them in the front of the crawl space, or if we'll keep the shelving units and utilize those.
  • Laundry/cleaning: It'd be nice if the area around our washer and dryer weren't so dingy and cold. Still, not much will change here for now, except for making sure that hazardous items are out of Rowan's reach (they aren't right now because we've never used the basement as a play area for her, but that's in the works).

  • Exercise/video games: J.J. has a TV, video game system, and exercise equipment set up on the old work bench. I'd like to make it a little more comfortable - and attractive - by adding a carpet remnant on the floor, and we definitely need to organize all his stuff. (So. Many. Xbox. Controllers.)

  • Tools/paint cans: Right now, all our tools are in an old bureau, except for a few bigger power tools that are stashed under the work bench. I want to move those power tools out of Rowan's reach...but I'm not sure where, exactly, that would be. We also have two entire shelves of our huge shelving unit dedicated to paint cans and painting tools, which all need to be consolidated and organized. I read a tip about transferring paint from the huge gallon cans to mason jars to save space, so that's the plan...but still, where to store them?

  • Rowan's zone: I'm thinking a little art table...some of her more bulky toys...and some open space for her to ride a little trike or run around doing her signature dizzy dance. 

  • Sell/donate pile: It's becoming clear that there needs to be a dedicated space for this crap, which I always think will just be gone with once it's sold or donated...but it comes back every time. Might as well have a home for it so it doesn't end up forgotten in a crawl space corner or infringing on the fun zones.

Clearly, there's a lot to be done! The crawl space alone still needs some work - cleaning up the ceiling and hanging cables, sweeping up a little bit of debris left behind, disposing of all the garbage bags and insulation, and then actually moving our stuff back in, hopefully in a semi-organized fashion. Plus, the tool bureau needs some love; I have a bunch of items pending sale on Craigslist; and I'd love to figure out a curtain system to block off the entrance to the crawl space. And a few projects are just going to have to wait for warmer weather - spray-painting a little table we have that can become Rowan's art table, transferring all that paint to mason jars, and participating in our neighborhood-wide garage sale in the spring to get rid of even more stuff (where does it all come from?). 

Overall? I'm so, so happy we got the crawl space done. I'm really hoping it helps keep the house warmer and cuts down on our pest population. The best part, though, is that it makes us feel like we have a halfway-finished basement. Yes, I know it's not actually halfway finished, but at least we're inspired to make the rest of the space better-looking and more functional. What's the point of having a huge basement if you're not going to make good use of it? Also, I'm definitely looking forward to not having to make the always-difficult tornado warning decision: Face the spiders and zombies in the basement, or risk loss of life and limb by staying aboveground? Oh, Michigan. The feeeeeeeling's foreverrrrr.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

sort of like "naughty by nature." except not.

I'm totally nosy by nature. My friend posted her to-do list on Facebook today, and I was fascinated. Now I want to see everyone's to-do list - for work, for the house, for the kids, for the weekend, for whatever. Maybe it's because my own to-do list is a mile long and has certain tasks (ahem haircut) that just keep leaping from list to list, even after I cross out everything else. I'm in the worst funk lately, and I just can't seem to tackle any of it. 

I think it's been a year since I got my hair cut. An actual year. My tax documents - the ones I've bothered to collect or print out - are sitting in a pile next to the computer (next to this month's as-yet-unpaid bills), but I can't bring myself to actually call and make an appointment to have them done. I have a calendar of potential spring classes for Rowan, but I haven't actually registered for any of them. The crawl space was finished last week, but the contents of my basement are still strewn from wall to wall. I'm also pretty sure there are things I forgot to even add to this list. 

I just...can't. Don't want to. As soon as Rowan's asleep, my ass is on the couch, doing nothing. I don't want to cook, don't want to clean, don't even want to read. I'm. just. stuck. It's like whatever atmospheric forces have taken over the weather patterns, causing weeks on end of negative wind chills and biting winds, have also taken over my drive and motivation. Here's hoping we all thaw out soon, because why in the world am I not excited to get my organizing on in my fresh & clean crawl space??

Sneak peek!
I keep heading down to the basement with the greatest intentions of starting to shift everything to their new homes - boxes, bins, toys, games, books, clothes, furniture...Ideas pop into my head for splitting the space into zones: laundry/cleaning, exercise/video games, Rowan's art/play area, tools/easy-access storage. Visions of paper lantern decorations and curtains blocking off the crawl space dance in my head. But then I see this:

...And I'm just stymied. Half of that crap is in limbo on Craigslist; where do I put it in the meantime? We need to take a trip to the dump (to get rid of a weird door frame and the fifteen huge bags of waste they removed when they encapsulated the crawl space), but who wants to go to the dump when it's -12 out? And with what truck?! I don't know where to put the extra doors, and I forgot all about the seventeen dozen paint cans, and there are two bins that I can't lift over the half-wall because I hurt my back, and where do I put the stuff for the garage sale in May, and basically I'm just a whining brat who needs to just suck it up and get going. Right?

Sooooo. What's on your to-do lists? Seriously, I want to see them. Like, pictures. And not only that - how do you kick your own ass to get things in motion? What motivates you? I need something to force me out of this half-hibernation state I'm stuck in. A nap? Cookies? A vacation? Solidarity? All of the above, with a side of candy? In other words...send help. The sooner, the better. Especially re: cookies.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

on such a winter's day.

I mean, seriously. Last year this time, all of us in southeastern Michigan were up in arms about the Polar Vortex. Our collective shock over the negative wind chills flooded my Facebook, canceled all plans, closed schools - multiple times. This year? We're just like, oh, it's four degrees out right now. That's not too bad. At least it's sunny. I forgot the term "Polar Vortex" and kept referring to it as an "Arctic Freeze" when the furnace guy came yesterday. He seemed a little confused about why I kept referencing a movie theater frozen drink. Sorry, guy. Brain too cold to remember words.

But! J.J.'s birthday is in a month, and every few years, it's seventy degrees on his birthday. SEVENTY. DEGREES. So there's hope. Until then, I find myself dreaming about throwing windows wide open to feel warm, fresh air; of taking a leisurely walk through the neighborhood in fewer than five layers of clothing; and, most of all, of playing outside with Rowan...for as long as we want, doing whatever we want, without the constraints of bitter temperatures or icy sidewalks or snow so deep in the park that I literally can't carry her to the swings.

With that in mind, I have big plans for our backyard this summer.

When we first toured this house with our Realtor, we walked in the front door to find green carpeting, the ninety-two-year-old original homeowner playing her baby grand piano, a semi-open floor plan - and the backyard of our dreams. I was half-sold when we saw the open kitchen/family room; I was beyond sold when we looked out the windows and saw the backyard. Huge space, full of mature trees and bushes, a sweet little bench in the back, and bordering a neighborhood park with swings, a climber, tennis courts, a basketball court, and a ball field. Seriously, our Realtor practically had to hold us back from wantonly signing a mortgage agreement on the spot ("Let's at least look upstairs, guys..."). 

Horribly blurry pic of how it looked back in the day. Basically, overgrown
with plenty of dead patches and invasive species. But green! And OURS!

As awesome as it looked originally, we've had to put a lot of work into it. (Story of this house in general.) We dropped a pretty penny to have professionals take down a dead pine tree and remove seven kajillion buckthorn bushes (an invasive species that, unfortunately, made up a significant percentage of our yard's greenery...oops). We went away for a weekend in 2012 and came home to discover that a nice neighborhood volunteer group had removed all the invasive species from the park...AKA, removed the green border between us and the park. I'm thankful that they worked so hard, but without warning, there was no longer a natural demarcation between the park and our property (in other words, nothing keeping small children/horny teenagers/pooping dogs OFF MY YARD, DAMMIT). Basically, it went from Picture 1 to Picture 2 without our knowledge or consent:

Hey, there's the little shed we built a couple years ago! ...And
there's THE ENTIRE PARK, all up in our backyard.

So we had to put up a fence. I found a style I liked at Lowe's, and we had the unbelievable good fortune of discovering that our friends were selling the exact fence pieces we wanted at a very reasonable price. The fence went up...but a few other problems remain. Every year, by mid-summer, we have about a dozen enormous ant hills scattered throughout the yard. Each one is about a square foot of "dead dirt" - no grass left, just ants and their dirt hills. We've tried all sorts of remedies, from boiling water to ant killer pods that you plant in the anthill. Some work, some don't, but either way, the grass is dead in those spots for the season. Other backyard imperfections? Our grass is patchy everywhere; we don't treat it, so it usually dies in July; we have lumps and bumps everywhere from rodent tunnels and/or decaying walnuts; there's for sure a pet cemetery in the southeast corner; there are poisonous berries; blah blah blah. I get so overwhelmed when I think about everything we probably should be doing to the backyard, which is why we haven't really tackled any of it (except building a shed, installing a fence, and planting a garden...all J.J.). 

I'd love to make the backyard really fun for Rowan. (And not full of deadly berries.) J.J.'s dad built her a swing set last summer out of leftover fence pieces, which is wonderful. We inherited a sandbox from the next-door neighbors. And, of course, we have the adjacent park. But I have a few ideas floating around my head that I hope to implement. Well, actually, I have dozens of ideas (stone paths and tree stump fairy houses and treehouses and...), but only a few that I want to start with this summer. For example...

A Music/Sound Wall
We had a music wall in the garden at the child care center where I worked, and I lovvvved the idea. In fact, I love that garden set-up in general, and this totally reminds me that I need to talk to a certain teacher there and steal some more ideas from her! Anyway, this music wall is such a fun idea, and a great way for little kids to both explore sound and get some energy out in a perfectly unstructured way. I think I would attach our "music" items right to our fence (is there some reason not to that I'm just not thinking of?), so I need to start collecting some secondhand pots, pans, lids, and wooden spoons. What else could I put on there?

from here

A Green Fort
Now that I think about it, there's a green fort in the garden at work, too. Isn't it a cool idea? I would've loved this as a kid. The directions in the link below seem easy enough, even for a black thumb like me. I want to give it a shot. The grass in our backyard is such crap already anyway; if I mess up a big patch with a massive bean fort fail, it'll pretty much just blend in.

from here

A Hula Hoop Hideout
And, finally, an idea that's cheap and easy, just the way I like it (ahem) - hula hoop hideouts. Rowan might be a little too young to appreciate these this summer, but who knows? Worth a try, and we have plenty of perfect branches to test out.

from here

So for now, I'm just going to ignore the massive amounts of tree-trimming that need to happen...and the bare soil everywhere...and the ant colonies that threaten to rise up alongside the pet zombies and take over the neighborhood...and instead focus on some fun plans for my cute baby.

And you know what's going to be so awesome? That first day when the sun is shining and the temps break fifty degrees, and all the neighborhood kids start swarming the sidewalks and swings, and the parents go all Sound of Music and dance through the baseball outfield, arms outstretched Julie Andrews-style. Ahh, fifty degrees sounds amazing right now. Okay, TWENTY degrees sounds amazing right now. Just a few more weeks...

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

weekend update: modernizing interior doors with paint & moulding.

The summer before Rowan was born, J.J. and his dad spent a few weeks in the backyard staining and installing a bunch of secondhand fence pieces we'd bought from friends. It drove me bananas not to be able to help with this process, considering (a) I love doing home improvements, and (b) I'm the ultimate control freak, but I wasn't allowed anywhere near the fence stain in my delicate (lol) condition.

So I had to unleash my control-freakiness somewhere else, and our upstairs doors took the hit.

We have four doors upstairs: three bedrooms and one bathroom. They were all scratched, grimy, and stained from decades of use...and hollow, which means they don't do much for noise reduction. Wanting a more modern design and color, I shopped around to see if I could find new, solid-core interior doors. Well, I could - at around $100 a pop. Not only was the cost off-putting, but I was intimidated by the prospect of finding the perfect fit, especially in an older house.

It looked like solid-core doors were out of the question, but I wanted to at least brighten up the hallway and make our existing doors more attractive. I took matters into my own hands and gave the doors the same treatment that our kitchen cupboards and master closet doors got - the ├╝ber-simple paint-plus-moulding trick. I've done this enough times by now that it's a relatively quick and painless project!

:: Step 1: Remove door; remove hardware

I started out by removing the doors (I labeled them to make sure they were re-installed in the right spot) and bringing them to my makeshift workspace in the garage. (My third-trimestery-ness meant that J.J. had to help with the door transportation, even though they're not heavy at all.) I unscrewed the hinges, doorknobs, and door stops from each one. I planned on replacing the old brass hardware, so I tossed those, but I put the doorknobs and screws in plastic baggies to prevent anything from getting lost.

:: Step 2: Prep doors for paint

J.J. had to help with the first step of prepping for paint: using a liquid sander-deglosser. It's easy and quick - you just pour a little on the door and wipe it off with a paper towel, which removes all the grime and build-up - but I didn't feel comfortable exposing mah fetus to the fumes. Once the doors had fully dried (I think I waited a half hour), I primed each one with primer (I used Zinsser Bulls-Eye water-based primer in white) and a foam roller.

:: Step 3: Prepare moulding

I wanted to add a simple design to each door using half-round moulding. I purchased a bunch of eight-foot, pre-primed pieces, which I prepped while the primer was drying. Prep included measuring and cutting, a quick sanding with high-grit sandpaper (to smooth out the cut edges and also help the flat edge get a better grip when I glued it to the door), and a coat of the same white paint I was using for the doors (off-the-shelf Behr Premium Plus in white semi-gloss). 

As for measuring and cutting - I just eyeballed where I wanted the rectangular design to be, measured the lengths (measure twice three times, cut once less often), and used an ancient hand saw and miter box to make 45-degree cuts. I almost always mess up these cuts a few times, usually by cutting the same angle on opposite ends of the same length of moulding - so instead of looking like this: /__\ , it ends up looking like this: /__/ . (I'm so technical, I KNOW.) Still, it didn't take too long to have all the lengths I needed...which was a lot: two short and two long pieces per side, per door. That's thirty-two pieces altogether. My sawing arm was pretty sore.

:: Step 4: Apply first coat of paint to doors

Here's where you could theoretically start varying up some steps of my oh-so-technical process. I wavered on when to attach the moulding - before or after painting? I'd learned from doing the kitchen cabinet doors that painting around the moulding is way more time-consuming than just rolling over a plain door, but that I have to do at least one coat of paint after attaching the moulding to cover up wayward glue and caulked touch-ups (we'll get to that in a minute). So I split the difference and did one coat of paint before I added the moulding and one coat of paint after. Oh, and I went with semi-gloss paint, as I mentioned before, after Googling around to see what finish people usually use on interior doors.

:: Step 5: Attach the moulding

Before attaching anything, I used a pencil on each freshly-painted door to mark where the corners and edges of my moulding design would go. Then I got down to business securing each piece in its new home. Because half-round moulding tends to warp in places, I've found it best to attach it to doors using both wood glue and some tiny finishing nails (maybe two per short piece and three per long piece). I haven't had a piece pop off yet, so it must be an effective technique! Oh, and I always drive the finishing nails in using an inexpensive nail punch set (like this one) to avoid hammer dings on the soft moulding pieces.

:: Step 6: Touch up the moulding

I let the moulding pieces dry and cure overnight, although you definitely don't have to wait overnight. I just needed a break...and it was getting dark out. The next morning, I used some paintable caulk to fill in the tiny divots where the finishing nails went in, as well as any gaps in the moulding. It's typical to end up with gaps where the corners meet, and I always end up using some caulk to fill in gaps between the flat edge and the door (again, moulding doesn't tend to be perfectly straight or flat, so you have to compensate). Easy to do, and it makes the finished product look more professional.

:: Step 7: Final coat of paint

Once the caulk dried, I did one more coat of paint, taking care not to leave roller marks. I also had to use a brush in some places to smooth out paint around the moulding design.

:: Step 8: Attach new hardware; reattach doors

I picked out new hinges and door stops in brushed nickel to match our doorknobs. Surprisingly, the new hardware made a pretty huge impact on the doors. They just looked so much better than the brassy, greasy, paint-splattered, scuffed, and (in the case of the door stops) bent-beyond-recognition hardware pieces from before. 

Once the hinges and door stops were screwed in, J.J. helped me hang the doors back on their frames...and we were done!

(master bedroom on left - guest room in center - nursery on right)

(nursery door - then closet door, which had already been painted - then bathroom door)

It was great having doors that weren't so plain (or dirty), but the best part was how much the white paint brightened up the whole hallway - and each bedroom. Here's the master bedroom and nursery with the orange-y wood doors, and then with the white paint:

It only took a weekend to give these doors new life, not to mention brighten up our upstairs hallway and bedrooms! Someday I'll get my act together and tackle the interior doors in our kitchen - the bathroom, garage, and basement doors. I get Mr. Burns fingers just thinking about how awesome they would look with fresh white paint...yesssssss...

Monday, February 9, 2015

the news you've been waiting for.

Sometimes, in life, you make difficult decisions. You weigh the consequences carefully, you consider your options, and you breathe, meditate, and let the universe lead the way.

Sometimes, though, things just HAPPEN. Without deliberation or study or preparation. I'm thrilled to say that's the case in our home right now. 

We kept saying we weren't ready yet. We kept saying we'd wait until our money situation improved or Rowan was a bit older or we had a better handle on life in general. 

Then - today - I discovered that everything is about to change. For the better.

That's right, friends: We're getting our crawl space encapsulated!

A vision of our future - from here

I'm so excited for this new chapter in our lives. The crawl space is probably the worst thing about our house. Our basement is half-unfinished basement, half-open crawl space. I'm grateful for on-site laundry and a tornado safe zone, but ugh, that crawl space is no bueno. It's the bowels of the earth - and all their contents, like spiders, centipedes, mice, snakes, and zombies - covered up by a thin, ripped, hole-y plastic sheet. It's dark and dingy, with moldy insulation and sixty years' worth of spiderwebs hanging from the ceiling. It's likely the source of most of the moisture issues and cold air in our house. Yeah, it sucks.

As you can see, we do use it for storage currently - but primarily because we're running out of other viable storage room in the basement. And I sure as hell won't climb into that space to store or retrieve anything, so poor J.J. has to do it every time. Let me tell you, I do not feel good about storing baby items that can't be laser-sanitized (is that a thing? It should be) afterwards, like the Exersaucer. When the crawl space is encapsulated, it will be CLEAN and BRIGHT and perfect for storing all sorts of bins, and the guy assured me that none of the pets from the pet cemetery in the backyard can break through the protective barrier they'll install. (Is that weird corner of lumpy earth and big rocks really a pet cemetery? I don't know; can you prove that it isn't?)

Here's the thing: Before I left my job, the next big house update on our list was finishing our basement. It's not a half-bad space, and it has tons of potential to have everything we want in a basement: areas for storage, exercise, laundry, and play; no areas for things like an unmitigated centipede population, stray cats, and Jimmy Hoffa. When we were expecting Rowan, I attacked the basement in a fit of nesting and whipped it into shape, leaving it clean and organized.

But with a new baby, we ended up with way less time to stay on top of way more stuff. The whole room is disorganized, because it's faster to throw something into an existing pile than figure out a new pile system. Not only does it grate on my Monica Geller personality to see things like three- to six-month baby dresses mixed in with miter saw blades, extra lamps, and a ten-pound free weight - but it's also not safe for Rowan right now. Never mind the stray power tools and leaning towers of storage bins; I can barely even bring her down to throw a load of laundry in without her diving headfirst into this, our Growing Pile of Doom:

Not pictured: The pile that is literally behind this pile, or the piles to the side of this pile.

The thing is, we have so many ideas for what we want this room to be, but we're stalled on how to get there since we don't have the funds to finish it. If money were no object? We'd dig out the rest of the basement and finish the whole space, complete with a code-mandated egress window, a Pinteresty playhouse under the stairs (HA), and an uber-Pinteresty slide next to the stairs (HA HA). Well, if money were really no object, we'd finish the basement and build a master suite addition over the garage/off the back of the house, where we'd put the washer and dryer (HA HA HA). 

For now, I decided it'd be worth it to research DIY crawl space encapsulation, so we could at least make it a better space for storage. Last week, I called a local company that specializes in encapsulating crawl spaces...and offers free inspections. I made an appointment for today, fully assuming that I'd use the experience as a chance to get ideas for what to do when DIY'ed the project.

What did I learn from the inspection?

  1. The plastic barrier we have currently is way more torn up than I'd thought.
  2. There are freakin' sheets of spiderwebs back there.
  3. Mouse droppings. Just...mouse droppings.
  4. The previous owners did a shoddy job of installing low-quality insulation materials.
  5. Not only am I never going in that space myself, but the thought of J.J. and his dad spending days back there, hunched over and using leaf rakes to grade the dirt (and potentially leaving the dirt fully exposed for weeks in between J.J.'s dad coming out to help) made me actually, literally nauseated. DIY = no-go.
This may be the only time in the history of being a homeowner that I had a salesperson actually sell me his product. Every other time, I've just used them for their expert ideas, been laughed at when I shared my paltry budget, or gotten so annoyed with their smarmy, sales-y ways that I couldn't bear to sign the dotted line. 

And to answer your question - no, we don't really have the money for this right now. Still working on that piece. But I assure you from the bottom of my Scroogey, penny-pinching heart: This needs to happen, and it needs to happen with the help of professionals, and it needs to happen ASAP so I don't lose my damn mind picturing the sheets of spiderwebs swaying in the drafty crawl-space breeze. Basically, it's not cheap, but it was so much less expensive than I thought it would be that it felt foolish not to take the plunge.

So, as of next Wednesday, our crawl space will be so fresh and so clean-clean. It's motivating me to get the party started on organizing all our junk and tying up some literal loose ends (old clotheslines criss-crossing the ceiling, yards of landline phone wires wound around poles, wonky electrical outlets here and there). It may not look like my inspiration photo anytime soon...

from here
...but who knows, maybe someday!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

hey, wanna go to Target with me?

This has been my week of Getting Shit Done. You know all those annoying to-dos that you keep meaning to take care of...but then weeks and months go by, and you still haven't gotten your hair cut or your oil changed or your teeth cleaned? I finally picked up the phone and scheduled appointments for a bunch of things, one being a visit to the eye doctor. It's been over two years since my last eye exam, and I've been making my limited supply of daily contact lenses last by using them for...let's just say lots of days - which is, like, the biggest no-no of eye health ever. My appointment was yesterday morning, so I dropped Rowan off with Gramma and endured the stupid puff of air (which I'm pretty sure they puff in directly from hell) and a verbal lashing about never reusing single-use lenses. (And then was sent home with a trial pair of two-week lenses.)

The appointment was over way more quickly than I'd planned for, so I swung by Target for a bit, just to window shop. I never go to the Target on this side of town, and it turns out this one is populated on weekday mornings solely by moms with toddlers, moms with little babies, or moms with toddlers and little babies. The one closer to me usually features hungover college students lurking moodily in the cereal aisle. I kind of preferred this Target, because there's nothing like watching someone else's kid melt down in a red shopping cart to make you feel freeee as a bird. (And sympathetic. That, too.)

I wandered around, checking out sections I haven't visited in a long time. I only make the trek out to Target occasionally, and pretty much just to get a baby-specific item. Yesterday, I...still mostly hung out in the baby aisles, but I ventured into a few other zones, too.

I started in the home decor section...

I love this. Not the Eiffel Tower, necessarily, but the string art idea. Found some good tutorials on Pinterest that I'd love to try out.

This is basically the way-cuter version of what I was going for on the kitchen frame wall.

Oh, see? This is Item One in a series of pictures from this Target trip of Things That Make Me Want Another Baby (for totally valid reasons like decorating a nursery again and using my children as my own personal dress-up dolls).

Hey, remember how the home trend gods spent the last decade influencing you to change out all your brass and gold home goods - picture frames and light fixtures and cabinet hardware - for brushed nickel and stainless steel? Well...gold is baaaaack, and it's growing on me. DAMMIT.

Target: Where you go to trigger lust for things you REALLY DON'T NEED AT ALL. Example A: Adorable Bins (above). There was also a pregnant lady checking these bins out, with her hand on her belly and stars in her eyes. I stopped just short of grabbing her shoulders and crying, "Buy these bins, pregnant lady! Create a whole nursery theme around them! The arrows, the navy, the salmon! And there's a precious gold decorative garland over there, too!" ("Crazed Woman Arrested in Area Target for Decor-Related Bullying, tonight at six and ten.")

Is there a mature reason for why these sheets are billed as performance sheets? I can think of only two reasons: (1) The sheets become animated, a la Beauty and the Beast, and do performances, or (2) They are designed to withstand...performances...that take place on sheets. And if it is one of those two reasons? More power to you, Target Threshold Brand. Not only do you consistently design stuff I love, but you have a sense of humor, too.

Moving through the store, I stumbled on the clothes section. And more specifically, women's clothing...and most specifically, THIS.

I mean, I possess enough self-awareness to know I'm not fashionable. Never have been, never claimed to be. But what in the everloving fuck is this? Oh, just an orange fashion jumpsuit with a sheer bodice. And it doesn't flatter even the mannequin's figure, sooooo, good luck with that, suckas. Maybe it's a modern take on prison wear, fueled by the public's demand for sexy versions of the clothing featured on Orange Is the New Black.

Here are Items Two, Three, and Four in our Things That Make Me Want Another Baby series: a cute maternity shirt (I miss maternity shirts), a sweet one-piece sweater outfit (...jumpsuit?!), and adorable boy shirts. (Scene from Target's design team meeting: "Hey, what colors should we do for the spring line to make Cathy's ovaries weep?" "How about hoodies and button-downs in turquoise, gray, yellow, and green?" "Yeah! Oh, AND STRIPES!")

This was in the Juniors section and makes me want Rowan to never, ever, ever been a tween or teen...or, really, anything that's too old to wear that one-piece sweater outfit.

There were some of these in Juniors, too. FINE. So jumpsuits are a thing. Whatever. Dorks.

And the Juniors section also happens to be where I glimpsed a lady perusing the jumpsuits who was SO TOTALLY LORDE. Like, seriously. It was Lorde. But I was having trouble snapping a covert pic of her without looking being creepy, so here she is from her Wikipedia page:

"Which Juniors jumpsuit will set off my skin tone and make my
eyes pop, without being too reminiscent of a toddler outfit?"

Just past Clothing was Cute Baby Crap. I tried to ignore the lure, but two things jumped out at me.

First, they somehow improved what was already the very best baby item on the planet. The thing that restored my sleep, my sanity, and my functionality: the Fisher Price Rock 'N' Play. Gramma bought one for Rowan when she was itty-bitty, after dozens of my friends recommended it in response to a desperate Facebook plea to help make my baby sleep for more than thirty minutes at a time. Rowan slept in her Rock 'N' Play exclusively until she was five months old or so, and then still for some naps and part of each night until she was nine months old (<ducks in corner as the Mom Shamers shake their fists at me for letting her sleep in it way past the recommended age>). The ONLY THING that would have made it better was an automatic rocking feature. TA-DA! This new version has two auto-rock settings (shorter for naps, longer for night), and you can bet your tush that I'll snap one up in a heartbeat if my next child has a hard time sleeping.

Ugh, the breastfeeding aisle. Am I out of freezer bags? Do I need new valves? I wonder if those sanitizing wipes are here. Shoot, where did I put that extra battery pack...maybe I'll just buy a new OH WAIT THAT'S RIGHT! HAHAHAHA I DON'T NEED ANY OF THIS STUFF ANYMORE! (Grateful it was all available to me; more grateful that, yesterday, I could point and laugh at the aisle and then move on.)

I made it out of the Cute Baby Crap section quickly, mostly because I spotted the holiday candy up ahead. See, I realized a few days ago that I totally missed the annual retail release of Easter candy (January 31, duhhh). Usually, by early February, places like CVS and Rite-Aid and - yes - Target will stock both Valentine's Day and Easter candy. Some people want V-Day to have its own candy time, but I love the early Easter candy displays. Not only is it the most delicious of all seasonal candies, but all of winter after New Year's Eve is pointless anyway, so might as well skip to Easter. 

BUT. The only thing stocked on these shelves was heart-shaped disappointment.

There was NOTHING of the Easter persuasion at this Target. Nary a Cadbury Egg nor Sweetart Bunny to be seen. I was so bummed that I didn't even buy those Jolly Rancher Sour Heart things, even though they looked really good. (Because my own heart was sour enough, apparently.)

I soothed my hurt feelings in the cracker aisle with these before cruising to the checkout.

All in all, I left Target yesterday with only Cheez-Its, $1 bath crayons, and a cheap toddler raincoat. Pretty impressive, for a spur-of-the-moment "window shopping" trip. Ah, but the parking lot turned out to have some surprises of its own up its sleeve for me...

Look! A school bus! In the Target parking lot! Freakin' awesome field trip idea. Why didn't I think of that during the ten years I spent planning 50+ field trips each summer for school-age campers?! Missed opportunity for sure.

But wait. Look closer. What...is that?

Is that...a dog? Driving the van?

Oh yes. It's a dog. Driving the van. A DOG DRIVING THE VAN.

And with that, I headed home, having just one little heart attack when I all of a sudden noticed an empty car seat in the rearview mirror and thought I had left Rowan in the shopping cart back at Target. Good times, indeed.


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