We made a quick stop at Home Depot yesterday to pick up some lawn bags. Not familiar with the concept of lawn bags? Then you must not own your own home. Or perhaps you're one of those fancy-pants with a gardener. (I'm joking, of course. I would LOVE to be a fancy-pants with a gardener.)
Anyway, lawn bags are enormous brown bags (so big that my seven year old can still play hide & seek and hide inside a bag) which are meant to be filled with all the recycling (leaves, branches, and not much else really) from one's back (and front) yard.
In my neighborhood, you then lug these 50 lb bags to the curb and a garbage-type truck drives around on random days and picks them up - which means that the bags might be gone before I finish dropping the kids at school or they might be sitting at the curb a week later. Either way, once they're full, I no longer have to worry about them. They are someone else's problem, namely the leaf-guy.
The other day, it occurred to me that growing up, I had never seen one of these leaf bags, which led me to several conclusions, one of which is that I must have grown up in a very wealthy in a neighborhood where everyone had gardeners. Am I right? Daddy? Is that it?
Anyway, why I am sharing this? Only because we stopped at Home Depot and the little one fell in love with a little purple petunia plant. And because I'm a big spender (I grew up in a wealthy neighborhood, y'know), I shelled out the 88 cents for the plant. Mother of the Year award, here I come!
She carried that plant around the store and I was just so relieved when we made it to the car with the plant intact. Imagine having to pay for two of those!
She carried the plant into the house and then to the backyard where she gazed lovingly at it while I bagged the leaves.
Notice, if you will, the leaves on the right hand side of the picture. Now multiply that by a million and you'll get a clearer picture of how many leaves are currently in my backyard. I guess that's what happens when you don't clean them up in the fall. They stay there, waiting for you, all winter long.
The plant sat next to her while she dug in the yard, it swung on the swing with her and made a few trips down the slide on her lap.
And now it sits on the front steps and she sits next to it, asking it if it's okay, if it's having a nice day and if it's thirsty. (At least someone will remember to water it).
I even found her at the porch window this morning, looking at her plant. And then she started hollering out the window, not at the plant but at the leaf guy who had just pulled up with his truck, No! No! Not your leaf bags! Mommy's! Give those back!
So we had a talk about things that are garbage and things that we don't need anymore, and then I redirected her attention to her plant - ooh, maybe it's thirsty!
Had I known what a great activity one little plant could be for one little girl, I would have started one from seeds weeks ago.
What is a home? And what is a house? The two words are often used interchangeably, but in my mind, one is where your heart lives and the other is where your possessions live.
Houses can be bought and sold, built from scratch or remodelled, or even knocked down in a hurricane. But your home, your home is wherever you are, wherever the people that you love are at that moment.
It's been a week since Hurricane Sandy hit the NY/NJ area and I feel like it's only now that we are starting to realize how lucky we have been.
The lights went out this past Monday night and stayed out until Saturday night.
The trees on our block are all still standing, our windows are all intact, our basement did not flood and our car still has some gas in it.
We are super-lucky.
But we were also prepared.
A couple of days before the hurricane, newscasters were already imploring residents to pack a go-bag, stock up on water, flashlights, batteries, medicines and, most of all, to make a plan. And because I am married to Mr. Safety, we did.
And I'm so sad for the people who didn't.
Even if this hurricane has turned out to be nothing, even if we were stocked with tons
of batteries and flashlights, so what? The worst that would have happened is that we would have been extra ready extra early next time.
Batteries don't go to waste. Canned tuna fish lasts a really long time. Bottled water lasts even longer. And besides, you'll eat the tuna and drink the water at some point. Just make pretend that there was a really good sale on those items (even if there wasn't) and buy what you need.
I'm not advocating becoming a survivalist - although, I do have to say, there is nothing quite like sitting in the pitch black with your family sleeping around you, just waiting for looters to show up and knowing that there is really nothing in the world you can do about it. Again, we got lucky, nothing like that happened around here, but it definitely did in other towns around here.
Being a parent is a huge responsibility, and part of that responsibility is to make sure your kids feel safe, even if in reality, they are not 100% safe at that moment. They don'y need to know that.
So instead of panicking*, we made a game out of the hurricane.
Josh handed each kid their own flashlight.
He brought all their mattresses down to the dining room - the room with the fewest windows - and pretended we were going camping. They all got into their cozy pajamas and we kept the tv on as long as the power stayed on. But once it went out, at about 7pm, they each got into their makeshift beds, with tons of pillows and blankets and flashlights and books to read or look at.
Meanwhile, I stayed upstairs, packing a big bag, should we need to leave.
At that point, we had no idea if the basement would flood, how much rain there would be or if "all" we would get would be 90 mph winds.
So I packed three days worth of clothes, pajamas, sweatshirts for the kids and for us. Tons of extra socks. Tons of diapers for the little one. I dug out their winter boots from the attic and got together gloves and hats for everyone. Any conceivable medicine any kid might have potentially needed. And more flashlights. I'm not sure how it all fit, but all those items were stuffed into one carry-on bag. Or rather, a carry-on bag from the 1980's. Now, I'm
pretty sure all you can get onto an airplane is a backpack. Either way, it was not a huge bag, but it worked.
I'll say it again, I'm married to Mr. Safety, so perhaps this is all overkill, but I have definitely come around to Josh's way of thinking: better safe than sorry.
Having said that, I also packed another small bag with the following:
1. All our important documents. I never realized before how many we had,
including mortgage papers and passports.
2. Cash. We had gone to the bank before the storm.
3. Extra house and car keys.
4. More diapers and wipes.
5. A cell phone charger.
6. A bunch of plastic shopping bags.
We also put a case of bottled water in the car, as well as four fleece blankets. Okay, I'll admit, those blankets live there all the time, just in case (thanks Alissa - my sister-in-law in safety!) And of course, snacks. Lots of crackers and granola bars and pretzels.
Oh, and Josh backed up the computer and the laptop and took the back-up and the laptop with us.
My point here is this: we were ready. We had a plan. And we could have left at a moment's notice, should the need have come. It didn't. But we were prepared.
And so many people in evacuation zones were not prepared. Or they refused to leave.
I'm not judging at all, everyone makes their own personal calculations of which no one else is ever privy, and my heart is so sad for everyone and anyone affected in any way by the hurricane, but I do have to say that I cannot for one second imagine not leaving my house if my neighborhood had been evacuated. We would have left even if there may have been a thought that our neighborhood maybe perhaps should be evacuated.
A house is just a house. Only people can make it a home. My home is wherever Josh is. Wherever my kids are. Wherever we are, all together, is home.
*I do have to admit that there were moments of panic, for me at least. Josh laughed at me when the power went out and, well, this is how it went:
Me: oh no, how are we going to make hot cocoa in the morning? The hot water urn will be cold!
Josh: You do know we have a tea kettle, right?
Me: Oh. Yeah, okay, I'm okay now.
Anyone wanna mow our lawn for us? Josh hasn't been coming home before dark
lately and mowing in the dark sounds like something a drunk fraternity guy might
try, not a responsible husband. (Ed. note: If you are a drunk fraternity guy
looking for something to do, please come mow my lawn. You'll be fine, don't
The yard is in bad shape. And I don't just know that because the neighbors
are pointing and laughing. I know we need a good mow because when Little
T walks around in the yard, she doesn't have to bend down at all to pull a
dandelion. They're kind of at eye level. Okay, fine, she almost has to reach up to
The upside here: Using those dandelions, I've finally been able to teach her how to
blow from her mouth properly. A huge skill for a two year old.
We're hoping that the rain stops by the weekend so Josh can mow. And also
because for every five minutes it rains, I'm pretty sure the grass grows another
inch. Can you say jungle?
So just so we're all clear, this is what happens when we are derelict in our backyard duties and do not empty or cover the (very full) sandbox at the end of the summer.
Mix together some rain, a little snow, some random toys, below freezing weather and of course, the 20 pounds of sand that live in the sanbox and there you go, a frozen sandbox.
Gross. And tons of fun to clean come spring :)
It's not totally done, but it's done enough to share.
The walls are painted.
The carpet tiles are down.
The furniture has been moved into the for-now places.
And we even took a trip? adventure? to Ikea on Friday to pick up a storage unit for the toys. Bought and built in an afternoon. Amazing.
Here are some pictures. I will add some more as more work/decorating is done.
As a reminder, here is a before picture of my basement. Pure wasted space.
Bear in mind that we still have some lighting issues down there and so the quality of pictures leave something to be desired, but here's an after:
Ignore, if you will, the laundry drying on the stairs gate. This is a picture of half the basement, I couldn't get it all into one shot.
My checkerboard carpet. Kind of like a checkerboard cake.
My new couch pillow. It makes me happy.
My Ikea storage unit. And a small Ikea toybox next to it.
All the little hands that helped build the new toy storage unit.
And because I know there are some people keeping count, my total expenditure so far for the basement has been $431.
Primer/paint and brushes and stuff: $61
Carpet tiles: $294 (99cents a square foot. You can't really beat that.)
Toy storage: $76 (The unit with the bins above and a toy box.)
Pillow: $0 (my dad bought it for me, but it was really on sale in Bed Bath and Beyond for only $10!)
My time spent: about 14 hours so far, spread out over about 2 weeks, maybe a little less.
If we had hired someone to do the painting and carpet tiles, this would have already run us a minimum of $1000 before materials. All I can say right now is go me!
The past couple of days were biggies in a world where basements morph into
Tuesday morning I cleaned the floor, scrubbed like I've never done before.
If nothing else, it was a calorie burner.
And yesterday morning was the whole point of everything I've done so far; I
The baby and I went to Home Depot on Tuesday afternoon to buy some no VOC
and odorless paint. Home Depot didn't have any, they just don't carry any paint
that is not-bad for the environment. No really, that's what the guy in the paint
department told me.
Me: Do you have no-VOC paint?
Paint Guy: Nope, we don't carry that good-for-you-stuff.
Me: Okay then.
At least he had the decency to not point out that I had a granola
bar stuck to my skirt as I paraded around the store.
So then off to Lowe's we went. And Lowe's carries a huge assortment of
those good-for-you paints. After much deliberation (me) and ripping of those
little and thankfully free paint cards (baby), we chose a color. It looked like
a light green to me, the kitchen area in the basement has some green in it so in
theory it should all blend together.
Wednesday was painting day and a totally spontaneous one at that. I had
been planning to paint at night after the kids were in bed, but some days you
just have it all together, you know? So when the baby went down for her nap, I
ran down to the basement and painted for an hour straight. And when I looked up
after those 60 minutes (I knew it was an hour because I had thrown a load into
the dryer and set the timer. I am nothing if not a multi-tasker), I was done.
All the walls were now green. When wet they kind of looked like a pukey green
and I was kind of nauseous myself. But now that's it's dry, it looks much
better, more like a seafoam green or pistachio. I am not sure I would pick this
color again for anything, ever, but it's fine for this project.
And the baby cooperated too. She woke up as soon as I finished washing the
And then last night Josh was kind enough to move all the furniture that had
been sitting in the center of the room so we'd (I'd) be ready to go when the
carpet tiles came. I really had no idea where he was going to put everything,
especially the couch. This is what he did:
I have no clue how he got it up there or how he will get it down. But that's his
project. I have enough projects of my own right now.
Today my helper and I went down to clean up a little more.
Is my Happiness Project working? I think so. I am definitely happy that I
am done painting. Let's see how happy I am when the carpet comes.
Continuing on our merry way with my totally unprofessional rebranding of
our basement into a playroom, I present, phase two - the taping off of the walls
and ceilings with the blue painter's tape.
Blue Painter's Tape. Just rolls off your tongue. At least now it does. About an hour ago, it
wasn't coming that easily. If fact, I think the taping of the room was more
difficult than the priming of the room. I don't remember the last time I had to
hold my arms over my head for such a long period of time. I really must start
Anywho, here are some fascinating pictures of the blue painter's tape
sitting, for the most part, right where the wall meets the ceiling.
And, and for your viewing pleasure, here is a picture of the paint tray and
brush that I used last night, now all dried out. I knew I forgot to go back
downstairs for something. Oh well.
Next Up - tomorrow night: the amazingness that is the cleaning of the basement
floors. I know, I know, you're waiting with baited breath. But don't. You might
pass out before I get down there. Especially because my Swiffer broke the other
day. I'm pretty sure this is going to be me, my knees, some paper towels and a
bottle of Fantastik.
Oh, Happiness Project
, are we happy yet?
Wow, it's been a bunch of days since I've been here. The girls and I have
had extra bad colds, the kind where no one goes to school, no one does any
laundry and everyone is too kvetchy to even take a nap.
Thankfully, the tissue avalanche has come to an (almost) end, the three
year old is back in her beloved nursery classroom and the baby is, if not off my
lap for an entire minute, at least not hanging from my neck and crying "stand
up, stand up" because she's only happy when one of stands and holds her.
So what would you do after finally seeing there might be a light at the end
of the Bad Cold Tunnel? Take a shower? Sit and look at a wall? Maybe make a cup
of hot chocolate and not share it? All good ideas. Not me. I mean, I did have a
hot chocolate, but that's neither here nor there. No, what did I do? Last night,
I painted the basement. Well, really, I primed it, with my new love, Odorless
Kilz White Primer.
After spending the entire week with two of the kids on the couch,
surrounded by tissues and toys that have been Lysoled, I realized that even
though I really don't want to throw any money into making a basement playroom,
especially in a basement that is somewhat prone to flooding when it rains, I
realized that I have no choice. So I am going to do this as efficiently, as
quickly and as inexpensively (read: on the cheapo scale) as possible. And I know
myself, if I think too much, nothing gets done so I'm just going to jump in and do it.
And this is how I came to be standing in the basement at 9:30pm on a Sunday
wearing and an old and ripped t-shirt and Josh's old sweatpants that have lost
all the elastic - have you ever tried to paint while holding your pants up? -
looking at the newly primed walls of my basement. It looks better already.
I wanted to show you what the basement looked like before, but I forgot to take a picture.
Sadly, this is what the basement looks like after it's been cleaned up and after we threw
out bags and bags of stuff and moved everything to the middle of the room.
I'd show you a picture of the primed walls, but they're still white, so
that would be silly.
But I will update you as the project continues.
And how does this relate to my Happiness Project
had decided to start thinking about? The first chapter of that book talks about
creating energy in your life, and doing that by releasing things that are
bogging you down and making you drag your feet everyday. And clutter is at the
top of my list. And if the consequence of cleaning out the basement is having to
paint it, so be it. It's worth it. So far. I haven't had to fight with that roll
of blue painter's tape yet.
The morning started with a flat tire, except we only noticed it once
everyone was in the car and all booster and car seats were buckled and ready to
go. I was backing out of the driveway, commenting on how early we were this
morning, listening to the sounds of pretzel-filled sandwich bags being opened
for car snacks*, when Josh sensed something wrong - and lo and behold, the whole
front passenger side tire had deflated.
After walking everyone to school, baby and I came home and called AAA. They
were so nice. I didn't have my card, I have no idea where it is, and I am pretty
sure I am still covered under my father's name, using my maiden name, but the
nice lady named Carol found me in the system, gave me my reference number, #152
- did 151 other people really have car trouble before 9am this morning?! - and
said that the guy would be here within the hour. And shocker of shockers, 22
minutes later he pulled up to my house.
Meet George. Well, George's truck, anyway. George, himself, was a bit camera-shy.
This is my car that he backed into the street at an alarming MPH considering he
was moving it maybe a hundred feet, not even.
This is my car up on the jack (is that how you say it? I have no idea.) And
there is the tire that caused all the problems.
Oh, and here is the humongous truck that came barrelling down my block,
only to stop short because it could not fit through the narrow space George left
on the street when he backed my van out of the driveway. I was too far away to
hear the exchange between the truck driver and George, but I can tell you, from
the hand gestures it was a heated conversation that contained
Anyway, long story short, George was awesome, he had the tire changed in
ten minutes, and left, parting with these words - "Lady, if you don't want me
back here tomorrow, get some air for your back tires and for the spare because
that one's almost flat too." Excellent. I'll just pass that message on to Josh.
George left and the baby and I came inside and into the kitchen because, well, because everytime we walk into the house we head to the kitchen. Snacktime is all the time in our house. We get to the kitchen and we hear dripping. I'm walking around the whole kitchen trying to figure it out when I see it. The kitchen toilet is overflowing - not from the actual toilet part but from the tank. Hmmm. And no one even flushed. And I know that because there was no one there. We were outside with George. So I call Josh to tell him the good news and just as he is telling me how to shut the water off, the overflowing stops. Whew. I just closed the bathroom door and backed away - and made the kids use the upstairs bathroom after school.
*Yes, I know we live very close to school and shouldn't even be
driving, let alone be having car snacks. We should be power walking the few
blocks, but, as I learned this morning, walking to school with three kids and
one more in a stroller does not make for a kvetch-free morning, and really, who
needs that? Not me. So we have snacks for our commute - and I use the term
Yeah, so when your roofer shows up in a bathing suit to look
at your house, that should really be the tipoff that you have a problem.
My blogging time has been nil this week. I've been meeting with
contractors, roofers, siding guys and drywall guys. And not because I am looking
to do any work on the house, I'm just looking to get it to stop raining
in the house.
So here's the thing, my boys both have birthdays in the summer and we have
been planning their parties for weeks and weeks - not because our parties need
that much planning, it's more because the parties kept getting postponed - first
we had Hurricane Irene visit us on the day of the party. Irene, ever the lovely
house guest, brought with her a flooded basement and lots and lots of water
pouring into the porch. She also brought tons of debris in the backyard, so Plan A
of having the party in the backyard was nixed, as was Plan B, having the party
in the porch. We weren't cleaned up by the following Sunday, so once again, the
party was postponed. And now, as this Sunday is looming right in front of me, I
still have water pouring into the basement (maybe it'll wash the mold away!) and
a very wet carpet in the porch that we are trying to dry out. But no more
postponing because, frankly, at this point, I think I am the one causing it to
rain. Every time I pick a new date for the party, it rains. It also rains the
four days before the new date. There is some message here, I am just
not understanding what it is. But we did briefly consider changing the party to
some kind of Shrek/Swamp themed party so we could use the backyard, but the
mosquitoes beat us back inside, so we're back to to our original plan.
And what would that original plan be? I'll tell ya.
My six year old, bless him, asked for a Home Depot themed party. I wasn't
quite sure how to do that, so what else could I do but google it, right? Googled
and this is what I found - apparently, you can have a birthday party IN Home
Depot. Who knew? Not me, that's for sure. I wasn't even sure the Home Depots on
the east coast would do it, the parties I found online were in middle America,
but if you don't ask, you don't get. So we asked, and finally, we got. Oh, and
wait, get this. It's free. A free birthday party in Home Depot. I'll say it
again. A free birthday party in Home Depot.
So you know how Home Depot has these free workshops for kids on Saturdays?
No? So they do. So we asked if they could run one of those workshops on a Sunday
for a party, and lo and behold, after calling every single Home Depot in the
county and the next county over, we hit on one that would do it for us. Most of
the stores we called weren't quite sure what to do with us. A party? Here?
In the store? But we got lucky and found one woman willing to help us and
from there, it was all too easy. She set it all up and we just have to show up
on Sunday morning. Easy peasy.
My five year old (bless him too, of course, just in a different way)
insisted on a Dunkin Donuts party. In Dunkin Donuts. Except there was no way I
was taking all the boys in his class - about 20 - to Dunkin Donuts. Our local DD
is small and there are other people there and not a place for many many five
year olds. And besides, what would we do there besides eat? I mean, how many times can you visit the bathroom, you know? And I'm not so sure DD would be happy to have us come in there with a pinata and an art project. So we compromised. We we planned on having a Dunkin Donuts Carnival - at home. In the backyard. And if it was raining, in the porch and basement. Except now, it's none of those places. Now it's going to be in the living room and dining room,
and possibly the kitchen. Fun for all.
So what's a Dunkin Donuts Carnival? Imagine a regular carnival birthday
party - throwing beans bags through hoops, pin the tail on the donkey, fishing
for magnets - except that here we will, if all goes well, be throwing bean bags
through donuts, pinning the sprinkle on the donut and fishing for donuts. The
cake will be a bunch of donuts from DD and the party bags will be brown paper
bags from DD. I felt a little funny about asking the manager there for the bags
and straws and napkins for the party, but then my mom and I took the kids there
for lunch one day and we dropped almost fifty bucks on their sandwiches* and
drinks and donuts and whatevers, so I didn't feel so bad anymore. I asked and
was granted my wish. So now I have a stash of DD bags, straws and other stuff
and we're ready to roll. Almost. We still need to put together the party bags,
finish the balloon pinata, blow up a gazillion balloons and set up the whole
house for the carnival. Hmm, now that I think about it, all we've done is make
posters for each carnival game. Okay, gotta go do some carnivally-type things.
Pictures to follow.
*my kids don't get cheap cream cheese bagels like other kids. My kids
walk in there and order tuna bagels with sliced tomatoes and egg white omellete
sandwiches on lightly toasted bagels.