Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The dust settles

So now we come to finally moving in. It turned out to be later than we hoped, but we did finally get moved in to the new house the second week of January. We had a ton of amazing friends show up and got us moved in lightning fast time. For now, S, Z and M's rooms are too messy to do an "after" photograph. If/When they get them cleaned, I will add their photos.

front room

dining room
laundry doors made from alder trim
laundry bathroom
railing between dining room and family room
family room

fireplace in family room
master vanity (now a double sink!)
master bathroom windows

master bedroom
J's dresser that we've owned for years. Can you believe the fit?

K's room

Demolition and rebuilding begins

When I left off, I was left with a smelly, filthy house and a husband who had to go to Europe. It was time for demolition to begin. We initially thought we'd save the tile in the house because we liked how it was tiled through the main living areas. As we looked closer though, we realized that several of the tiles were broken, and we were unable to find matches. We realized we'd have to tear it all out. This was bittersweet. Bitter because it was going to make renovation cost and time jump. Sweet because I have to admit I didn't like said tile. The kids got a kick out of pulling the tile and were pretty helpful.

As we started pulling it up, we realized that most of it hadn't been properly set- they'd put the tile directly on subfloor in some places and vinyl flooring in others. Tile should be on cement or cement board. Because of this improper installation, the grout had cracked, and water got underneath. We had to replace subflooring in some places because of mold. Luckily the mold didn't go beyond that.

mold in kitchen floor

 They also had some rather unique ways of leveling the mud in the family room- the cement wasn't level, particularly around the edges, so this was their solution. Some people (like us) would think to use leveling compound. Not these guys!!
Due to the dirt in the house, we felt it would be best to have the ducts cleaned. This was one of the fantastic things found in the vents. The others won't be published here, but it was gross. The guy doing the work admitted that it was in the top 10 dirtiest he'd ever seen.

M was incredibly helpful through the process. He did most of the work in his own room.
J's dad helped a lot with the drywall work and other highly skilled labor. I decided I didn't like the natural oak rails and spindles and decided to strip and restain them. That was incredibly difficult, given the coarseness of the grain of oak. There's all kinds of sites all over the internet and pinterest that claim it's easy. They lie. Trust me on this. I think that if I had been working with a finer grain, like, say, maple, it would've been a completely different story. I eventually did get all of the rails, toe, shoe and base stripped and restained. When I saw those 49 spindles staring at me, I decided to have a change in design plan. Instead of them being the darker stain, I'd paint them. I think my sanity thanks me.

My other big project was the kitchen cabinets. I loved the tall cabinets and how large the kitchen was. However, the cabinets were filthy, dinged, damaged, and the polyurethane was coming off in places. I decided to paint them. To make the job look as professional as possible, I took all doors off the cabinets. I then cleaned them very thoroughly. This took quite a long time, given the layer of dirt and grime on the cabinets. Some of the drawers needed significant repair too. I spackled the dents and cracks in the doors as well.

Once the cabinets were prepped, I primed them with Zinsser oil based primer. I did two coats of that, letting each coat dry overnight before applying the next. Once that was done, I painted the cabinets with Benjamin Moore Advance paint in semigloss. Did you know that Benjamin Moore has over 50 shades in the "white" category? I eventually settled on "Cotton Balls." I did three coats of that on everything. I let them dry 24 hours between coats. One gallon was enough for my kitchen. I had to buy an additional quart when I painted the landry room cabinets and bathroom vanity. I absolutely adored this product. It's a very thin paint, but it self levels and has been very, very durable so far.
Meanwhile, J was working on some electrical and plumbing. In the kitchen, there was a single fluorescent light. We pulled that out and installed pendents (with LED bulbs) and three pendant lights. All of the seals on the plumbing had cracked from drying out, so we had to replace all of those. He also was ready to start painting over all of the crazy paint colors.

Once painting was finished, we were ready for flooring. For the bedrooms and halls, we bought a beautiful engineered hickory hardwood from "Floors To Your Home" They were very simple to install. J and I were able to get each bedroom installed in a couple hours. K and M installed their own floors, which I think they loved. K painted her own room and put a metallic glaze over the top. She was in LOVE with that silver and black wallpaper, and I ended up buying it from the UK and installing it. It was very tricky- it was very fragile and awkward. None of this vinyl backed, prepasted stuff. Nope. I had to do it the hard way.

For the main living areas, we chose to go with porcelain tiles that looked like wood. That way, we'd get the durability of tile, but the look of wood. Also pictured here is the fireplace. If you look at the before pictures, the surround to the fireplace wasn't symmetric, which bothered us. We had J's dad build out the drywall so that the look was even.

The New House, part 1

The long anticipated post about our new house is finally here.

As a Realtor, my morning usually begins with me eating breakfast while I browse homes on the MLS. Most of the time I'm looking with a particular client in mind, but sometimes I'm simply looking at the market so that I'm familiar with current conditions. The morning of September 4th was no different. I was browsing around, mind half on what to make for dinner that night when a listing caught my eye. I was immediately intrigued. We'd been thinking of moving for a while- I really wanted a garage, and I wanted the kids to have their own bedrooms. I was not sure why this house in particular intrigued me so much. Yes, it had a 3 car garage. However, the lot was about half the size I wanted, it only had 4 bedrooms, and it was about half of the anticipated budget of the new house. It also was significantly smaller than I wanted- I wanted a house with at least 3500 sq feet, and this one was only about 2300 sq feet, which is 200 feet bigger than our current, incredibly cramped house.

It was a HUD home, and had been foreclosed on twice in as many years. Since I have the awesome luxury of having all four kids in school, I drove over to look at it. It was the typical "Utah Mushroom", which is a multi level. Kind of an updated twist on the "tri-level" that was all the rage a few years ago. Yet something about the house called to me. The house was filthy, and smelled very, very bad. The paint was atrocious. I still saw potential though.
basement bathroom
dining room
front room
family room


K's room
laundry room
main bathroom

master bedroom

master bedroom

master bathroom

M's bedroom

S's bedroom

Z's bedroom

This just SCREAMS potential, right? Well, to us, it did. We had both sets of parents walk through- with J's dad being a contractor and my dad owning an HVAC company, I knew they could determine whether structurally and mechanically it was sound. They deemed it to be not that bad. So, with less thought than I've put into some family dinners, we made an offer for the property. With it being a HUD home, there were all kinds of fun and different paperwork to do, but we got word the next day that our bid was accepted. Getting financing wasn't particularly easy. The appraiser, astute fellow that he is, noted that the house was missing flooring in the front room and the family room, as well as all major appliances. He noted that as a livability factor. Normally if there's livability factors, you have to get a special type of FHA financing. We didn't want to do that because then we'd be stuck with mortgage insurance, and we definitely didn't want that. We were able to convince the underwriter to let us close, and then have the appraiser come inspect the house 10 days after closing to confirm that there was flooring in those two areas, as well as a fridge, dishwasher, microwave and stove. This was deeply inconvenient because we had to tear out all of the flooring. I didn't want appliances in the house just yet. Plus, about a week after we closed, J was scheduled to go to Europe for two weeks. Nevertheless, we were able to fulfill those requirements. We closed as scheduled, and were able to show the appraiser that we had appliances in the kitchen and flooring in the main living areas. Jim jetted off to Europe, feeling bad that he left me with such a mess. 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas 2014

I have to admit that Christmas snuck up on me this year. We've been so consumed with renovating the new house, work, school, scouts, etc etc that I didn't see it coming. I've felt guilty that our kids have not had much of a Christmas season. I was hoping to be moved into the new house by Christmas (didn't quite happen), and so I didn't want to put up the tree at our old house. We finally put up our tree on 12/22. We put it in the new house, after we finished grouting. Here are the little kids decorating the tree.

We did try to make the house look as festive as possible- we hung up the stockings at the new house (only to rush to the house at 10pm on Christmas Eve to retrieve them so that Santa could fill them while we slept).
(yes, that's trim being painted in the foreground)
I did make peanut butter fudge, as well as a batch of traditional fudge, and we brought it to the neighbors in our new neighborhood- we thought it was a nice excuse to try and meet all of our new neighbors. I am very optimistic that we'll really like it there.

Alas, Christmas doesn't wait for distracted moms and dads, and Christmas Eve was upon us. I thought I was being SO SMART. I put all of the kids' Christmas presents at my office. That way, I didn't have to worry about any potential moves, forgetting where I hid things, or kids stumbling/snooping upon their gifts. A couple of days ago, I bought K a beautiful Christmas Cactus (hey, it was on her list, along with cactus potting soil. I buy off their wish lists!) My office doesn't have any windows, so I left the cactus out in the conference room, along with a jasmine plant that Santa was going to bring me.

The present I was most excited about was a REAL LIVE crested gecko for Z. I had made arrangements to pick it up on Christmas Eve. I'd contacted the seller online, and was a little worried she'd flake on me, but she came through with flying colors. We got a beautiful baby gecko, as well as a good sized enclosure that will last for several months.

So, after we picked up the gecko, we had our traditional Christmas Eve party at my parents' house. It was really fun. We got home, and got the kids into bed. I then drove to my office to pick up the presents. Everything was how I'd left it, except for K's cactus and my jasmine plant. The paper bag I'd brought them in was there, but the plants were gone. I searched the office high and low, but NOTHING. I'm not going to lie. I kind of lost my temper and said a lot of very bad words. I texted my broker/friend, very diplomatically, and asked her if she knew where my plants were, and explained they were Christmas gifts. It was nearly 11pm though, so I didn't expect an answer back.

I came home, swearing like a sailor. I decided that we were getting the kids NOTHING (because that means I wouldn't have to wrap anything), and that Santa was giving ALLLLL the gifts this year. J talked me down a little, and we set everything out.

K, S and J and my stockings
(yes, K asked for cactus potting soil)
M & Z's stuff

I had trouble sleeping. I was genuinely disturbed that my presents had been stolen. I like, respect, and trust all of my coworkers, so the idea that they disappeared was distressing. I felt sure that it was an honest mistake, but I was pretty full of rage.  Sometime in the night, my broker/friend texted me back. Another agent had told her there was a bunch of gifts for her in the conference room, and she should come get them. Evidently, she'd thought the plants were part of that. She had been so excited about them that she'd taken pictures of them before she took them home. She was absolutely mortified that she'd taken something that hadn't belonged to her and was really upset. Upon hearing what had happened, my rage instantly evaporated, and it became hilarious. My broker and I immediately started calling it The Plant Heist of 2014.

After he woke up, Z came in to show us his super cool lizard feet slippers, and told us how much he loved them. A little surprised that THAT was what he wanted to talk about, I asked him what his favorite gift was. It was an enthusiastic "Slippers!!!"

"Really? The slippers were your very favorite gift?!"

"Yep, they're really neat, and they keep my feet nice and warm."

"Uh, Z, what else did you get for Christmas?"

Turns out that he thought that the lizard was JUST the cage. The gecko is awfully tiny (2 grams, if memory serves, and only a couple inches long), so he didn't see him in there. I asked him to bring the "lizard cage" into his bedroom, and I pointed out the gecko. He is such a sweet kid, and was perfectly enthusiastic with just the cage, knowing that someday, he'd get something to go in it. When he realized he actually had a gecko, he was so excited. It was definitely the best gift given this year. I tend to have a gift I'm most excited about, and this one was DEFINITELY it.
 All in all, this was a wonderful Christmas. We received wonderful gifts. While I didn't give it the normal attention, I hope I gave good gifts.

I go to bed tonight feeling incredibly loved, and loving the family and friends I'm surrounded by.

Love you guys!

Monday, October 27, 2014

ADD Home Improvement

It feels like I have been suffering from ADD (attention deficit disorder) when it comes to fixing up our new house.  I am leaving half started projects all over the place.

The first weekend we had possession, I started by trying to remove the wallpaper in the upstairs bathroom. It was an awful plaid, and an affront to the senses. I couldn't remove any flooring or start with my kitchen plans until after the appraiser came back to the house and verified there was carpet everywhere and that we had kitchen appliances.

J wanted to have a couple functioning toilets and sinks. He discovered that the upstairs toilet was grouted to the floor and wasn't properly installed. Hmmm. Interesting. When he pulled it up to put a new wax ring in place, he discovered previous owners had installed the tile right on top of the vinyl flooring. For you beginners out there, this is NOT the right way to install tile. So, we knew we had to pull it up. He abandoned the plumbing so that he could pull up the tile so that he could properly install the toilet. At that point, we made the awesome discovery that there was mold on the floor around the toilet, due to improper tile installation. So, we cut out the subfloor in that spot so that we could replace it with non-moldy flooring. Well, since there's now a big hole in the floor in that bathroom, no toilet, and I quit with the wallpaper removal because I was convinced I would trip and fall in the hole.

We finished the flooring assignment and then J left on his business trip, leaving me with a shockingly little amount of supervision on home improvement.

I decided to begin by tearing out all of the flooring. The upstairs bedrooms and hall were gross but uneventful. Then came the tile floor on the main level. This turned out to be really messy and time consuming. Plus, we needed a trailer to put the broken tile bits in (as well as the carpet), and my father in law's trailer was not available. I decided to jettison this idea, figuring when J got back, he could do it quicker, and the trailer would be available, so cleanup would be possible. Then I decided to move on to stripping the rails and spindles so that I could refinish them. This was not going well. The stripper I bought wasn't as effective as envisioned, and it was very frustrating.

After a couple days of this, I was re-reading all the tutorials on painting cabinets, and it occurred to me that the cabinets project is going to be a couple weeks. Maybe I should get going on the cabinets, and strip the banisters while I waited for paint to dry?

So, I moved on to cabinets. I got all of the faces removed from the cabinets and put in the garage. Here I encountered another problem- there's an awful lot of carpet and pad in the garage, and an awful lot of cabinet faces. I also started envisioning the sprayer spraying paint. If I don't clean the garage up, I'm going to have little bits of carpet and pad permanently painted to my garage. I need to get that carpet out of there! But no trailer.

So I go back inside, and start scrubbing down the cabinet boxes so I can just paint those. Except, I realize that the tile floor is probably going to interfere with my painting. So, I need to get that tile out.

I swear, my life has become "If You Give A Mouse A Cookie"

Friday, October 17, 2014

Summer Catchup

I feel bad that I have been neglecting this blog. It's ironic that the busier I get, the more material I have to blog about, but I have less time to actually write it down.

The sad thing is, while this summer was really busy, there's not a lot to show for it. K got her driver's license, which is terrifying, but she's been a really good driver. She also got a job at Lagoon, which has been a lot of fun for her. She's working in their landscaping department, and has really loved learning how to work with plants. It was a lot of weekends though, which made camping difficult.

Further complicating our usual camping plans was my work. I love my work, and this summer was truly spectacular for me. I worked very hard and sold a lot of houses.

After Ragnar was over, I fulfilled a lifelong dream and FINALLY got a tattoo. It's on my foot. Each flower symbolizes the birth month of the people in my family. The sweet pea on the top is for April, which is for S, Z and me. The blue flower is a delphinium, which is July for K. The violet is February for J and M. I expected it to hurt a lot more than it actually did. Healing was the worst part- as tattoos start to heal, they itch. That itchiness drove me crazy! I found that if I put an ice pack on it, the itching wasn't nearly so bad.

We also bought a new car- a 2013 Mazda 3. We were able to pay cash for it, which was really exciting. We've paid cash for a car before, but that car was under 3k, so it wasn't nearly the accomplishment. We were going to sell the Honda Civic, but it turns out that my Expedition is so expensive with gas that it's cheaper for me to have the civic around for when I'm not hauling millions of kids.

M took summer school for math. So while he's still in 9th grade and attending the junior high, he goes to the high school for his math class, which is nice to give him a little extra challenge.

S finally got her two front teeth to start coming in, which has been really different.

Z is still obsessed with minecraft, legos, and more recently, Portal 2.

We also recently made a major life decision- we bought a new (to us) house on a whim. We've been toying with the idea of getting something bigger since, well, almost immediately after buying this one. We were waiting to pay off debt, and waiting for the timing to be right. I found a home that has been foreclosed on TWICE in the past two years. From the sound of it, it's had some rough times the past few years (meth test came up very mildly positive, but well below any state standards). While it's not significantly bigger than this one by square footage, the floorplan better utilizes the space. Plus, we'd have a garage again, a master bathroom, AND each of the kids would get their own room. However, it's in terrible shape. But, for the price we paid, we can make the repairs that it needs, then move in, then sell this house. Of course, we'll be trying to market it during the worst time of year for that. Oops! The new house will need all new flooring, new paint everywhere, some drywall repair, a couple windows replaced, new appliances, countertop and we need to add a window to K's room. Because it was kind of spontaneous, we bought it a week before J leaves for Europe for two weeks. He's been working so hard and stressing out trying to get as much done before he goes. I think he also feels bad that he's leaving for PARIS while I have to deal with the smelly house. As time goes on, I'll post some before/after pictures.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Ragnar Wasatch Back 2014- It will be fun!

If you know me at all, you know that I do not like running. I also don't like waiting in lines, traffic, and not going to bed at a decent hour, all of which are critical parts of Ragnar. However, you also probably know that I'm a sucker for a good adventure, and I'll forget what I don't like if you offer up an amazing sounding adventure.

After I did the Tough Mudder in 2012, I swore I'd never run again. We won't mention the fact that since then, I have done 3 Dirty Dashes and 2 Undead Runs. So obviously, my vow never to run wasn't taken all that seriously.

Last December, Jim's Aunt Sue (one of my very favorite people on earth) suggested that we create a Ragnar team for Wasatch Back, and wanted us on it. I warned her that I am slower than slow, but she didn't mind. So, team "Ramblin Rem-Blinn-Knapp-Wicks" was born. Our team consisted of 1-Jason (Bruce's son), 2- Bev (Bruce's wife), 3-Tereasa (Jody's childhood BFF), 4- Bruce (Jim's uncle/Sue's brother), 5- Jody (Jim's sister), 6- Kevin (Jim's brother), 7- Nykki (Erik's wife), 8- Nora (Nels' sister), 9-Erik (Jim's brother), 10- Nels (Sue's wife), 11- Jim and 12- Me.

What is Ragnar, exactly? It's a relay race, in which a team of 12 people run a total of 200 miles over the course of 24-38 hours, depending on how fast they are. Wasatch Back is where it started, and most agree that it's the toughest, given the high elevation and very hilly course. Runner 12 has the shortest distance to cover, but two of the legs are trail courses, and there's a lot of hills.

I had seen the following video a year or two earlier, and sent it to the group after we signed up. It ended up becoming such a big joke that our theme became "It Will Be Fun!"

Everyone started training, and given that we're all OLD, we all had our injuries and issues getting ready, but we persevered. Kevin struggled especially with knee issues, and the day before the race started, acknowledged that he would have a really hard time running all three of his legs, and asked for us to try to find a substitute. I posted on Facebook, and my adventure-loving friend Kristy enthusiastically (naively?) agreed to it. She said she'd always wanted to do a Ragnar relay, but just had never had the opportunity. So, 13 hours before start time, she arranged time off work and was the latest member of our team.

The biggest emotional setback, at least for me, was the news Sue received a couple weeks before the race. She is a 4 year survivor of ovarian cancer, and she fought so hard to be called "cancer free". Because she is responsible, she was doing frequent health checks to make sure everything was still clear. Unfortunately, a couple weeks before she and Nels were scheduled to fly out here, she got bad news. It appears her cancer is back. Never one to take this lying down, she consulted with her oncologist and got a big dose of chemo a couple days before the scheduled flight, and was out here on time. Seriously, what an inspiration of an amazingly strong woman!

We had a big pow-wow the night before the race, and we were all given really amazing matching shirts that Sue had made for us. The back said that we were running for our Captain Sue, which made me a little teary. The party broke up early because van 1 had to be to the starting point early. Our start time was at 6:15am, so van 1 took off.

I know that all the real runner blogs would have a blow-by blow here of how each leg went, how fast they went, and lots of photos of scenery. But, I'm an adventure monger, not a runner. In my opinion, everyone was amazing and fast and strong. By the time Van 2 took over, we were a good half hour ahead of the spreadsheet's predicted time.

Van 2 took over, and again, everyone was remarkably fast. My first leg was a quick 2 mile trail run at Snow Basin, just before it started to get dark. It started at about 6400' above sea level and climbed 300 feet. I got more and more nervous as the day went on. Everyone on my team was so strong and so fast, and I was just convinced I was going to let everyone down. Even under the best of circumstances, I'm not fast. I'd done a test run of legs 12 and 36, and I knew it was trail run, and all of the rocks, bumps, roots, hills and plants were going to be challenging, and slowing me down. I hadn't anticipated being so anxious about the whole "letting my team down" that it would further impact my time. Unfortunately, it did. My time was slower than I'd anticipated, and I was disappointed. But, I did pass a couple people, so I knew I wasn't the very slowest runner out there.

After we handed off to van 1 again, we went to exchange 18 and tried to rest for a couple hours. It was very noisy, so I don't think anyone got much sleep. Around midnight, we were ready to go again. Kevin had decided to travel with our van. He ended up deciding to run that leg with Nykki as a pacer. I think it helped her time, and Kevin at least got to run one leg, which was a far cry from what he wanted, but better than nothing.

My second leg began around 7am. It was a 6.5 mile run starting at 6000' and ending at 6444'. While running, I had a deer run out very close in front of me, which was pretty amazing. I was still suffering from nerves, and now sleep deprivation, so again, my time was a bit slower than I'd hoped.

Saturday was another day of amazing feats by my teammates- running through pain and injuries and illness, but they just kept going. I think I'm most in awe over Jim and Erik. Erik ran more than 11 miles in the middle of the night, only to start up Guardsmans' Pass the next afternoon. Jim had "Ragnar Hill", which is a 4 mile run starting at 7200' and ending at 8900'. that's almost 1700' of climb. I don't even like doing that hill in my civic, let alone on foot!

My final leg wound up the hill/mountain just past Park City High School. While it started out at 2.8 miles, they decided to extend it to 3.6 miles. It started at 6700' and gained about 500'+ (and lost the same). From the finish line, you could see the Runner 12s winding up the mountain, looking like tiny ants. Doing this leg earned me the nickname of "Mountain Goat", which made me feel moderately better. I'd practiced the run a few days before and took this picture from the top. I wished I'd taken a picture during the race. That big empty field was full of racers and tents and was a beautiful, colorful sight. I was so worried about not letting my team down that I didn't stop, which I regret now.

If you DO want to see amazing photos from the race, click HERE.

I finally finished, and our team had our triumphant finish, complete with medals. Seeing that finish line, and seeing my team waiting for me so we could pass through it together was incredible. It was amazing, and I nearly wept with joy because I was DONE. The only thing that got me through the whole experience was I swore I would never, ever, ever run again. Ever. Except maybe another undead race. Or the Dirty Dash.

I changed our car so it said this, after we finished the festivities and limped back to the car to go home.

A couple days after the race, Nels points out that we can get a discount on Ragnar Wasatch Back 2015 if we register our team soon. 

Nels says it'll be fun.