The other day I told Josh that I wasn't scared of ever getting stuck in a
hostage situation with the kids because the hostage takers would let us go, with
their blessings, about fifteen minutes in.
Why, you ask?
I'll tell you. It's a long-winded story, but after spending 30 minutes
locked in the porch with my kids, I feel I am entitled.
A week or so ago we were lucky enough to have some work done in our house.
It's nothing that I can actually show you - it was all done behind walls, under
floors and inside crawl space, but I am happy to share that my attic and
basement are super-insulated now. Of course, we'll have no idea if this will
have any impact on our lives until the winter, so while I'm all excited about
these developments, I'm taking a wait-and-see-how-excited-I-really-am
It all started about a year ago when we found out about this program that
our electric company was offering, but apparently only in secret. I have never
had so much trouble finding information about anything before - when I called to
find out about the program, the woman actually asked me why I wanted to know and
how I had gotten the number. Hmmm. I know it's a federally funded program. I
know that I pay taxes. And I'm pretty sure I live in America so I think she
could have been nicer, but whatever.
This program, called the Residential Whole House Efficiency Program (again,
I have a Whole House and I would very much like it to be Efficient, so I'm not
sure what was up with the nastiness) has three steps. The literature states very
clearly that Step Two should follow Step One, followed by Step Three, all in the
space of twelve weeks. It's been over a year and we just completed step three -
so I'm going to have to assume that Efficiency is referring to my Whole House
and not to the company's track record.
Anyway, Step One consists of someone coming to the house, measuring
everywhere, possibly casing the joint* and then handing out free light bulbs,
the curly kind that need to be recycled. A pain? Yeah. But free is free.
Step Two, as far as I could tell, consisted of pretty much the same as Step
One, except there were no free light bulbs and the guys that came ran the
Efficiency Test. The upshot of what they did: they picked the hottest day last
summer, came to my house, shut the air conditioner, shut all the windows and
closed all the doors. And then spent an hour trying to find the air leaks. But
if you have ever been to my house you will know this was a losing battle. My
house is windy in the winter and windy in the summer, its just that one
is a cold wind and one is a hot wind. I tried to explain this to the nice men
but they didn't believe me, until they came to knock on the car window where the
girls and Josh and I were sitting with the air conditioning on, to tell me that
they could not complete the test because there were too many air leaks in the
house. Hmm. I didn't say I told you so because the guys looked cranky
and sweaty, but I thought it in my head. And then I offered them drinks from my
cooler because it's nice to be nice. And also because I wasn't entirely sure
that they too were not casing the joint.**
In between Steps Two and Three was Step Two and a Half, where another guy
stopped by to hand me a list of work-to-be-done that the program was
recommending for my house. Great, I was ready to sign on the dotted line. But
no, no dotted line yet. Because Step Two and Three-Quarters was next.
A totally different guy showed up one day and showed me the list again, and
then finally, we we able to sign that we were indeed very interested in having
some highly subsidized work done on our house.
Step Three did not come until about a week or so ago, a full year after
Step One, but who's counting?
So finally, the day arrived when the contractors would arrive anytime
between 10am and 12pm. And at 12pm on the dot, they showed up - in an unmarked
white truck. Very professional. Out spilled the workers and Contractor John and
a massive amount of insulation.
But first, before I tell you what the guys did, I must show you my attic.
My attic is one of the reasons I bought this house - it's a walk up, fully
finished (except for that an insulation thing), with two nice-sized rooms. As
far as I am concerned, the only thing missing is a bathroom. But I'm just going
to wait for the Residential Whole House Bathroom Efficiency Program to kick in,
because really, walking down a flight of steps to go to the bathroom is highly
These are the stairs to my attic, which I am planning on carpeting as soon
as I know whether the weather up there will be bearable or not come winter. If
not, I'll just re-shut the door to the attic and be sad. But if it's nice and
warm up there this winter, I will be carpeting those steps and removing the door
to the attic faster than the kids wake up on a snow day. And then yahoo, I will
have a real third floor. A playroom? A guestroom? An office? Such dreams!
This is room #1 in my attic with every single item that usually lives inside the
crawl space now in the middle of the room.
This is room #2 with everything from the crawl space in the middle of the room.
Here is some of the lovely lovely insulation that was going to be installed in
And here is one of the crawlspaces before it was insulated. I would take an
"after" picture but it looks exactly the same.
This is the hose that ran from the driveway up to the third floor window.
It was used to blow insulation into somewhere in the attic, not sure where
And this is the huge fan that was used to conduct yet another air leak test
after all the insulation was installed.
Which brings me full circle to my hostage situation.
John, if you will remember, was the contractor. He asked us if we wanted to
wait inside the house with all the windows, doors and air conditioners shut
while they conducted the test or if we preferred to wait in the porch***. With
the air conditioner on. We chose the porch. The six of us filed into the porch
with John promising that the whole test would take 10 minutes.
John lied. And 30 minutes later we were still in the porch. But that's
okay, because we didn't need 30 minutes for panic to set in. We needed 5. Yup,
that's all my kids can last without food, water, a bathroom and a TV. And keep
in mind, the kids had finished dinner about 30 seconds before we closed
ourselves into the porch.
Three minutes in, this is what I heard - and remember to read this is the
whiniest voice you can muster:
I have to make. I really really have to make, said one little boy jumping up and down.
I'm soooo hungry, I'm gonna staaaarvvvvve, wailed another little boy while lying on the floor and kicking his feet - while, mind you, still licking the pizza off his fingers from dinner.
I really need to go to the bathroom, said the first little boy, again.
Mommy! The TV is inside, said a horrified little girl.
I'm so thirsty, I can't take it, said, ironically enough, by the same little boy begging for a bathroom.
It's taking forever, when are they done, I wanna go home, cried the pizza-licking boy.
So here's what we did:
Josh and I listened to everyone complain with good humor until the ten
minute mark. Then one of us got a diaper off the shelf and held it out so the
boys could do their standing-up business in it. If you recall, originally, only
one little boy had to pee. But not to miss out the super-fun of standing over an
open diaper, his brother had to have his turn too. I don't think I have ever
before had the pleasure of watching someone force themselves go.
Fifteen minutes in one of us found a cup of cheerios on the shelf from who
knows when and all four kids lunged at it like we'd been lost in the forest for
Sixteen minutes in, with the cheerios gone, we considered going to sit in
the car, and then realized the car keys were inside the house.
Seventeen minutes in, with the whining getting to unbelievable levels, Josh
went and started banging on the window between the porch and the dining room.
But no one came. It's a loud test. Or maybe it's not. Maybe they just heard the
whining and decided to stay far away.
Finally, finally, 30 minutes later John came to tell us that the test was
done. All I can say is, bathstoriesdrinksbedtime happened very quickly that
And the lesson learned that night? That it's okay to negotiate with
terrorists. Sometimes having a potty, juice boxes, snacks and a TV are more
important than going free.
*I'm kidding. He was a lovely person who just happened to not take his
muddy boots off before he tramped through my entire house.
** Again, I'm kidding. Really.
*** The porch, although an enclosed one, does not qualify to be counted as
part of the "thermal footprint of the house" (check out the technical jargon I
picked up!) because it does not have a heat source. And no amount of convincing
on my part changed their minds. So sad. We'll have to insulate the porch
Are you a Mom?
Of course you are,
your shirt is dirty :)