Thursday, August 28, 2008

How we spent our summer vacation

Lately all the home improvement businesses have spent vast sums of advertising dollars telling us that instead of traveling we should invest in our homes. Well, this summer we bought it. "It" being anything sold at Lowe's or Home Depot. Our friend Steve, who can build or fix practically everything and was between jobs, spent much of the spring and summer working on various projects for us. For a few blissful months I felt like the queen of a castle, laying out the daily tasks for the servants. Sadly, a budgetary coup has overthrown me and the projects have ground to a halt or are being imperfectly and slowly done by yours truly. But here's a sampling of what we accomplished.

Our first goal was to finish half the basement, especially Tyler's office since he works exclusively from home. After three years of living here we decided he'd earned heat, real walls, and more light than the bare bulb dangling from the ceiling. We're not done yet, but there's wires in them thar walls! We also are finishing another bedroom and we started the rough plumbing and electrical work for a bathroom. Under the drywall we added a layer of soundboard in an attempt to muffle the pitter-patter of little feet.

For Mother's Day I decided to see if Steve could add another layer of beams to an arbor we already had in the backyard. The existing beams were too far apart and the vines flopped through instead of spreading out on top, and there wasn't any shade or sense of enclosure. Voila! Next year this will be the perfect place for the hammock I'm searching for.

I shouldn't admit it but this was probably my favorite project. I thought it was one of Tyler's whims, but he was right. Turning half of the basement into livable rooms meant that all the junk stored down there needed to find a new home. Tyler asked Steve to whip up a wall o' shelves in the garage. While we were on vacation he worked his magic and we arrived home to a beautiful bank of hanging shelves. I am an organization nerd, I admit. I often go out to the garage just to gaze at the neatly labeled boxes in their rows. It's not exactly Pottery Barn, but it does make me ridiculously happy.

Actually this was my favorite project. In the end of July our swamp cooler died. We had figured we'd bite the bullet and replace it with air conditioning in a year or two, but that schedule suddenly accelerated once I'd spent a day in a house that was pushing 90 degrees. Thankfully the AC guy rushed our job through, even working on Pioneer Day (an actual holiday here). Here's a shot of him up on the roof, dismantling the swamp cooler and sending it to its ignominious death. Something about having AC has made me feel very grown up. This is the first house I've ever lived in with air conditioning. Of course, once the first electric bill comes, I'll feel that other grown-up feeling: broke.

OK, this is definitely my favorite project. Here is the "before" shot. When we bought the house, we inherited a beautiful yard and a lousy sprinkler system. The whole neighborhood knows when we go on vacation because the lawn dies. After two vacations and two death-and-resurrection cycles this summer we'd had it. Thanks to my brother-in-law Dave, an irrigation guru who lives too far away to do forced family service projects, we tapped his friend, another wizard of water, to revamp our system. Actually, we begged, pleaded, sent photos of our dead grass. As of 8pm tonight, we have an almost entirely new system. The sprinklers are beautiful in motion. I could seriously watch them all day. They are fountains, arcing through space, cascading, dripping, dropping, welling up, raining down... I am truly inspired.

So there you have it: how we spent our summer vacation--every penny of it. I wish we'd bought stock in Lowe's and Home Depot--it would have funded an actual vacation next year!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Meet Angus

After eight years of postponing the inevitable, we have a dog. I really tried to talk up the aquarium full of fish, but no dice. Tyler and Carden insisted on having something "more alive." Last week, Tyler and his brother Joel returned from their Missouri road trip (Joel was driving west for med school rotations; Tyler went along to help drive and to meet the bulldog breeder Joel had bought his dog from).

It's been a busy week. The whole experience has reminded me so much of bringing a newborn home from the hospital, starting with this first photo of Tyler carrying his new arrival into the house. Watching Tyler has been like seeing myself as a first-time mom. He wakes up before dawn to take the dog out, since the dog isn't on Utah time yet; he measures out the dog food on a digital scale; and keeps track of each "messy diaper" with all the fervor (but not the charts) I had with Carden. He's found special puppy shampoo (two kinds!), debates the merits of various chew toys, and browses bulldog websites gathering helpful tips. It's really cute. He's as hands-on a dad as you could wish with all of our human babies, but he's gotten into this dog like nothing I've ever seen.

Angus is a bulldog. They are short, fat, and friendly. I personally think they are ugly. Tyler thinks they are beautiful. Of course, one of his main dog criteria has always been, "something that makes me laugh when I look at it." Just remember Angus, we're laughing with you, not at you.

Angus is 5 months now, older than the typical puppy you bring home, but that's meant he's that much closer to being housetrained. He contracted an eye infection after birth and his right eye (the brown side of his face) is smaller than the other. The pink tissue of the eyelid is almost the only thing you can see because the eyeball is partially hidden under his wrinkles. The breeder couldn't sell him because of the problem. But there's a dog for everyone out there, and this seems to be the one for us. Maybe it's helped warm me up to him. It's tough to preach to your kids to make friends with people who may look a little different and then ignore the visual aid that's slobbering on your ankles.

Carden is in heaven. He has wanted a dog for so long, and he now he has a furry pillow who is happy to eat the dog treats Carden offers and pretend to obey him. Carden's technique of shouting commands after Angus has done something has made Carden believe he is a super dog trainer. Seth is a little more ambivalent towards the new pet. He's too busy doing four-year-old things, and he's so small and quick-moving that Angus is a little jumpy around him. Charlotte is the goddess on high. She sits in her high chair and tosses crumbs to her new acolyte below.

As for all of us, having to take a potty break outside every two hours has been a surprising source of enjoyment (I say this, not being the resident pooper scooper). There is so much work to be done in the yard that when we are outside it tends to be because there is mowing, weeding, or watering to be done. But now we sit on a bench under the apple trees and watch the kids throw the ball to Angus, or have a snack, or watch Charlotte learn to bounce on the trampoline. There's even a little less mowing, weeding, or watering to be done because Tyler has been making good use of his early mornings up with the dog to reclaim the garden from the weeds. He's done more yard work this week than he had the entire summer.

And that's enough to make me love any dog.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Catching up

The summer has sped by, and blogging, along with an awful lot of house and yardwork, has fallen behind. As usual, there's no easy-to-name culprit for why I've felt so busy, but we've definitely had the feeling of looking around and saying, "what happened?" Hopefully with the start of school I'll be able to dig down to the bottom of all the piles and discover the things I can't find. I only pray my mind will be in there somewhere.