House Update

Thursday, May 29, 2014 No comments
It was over a year ago, on May 19th, that we pulled into the driveway of a foreclosure to check it out. Oliver and I officially looked at it on May 21 and it was a couple of days later that we put an offer in on the house.

What ensued next was a lot of back and forth negotiations, learning what items needed to be repaired/remedied in order to bring the house to code with the village and get a certificate of occupancy. Lots of hair pulling, stress and 6 months later we got to close and move in.

I wrote about how the previous homeowner had taken out permits and finished the barn but never had it inspected and closed out the permits.  Once these open permits were discovered by the village and the barn was inspected, we were told that the barn didn't meet code. All that pretty barn-wood siding inside needed to come off and sheet rock needed to replace it. That discovery just a few weeks before we were supposed to originally close is what delayed us from moving in 3 months.

The barn is what we didn't know about going into the purchase of our home, but it was the one thing that the village required we remedy before a certificate of occupancy would be issued. The other items: repairing a dormer, bringing the back porch to code and bringing the finished basement to code were known but they went to the backburner when the barn violations were brought to light.

Our basement is large and we currently use the space(s) as a media room, play room, guest room and workout room. We knew we wanted to keep it as a finished space. It's too valuable, so we had to bring it to code.

Once the barn was completed and to code we were able to close and move in. But, it was winter and the other items had to wait until the ground thawed in the spring.

Que spring....

Once the ground thawed, our contractor was back to bring the back porch and finished basement to code. The porch just needed new footings poured.
holding up the porch/patio until the new footings are poured.

We learned from our neighbor that our house had two identical porches in the back and one collapsed, which we know was because it wasn't built properly. Crazy thing is, both porches were built with really nice and expensive materials, crazy that the previous homeowner wouldn't build them correctly. The porch that fell down was replaced with some crazy and hastily built brick paver and pea gravel insanity when the house fell into foreclosure. That is on our list to remove and replace with an identical porch to the one already back there. It's just going to have to wait.
The crazy-tacky homeowner special patio - how I loathe you.

The other code violation was a much bigger issue. The basement had been finished by the previous homeowner without permits. In NY, you cannot have a finished basement without a required amount a daylight and windows large enough for a fireman with equipment to fit through. The basement as finished had the typical, small rectangle windows only a cat could fit through.

Once it warmed up and the ground thawed our contractor began the work of putting in windows to code. It meant excavating and then opening up the basement to install windows that are to code.
Digging out around the foundation to install the larger windows.

Excavating the area to install larger basement windows.
Before the window is installed. 

The first part of the work was all done outside. The last week or so was done inside. Of course, spring in the northeast means lots of rain so the project was delayed and delayed due to weather - we didn't really want a huge hole into our basement with the rain pouring in.

For the most part this project is complete. We have to have a dehumidifier and air purifier installed in the basement that is vented outside. We are also ordering clear, plastic guards to cover the retaining wall on the outside. We worry the kids or dogs could fall into the hole. We also have to replace some of the ceiling tiles.

The basement doesn't feel like a basement anymore and there is so much light. I was indifferent to the project and kind of thought it was a requirement that was a waste of money, but now I am very happy that the windows are in.

We hope to sheetrock this room and hopefully once I am finished weeding and mulching the bed outside this window this room will have a more pleasant view.

Now, it's on to organizing the space. We neglected doing anything much down there because we knew we would be dealing with this project and the dust that came with it. I'm looking forward to getting some storage down there and making it a inviting place for the kids to play, to watch movies and as a guest room. Add it to the list....

Memorial Day Work Weekend

Tuesday, May 27, 2014 No comments
We have a long list of "Things To Do" around the house and we don't always have the time to get it done considering many weekends we are at the track. So, we spent much of the Memorial Day weekend trying to get as much checked off that "To Do" list as we could. There were many other bits done but the major ones on the list were - - -

ü Play Set
On Monday, we had our contractor finish the assembly of the play set. Oliver had been asking for it to be assembled, once it was, he said, "Where's the trampoline?". The play set had sat in storage since he had been taken down from the old house until we moved into the new house in late November. The timing was the best to reassemble it so it sat behind the barn under many feet of snow. Once it was assembled we had to add to the list power washing and re-staining which we accomplished on Sunday. And, thanks to carpenter bees who found the play set no less than 48 hours after it was re-assembled, we had to add an exterminator to the list. It's no fun to swing on the play set when angry, protective carpenter bees are swooping down on you.
I took this photo of Matt from the back door at 6:30 a.m. Yea, I really meant he got up early.

The play set and trampoline are ready for play. And, just to note: I bought a ladder for the trampoline a few years back for the kids to climb into it, yet, they prefer the toddler-sized slide as a means of access. So frustrating.

ü Trampoline
Matt woke up really early one morning and assembled the trampoline. I thought the kids would be thrilled...they were until 10 minutes later when they started complaining it was TOO HOT outside. Too HOT? After the winter and early spring we had it can NEVER be TOO HOT!

ü The Flower Beds
Our flower beds were over run with weeds. The neglect of the house as it sat in foreclosure combined with some bad gardening skills of the previous homeowner meant that it was infested with dandelions and thistle. We have about 1900 square feet of flower beds totally over run with weeds. Between Matt and I we spent about 15 hours of the weekend just weeding the two front flower beds.
This is a flower bed, not a grassy area with a Russian Sage and large rock in the center. Lots of weeding.

ü Storage in the Barn
The barn is a hot mess of clutter. Matt has wanted some garage storage shelves and we knew Memorial Day would be the time they would go on sale. We loaded the kids in the car on Saturday morning and hit a couple of home improvement stores and Se#ars in search of the best sale prices. S*ears won out and we spent a couple of hours picking out what we wanted and then ordering and backordering the items.

It's coming along nicely, but the list is still long on things we need and want to do. I'll start including posts on house progress and updates soon.

Martial Arts Testing

Sunday, May 25, 2014 No comments
Oliver received his last stripe to graduate from a white belt to an intermediate white (a white belt with a yellow stripe) a couple of weeks ago. Being new to karate (Chloe did Kung Fu which moves at a much slower pace through belts), I was completely clueless that he was eligible to graduate until another mom at class asked if Oliver would be participating in the end-of-the-month graduation. "Ugh, didn't he need another stripe?" Apparently not. Lesson learned.

So, I filled out the necessary paperwork for Oliver to graduate and it was approved! Yea Oliver!

I made it just in the knick of time, as the graduation ceremony/testing was two days later.

The graduation/belt testing was on Friday. Students eligible to move up in belt rankings all tested together with the instructors in front of family & friends.

Oliver was bit overwhelmed at first when he realized he would be out there with much older and more experienced kids and no other white or yellow belts were there. Thankfully, his instructor realized he was a little overwhelmed too and came and took him out to the testing arena and started reviewing with him. During this time, other white and yellow belts showed up and Oliver got his confidence back.

Depending on belt rank, the kids were called out by belt color and performed their drills. Oliver was so attentive and was praised by the head instructor for only being four and sitting still the entire time others were testing. It was a lot of fun to see the abilities and levels of each belt.

Oliver was presented with his white belt with yellow stripe and we took him out to eat afterwards to celebrate. The restaurant manager brought him a free ice cream as congratulations. Oliver was quite the star.

Martial arts has really held Ollie's attention and he enjoys it. I also love that I can remind Oliver of some of the lessons he has learned in class, like 'self-control' and 'respect' and 'perserverance'. Next step will be for Oliver to graduate to the yellow belt with a white stripe before he officially becomes a full-fledged yellow belt. He is very eager to get that yellow and move up to the bigger kid class.

Family Fun Day

Wednesday, May 21, 2014 No comments

Oliver's preschool hosted a Family Fun Day on Tuesday. It was complete with face painting, a bounce house, carnival games and hot dogs. It was a beautiful day, the weather was perfect. I forgot my camera and since I was toting Emma Claire too, I didn't bring my phone so I didn't take any photos. Luckily, other Moms were on the ball and forwarded me their pics.

Oliver and some pals from pre-school. Three of  the four kids in the photo will go to kindergarten together. Unfortunately, Oliver's best pal in class won't go to the same school next year.

The quartet of boys who love to play superheroes together. Apparently, all superheroes wrestle.

Baking with Oliver

Wednesday, May 14, 2014 No comments
Emma Claire was napping (a rarity), so Oliver and I decided to make a banana bundt cake with the overripe bananas on the counter.

"Whose birthday is it? Is it mine?!" He wanted to know. 

"It's just because",  I told him.

He's unbelievably good at cracking an egg but needs some more practice getting the ingredients into the mixing bowl. He tried to add some extra ingredients, like a measuring spoon, to the batter.

We had lots to clean up. Good thing he's a good helper!

Chloe For The Win!

Monday, May 12, 2014 No comments
Spring soccer and karting season are getting into full swing, which means Matt and I often have to divide to conquer.

There was a club race Saturday in south Jersey and Oliver had a soccer game and team photos near home on the same day. The original plan was that Matt and Chloe would get up early Saturday morning and for the kart race and I would stay at home with Oliver and Emma Claire for the soccer game and photos.

But, an email late Friday afternoon changed all the plans. Thunderstorms were forecast for Saturday and the soccer game/team photos was pre-emptively canceled.

We would all head south in Nellie the RV for the kart race that night. That meant after the dinner clean-up we hastily packed clothes and the necessities, dressed the kids in their pjs and drove south. Since we wouldn't get to the track until after midnight and the gates would be locked, we slept in the "Wally-World" parking lot only a few miles from the track. As soon as the doors opened to Wally-World, we were inside to purchase breakfast, drinks and snack and lunch items for the day.

Essentially, the kids fell asleep, cozy in Nellie, shortly after we pulled out of the driveway and woke up with donuts and milk none the wiser to the 150 mile trip we had taken.

For every kart race Chloe drives in, the objective is for Chloe to do her best and have fun. Chloe also has the drive to win. But, a big hurdle for Chloe was to believe she was capable of winning against other racers that she had never been able to beat. At the start of this season she set a goal to win at the regional and club level and be competitive at national-level events. With that goal in mind, we set out to help her achieve it by planning out race events that were competitive and challenging. She has been working with Chris, her kart tuner and driving coach, to achieve her race goals.
Chloe and Oliver with some fellow race track pals.

Chris has really helped Chloe improve in her braking, passing and turns. He has also taught her race craft and strategy. He has also helped her believe in herself. She's had her parents, brother and family as her cheerleaders, but it as really helped her to have someone outside her everyday circle tell her she "could do this".

Team OVRP had two 1st place wins -- Micro and Junior.
So, Chris, Chloe and Matt set out a race plan and goal for the weekend and it paid off. Chloe was dominate at every practice session, in qualifying at pre-finals. In the final race, she hung to lead-kid, someone she has been unable to beat in previous races, and made a pass two laps before the finish for the win. She followed Chris' plan to the letter and made it look easy.
Chloe takes 1st place on the podium.

Mother's Day Program

Friday, May 09, 2014 1 comment
Oliver's pre-school class hosted a Mother's Day tea. They sang us a song and then we had bagels and treats. Oliver picked out his outfit the night before. He picked it all out himself. I didn't even argue when he put out his worn, winter shoes to wear with it.  He told me he wanted to "look handsome" for the performance. Oliver also shared that he finds it embarrassing when everyone tells him he's handsome because he's "a little bit shy".

I ask  you, look at this photo.

Does that look like a kid who doesn't like attention and to be noticed? Ha! Center of the class. Before the kids started their song, he blew me a kiss and told me not to cry. It got a lot of "AWWWWWWWS" from the other Moms.

Oliver's Mother's Day card to me.

He got lots of attention. And he didn't act shy. AT ALL. AS USUAL. His friend, Matteo, asked if Oliver was "going on a date" later.

Oliver and his pal.

The kids also made a vase with flowers. I love what Oliver loves about me. So Oliver. They even wrote it like he talks--his refusal to use "she" instead of "her".
What Oliver loves about me. And, for the record, I don't make him clean. I do ask that he pick up his stuff.

9 Years...

Thursday, May 08, 2014 No comments
Nine years ago today it was Mother's Day Sunday and I became a mother for the first time at the Civil Affairs office in Guangzhou, China. What a gift....

Gotcha Day -May 8, 2005 in center. Each Gotcha Day anniversary is documented starting with our 1 year (with Chloe in the pink shirt on the top right) and moving counter-clockwise.

21 Months

Tuesday, May 06, 2014 No comments
Emma Claire is now 21 months old. Her language is starting to take off and she will now point to things so I will tell her what it is called.

She was sleeping through the night without waking, but that seems to be over this last week. *SIGH*

Nap time also seems to be non-existent. This last month, I got one two-hour nap out of her but most days her nap is 20-30 minutes max.  *SIGH*

Emma Claire's personality is also coming out. She's quite sassy. She has also started a slight growl/shriek when you take something from her she shouldn't have. She's very good a letting you know her displeasure.

Her latest game is running from you. It's not very funny when you are in public places or outside. She also likes to tell you "NO!" with a big grin when you ask her to do something.

She's becoming her own little person and quite a character.

Copycat - she sees her sister wearing these headphones and talking on the phone. I caught her on the couch like these, babbling into the phone with the headphones on just like Chloe.

In the grocery store. She screeched for the ball and the yogurt tube. Two of her favorite things in the world.

I was making breakfast for everyone and went into the laundry room where I found Emma Claire sneaking into a bag of Tostitos.

I really should force her to wear a bib. She is the messiest eater but she enjoys it.

Demanding I help her eat her yogurt.

She loves watermelon like Mommy. She also likes to rub macaroni and cheese all over her neck, face, clothes and hair (you can't tell in this photo that the back of her hair is matted in cheese.)

Waiting with Mommy at the doctor's office and trying to rip out her "pretty" aka hair bow.

Crazy baby hair- she successfully took out her pig tails instead of taking a nap.