The kids’ photo site is still months and months out of date, but at least I’m catching up a bit. If you are in the mood to wade through a gazillion snaps, here you go!
Ah, the journey of the kitchen… It started lo these many moons ago when, as I was making dinner, I discovered our original-to-the-house oven was going on strike. And not quietly, but with flames. That was more than a year and a half ago.
You see, an oven installed in 1960ish doesn’t conform to the same dimensions that current ovens do. If we wanted to replace our lovely double ovens, we were going to have to change the cabinetry. I’d also been longing to add some storage in the open corner of our kitchen. And if you start to do one cabinet, it’s probably a good idea to do them all together. But if you can’t do even one cabinet cheaply — so it became a choice between doing a mish-mash partial job for way too much money, and doing an actually attractive full job for way way WAY too much money.
I think I’ve mentioned that I’m not so good at decisions. Ahem. So we dithered away a year on that. And then we finally began a plan for a full kitchen remodel.
And that took another four months. Aie aie aie.
And then, just before Thanksgiving, I packed up the kitchen and we got ready for the invasion of the contractors (whom Toph inexplicably called the window washers). By Christmas, we had . . . um, some cabinets with plywood on top to pretend like it was usable space. Also, a nonfunctional master bath.
BUT by the time we got home from our January vacation, we had a beautiful kitchen! With floors redone three times! And a stove that didn’t work! I’m happy to report that the floors will only have a small amount of touch-up work in the near future, the stove has been repaired and successfully used, and we only have three unfinished fixes on the whole list. Also, our master shower no longer leaks into the kitchen. Phew.
But what you really want is pictures, right? So here you go, our journey in images:
I took these pictures just before the contractors showed up. (I used pink post-its to mark empty cupboards; otherwise, I kept opening them and double/triple/hundrediple-checking. They weren’t, however, part of the original decor, despite the last owners’ love of pink.) Here you see the “vintage” double ovens that sparked (get it? SPARKED?) the whole adventure.
If you turn slightly left from the last pic, this is what you see. Note the pass-through in the corner. It provided conveniently cobwebby access to the screened-in porch during the summer, and a deathly draft for the rest of the year.
The cabinets, pre-cabinet-making. Also known as The Boxatorium Once Again Earning Its Name. Also known as What Our Front Room Looked Like for Many Weeks. Also known as The Best Fortress of Preschooler Hiding EVER.
And now, drum roll please…
Our finished kitchen! Please pay special attention to the decorative tile, which due to poor planning involved a day’s worth of moving outlets down from their original installation point. (sigh.) But I’m still glad I did it.
Okay, so this might not seem like an especially interesting photo, but one of my favorite new features is the widened doorway into the erstwhile Boxatorium. I can now see that room (which usually holds kids, not boxes) from the kitchen! So you’re stuck with this picture too.
* Except the part where we’re still one knob short, and somehow a trip to Home Depot hasn’t happened in all these weeks. See above re: dithering.
Acton doesn’t do kindergarten the typical way. Well, they do — you still go to kindergarten when you’re five-ish, and you still sit in a circle and talk about letters and the weather, and you still feel excited to be the line leader — but the registration part is not the norm. Here’s how it works:
Acton does school choice. We have five elementary schools (each with about 500 students in K-6, three classrooms per grade). They have the same overall curriculum and rank well within the state, but each has its own flavor. So, if you have a kindergartner entering in the fall, you get to start exploring the schools in January. There’s an overall information night, and then each of the five schools has its own individual info night. The schools also each offered daytime tours on a few specific days. The parents officially register their kindergartners-to-be on March 15 and 16, including a form that ranks the schools in order of personal preference. Then, the district runs a lottery, and sometime in April we find out what schools our kindergartners will be attending.
Among my friends and acquaintances here in Acton, this process gets mixed reviews. Some people feel like the schools are similar, so why bother. Some people like the idea but get stressed out by the actual process. Personally, I have absolutely loved the chance to explore the schools, and I honestly believe that the process/choice construct has built unusually strong communities within each elementary school. I had so much fun seeing this in action at the tours and info nights.
Now we’re coming up on the big day. The day when I have to actually rank the schools. When I have to decide what school I think will best serve AJ — and Toph. When I have to determine that one school’s strengths somehow outweigh the strengths of the others. I have enough trouble deciding what to have to drink with lunch, so clearly this is not an easy task for me.
I’ve gotten a lot of advice from Acton parents about this process. A common one is “you’ll know which school is right when you’re there.” Another one was “choose the school where you know the most people.”
For the latter, I’m out of luck. I know a few families at each school, but the bulk of my area buddies are agonizing over the same decisions. Since we can’t guarantee that we’ll be pulled at the same time in the lottery, it seems silly to base my choices on theirs.
For the former, I have to admit, it almost works for me. As one friend said, when she went into one school, she had an actual emotional reaction. Except that I really connected with two different schools. And not just different in location, but pretty different in general. And I’m not entirely convinced that I’m ready to rule out a third one. One day, I’ll be jumping up and down about one aspect of School A, and the next I’m drooling over the possibilities at School B. I can worry about their differences just as much. Will Toph do as well as AJ in each environment? What parts of elementary school life should I prioritize? Should I be concerned about X, Y, or Z?
I don’t have a clue. Instead, I keep falling back on the number-one most common piece of advice that I’ve heard: “You can’t make a bad choice.” But, um, I think the problem is that even with that advice, I still have to make a choice.
I am in a constant state of nostalgia tempered with melancholy. Every time I look at my kids, they are getting bigger. AJ is starting kindergarten in the fall. Toph is an honest-to-goodness kiddo with almost no trace of baby to him.
It’s killing me.
Toph, true to his genes, will talk your ear off. I love his crazy stories. I love the way he has decided that, if you really mean it, you start the sentence with “because.” And if you really, really, REALLY mean it, you start it with a whole volley of becauses. For example, let’s say you just finished dinner. You might think it’s time for dessert. You and I? We’d probably say something like, “I’d like a cookie, please.” Toph says, “B’ca- b’ca- b’ca- b’cause my want a cookie peas!”
But he’s already outgrowing those adorable mispronunciations. He used to think “my” was the only form of the first-person pronoun. And he used to sound like a stereotype of an old Italian immigrant: “My want-a my jacket.” “My go-a to seep-a.” (seep-a = sleep) “My wuv-a my mama.” Now he sounds more and more like a typical kid.
He got a haircut the other day, and he doesn’t look like a baby at all. He’s even losing the toddler sticky-outy belly.
Like I said, it’s killing me.
I once told my godson to ungrow. He claimed that was impossible, and I tried to convince him that it wasn’t. “I used to be as tall as Dave,” I earnestly told him, “but then I walked backwards for a whole year in high school.”
If only it were that easy…
I’m like a seventy-three-year-old woman from Belmont. I disappear for the winter months. (Ba-dum bump.)
Actually, I keep thinking about writing, but returning after a long absence always feels a bit daunting. If I come back, I have to say something profound — or at least really, really funny. I’m giving up on both and just coming back to say . . . whatever comes out.
For now, that’s the short version of this snowy, icy season:
Thanksgiving was in North Carolina at my sister’s new beach house. Yes, it’s as fabulous as that sounds, only more so. Eight bedrooms, three floors, right on the dunes… It even had an elevator. (That was a HUGE hit with the under-ten set.)
Christmas included the usual holiday things — gingerbread houses, letters to Santa, holiday parties, visits from relatives, and a Christmas tree that we got in right under the wire.
January’s big event was our annual vacation with my in-laws, once again to Beaches in Turks and Caicos. Warm, sunny, beautiful . . . so nice! Plus, the kids turned into fishes. You should see AJ swim!
And then we came home to a 95% finished kitchen. WOO HOO! I’ll try to get a series of remodeling pix up here soon. I can’t tell you what a relief it was *not* to have workers coming in and out of the house early every morning. And even more so, I can’t tell you how much I LOVE LOVE LOVE my beautiful kitchen. We are never moving. Ever.
Especially now that the stove is working. (Sigh. That was a long and unpleasant journey.)
February has been a whirl of AJ-ness. Well, after the annual Super Bowl Party, that is. Then we got to concentrate on her birthday . . . and on the wonder that is Acton kindergarten registration.
And now it’s March, when we can hope that the two-foot-thick carpet of ice will once again turn into our front yard. (Seriously. I love winter, but this was over the top. The kids can’t even play outside because it would require skates and a helmet!)
Okay. Now that’s all out of the way, so I feel like I’m back and I can start writing inconsequential posts about whatever suits my fancy. (For example: Does anyone say “suits my fancy” any more?)
AJ attended her first wedding when she was one month old. She was in her first wedding party this summer. I think she’s been to a total of eight (maybe nine?) weddings. With a track record like that, you’d think she’d have some knowledge of what marriage is.
Last summer, however, she and her friend I would spend their afternoons getting married by I’s big sister — an event that required hats, but was otherwise very flexible. Later, AJ told me that Africa was getting married to Japan. (I appreciate the attempt at world harmony, at least.)
Lately, she’s started marrying individuals rather than global entities, so I guess that’s a step in the right direction. Right now, though, she’s in her bedroom for “quiet time.” I think she’s “reading” a book to her stuffed animals and dolls. What I’ve heard so far is about how someone has to get married, but no one wants to get married, but Daddy has to get married. Come on, doesn’t someone want to marry Daddy?
So I guess we’ve moved up to a more traditional form of marriage — right down to the arranged part. Or maybe it’s just a testament to my patience as a wife. After all, who in their right mind would marry Daddy unless repeatedly coerced?
I went from a project on sex to a project with four categories: accounting, managing, cloud computing, and data warehousing. Jealous?
I spent the last three days cleaning. On Friday (an off-day for Dave, now that they’re on a 9/80 workweek), I tackled the garage. Everything went out, only some came back in — and not until I had thoroughly attacked almost every surface left. When I drove my car back in as the final item returning to its place, a leaf came with me. The garage was so clean that I had to pick it up and remove it. Seriously. I don’t think it was even this clean when we moved in. Seriously:
On Saturday, I moved on to the unfinished side of the basement. It also is at heretofore unknown levels of cleanliness. No pictures currently available.
And Sunday, being the day of rest, I started packing up more of the kitchen, but the really annoying part where I sift through piles and piles to figure out what is worth saving, what goes somewhere else entirely, and what needs to be packed now versus later. Plus a little moving around of shelving and whatnot so that we have a makeshift kitchenette in the front room.
All of this is one more step toward the kitchen renovation. The basement and garage have space to store boxes (whether packed kitchen items or new items when they arrive). The existing kitchen is shedding its useful parts so that it soon will no longer be existing at all. And yet . . . there’s something wholly unsatisfying about a weekend spent cleaning the things that no guests ever see. If only I had the commitment to do that to the rest of the house, huh?
Note: This episode of Abigail’s
Clean Cleaner (Okay, Stop Being So Picky) Clean-ish-In-Spots House was brought to you in part by the support of her in-laws and the wonder that is free babysitting.
We’re the kind of folks who, if we hear a friend is visiting town, will always offer our spare bed. If we hear that our friend’s brother is visiting too, we’re just so generous that we’ll go ahead and blow up the air mattress for him, too. BUT . . . there’s a catch.
In the middle of the night, just as you’re settling into a nice dream, the air mattress will turn from a cushy(ish) flat surface into the EXERCISE BED OF DEATH. Okay, not death. Just very precarious balance while attempting to sleep. That’s less catchy, though, but still pretty impressive. Somehow the inner and outer membranes separated, such that it leaked a bit, then got stuck with a middling amount of air that can’t escape — but is no longer confined to the mattress shape. More of a balloon within a larger mattress coating. Very restful, as I’m sure you can guess.
I’ve decided it’s really a selling point: Come to our house, and we’ll make sure you exercise your core muscles while you sleep! It’s like a spa vacation, only free! We’ll even throw in, at no extra cost, a daily wake-up call of various giggles, shrieks, and tantrums. How could you say no?
(And while we’re on the subject, sort of, the bouncy house has also sprung a slow leak. I’m starting to wonder if the lawn machines have formed some sort of weird-combo-for-the-increased-power-of-numbers union with the inflatables in this house.)
Normally at this time, I am in the locker room at the gym, trying to get AJ to hurry up and wash her hands after using the bathroom already because Miss Rebecca is waiting for them — oh, crud, hold on! time to go chase a naked Toph back into the locker room — where was I? Oh right. Miss Rebecca is ready to start class, and — Toph, would you please sit down while I try to get my suit on? GET BACK HERE. I CAN’T CHASE YOU TIL MY CLOTHES ARE ON!!!
You know, like that. Followed by a half-hour of swimming with Toph, followed by a few minutes of convincing Toph he isn’t too cold just yet because AJ and her friend E want to show off their newly honed swimming skills for a little bit, followed by more of the locker room chaos (partially tempered by giving each kid an apple, which means that Toph is briefly distracted from running away while I’m naked — although not distracted enough to stop him from showing off the anatomy he is most proud of but so rarely able to share with his friends, ahem). We go home by way of the pizza place, eat, bathe, and get the kids in bed. At which point, I’m usually ready to go to bed myself.
Today, though? Today I’m at my computer and the kids are slack-jawed in front of the TV. When I came in to get AJ from her “quiet time,” she was snuggled up in her bed. In bed. This is a kid who believes that “quiet time” means “time when I get to jump all over my room while telling, at the top of my lungs, all my dolls and plushies how to dance/behave/learn/play soccer/do whatever I want them to.” She told me that she wanted to stay home because she was scared her ears would hurt in the water. Poor thing.
So here we are, and I have a chance to play a little blog catch-up. Whee!
Not that I have too much exciting to say. The kitchen is less amorphous, but still awaiting any real work. BUT we’ve bought some appliances, should have cabinets here next week, and have countertop and tile nearly finalized. Mostly this is thanks to good friends with advice and/or free childcare. I don’t feel relaxed, but I do feel a little better. Check in next week and see if I’ve managed to clean out garage space for the cabinets, and then you’ll know if I actually feel like we’ll survive.
I did manage to fit in a special tea party for AJ yesterday, too. As a reward for handling the change to the fuller fall schedule of day care gracefully, I picked her up early, picked up her friend E (different E from today, though), and took them both home to Tea Party Central. We had antique teacups, “tea” (apple cider in a teapot), fancy flower cookies from a local bakery, strawberries in pretty china bowls, and princess napkins. Super cute. They spent the whole time talking about “princess manners.” The best was when AJ said, “One good rule is no slurping. I’m teaching my daddy not to slurp, and I’m hoping that he’ll help Pop-pop stop slurping.”
Toph was bereft when he heard there’d be a tea party without him, so we had an encore performance (minus cookies) after picking him up. He may have been more excited than AJ.
Other “big events” included a class at Drumlin Farm wherein I learned the entertainment power of a nutcracker and a bag of mixed nuts; our intermittent/intinerant visitor Mary; flu shots for both kiddos (AJ: “I stood as still as a statue and I didn’t cry. Toph stood as still as a statue but he did cry.”) — but not at the same appointment as for AJ’s skin bump two days before because that would be far too convenient, and by the way, when did the pediatrician’s office stop giving out stickers?!; a “rock star” birthday party for one of AJ’s good Acorn friends; and a vet appointment for Topie who has a weirdo lip thing with the disgusting name “rodent ulcer.” Ewwww.
None of the events included hockey for me. Despite the season starting a couple weeks back, I have been unable to put on elbow guards without a lot of pain, thanks to a run-in with the gate at the top of the stairs a while back. And while I’ve managed to book several pediatrician and vet appointments, I don’t seem able to book my own doctor’s appointment.
I’d say that I’ll do it tomorrow, but I have a feeling I’ll forget before I get home from day care (yet again). Plus, that doctor’s appointment would take valuable time away from my fretting about the kitchen and assorted other things, like getting ready for Thanksgiving in North Carolina!