end of the first trimester

Home construction is a lot like a pregnancy. It takes a lot of planning, can cost a lot of money, and causes a lot of pain. But when it’s over, we forget the trauma and are consumed with our beautiful new baby.

It’s been three months since we broke ground, so in pregnancy terms we’ve made it through the first trimester. And while we pray this doesn’t go a full term of nine months, there are probably three solid months to go.

Those aren’t the only similarities. The home remodel small talk we hear at every party or walk around the neighborhood sounds vaguely familiar, too.

When you’re pregnant people say: “You look great. I can hardly tell you’re pregnant. When are you due?”

What you’re thinking: “People lie. And they’re blind. Will this ever be over?”

And when you’re remodeling people say: “It looks great. It’s really coming along. When will you be finished?”

What you’re thinking: “People lie. And they’re blind. Will this ever be over?”

My pregnancies were never difficult. No real morning sickness or serious problems. But I hated not feeling like myself. That’s kind of where I am now. The remodel is not difficult, there are no major problems, but we’re not living like we normally do.

There’s a constant layer of dirt on every surface. There’s no real meal planning and much smaller loads of groceries. We eat yogurt and ice cream out of the cartons to save us from washing another dish. Licking a knife now makes it clean. There’s a microwave and hot plate in the office. There’s a coffee maker and tabletop convection oven in our bathroom. A refrigerator and toaster in our living room. And a mix of clean and dirty dishes in our bathtub.  And did I mention the dirt?

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But just like when you’re a first time parent, the kindness of friends makes all the difference. We’ve had so many lovely dinners at friends’ houses, where we savor real home cooked meals, clean floors and, of course, the best company. We’ve borrowed a kitchen to satisfy a baking itch. And there are offers of doggie play dates and borrowing houses during vacation. Every offer is so appreciated and helps dilute the little frustrations that come with living in a construction zone.

We’ve also embraced the little surprises along the way. From discovering pretty wood detail on the stairs hidden behind drywall and opening up the entryway (our contractor’s brillian idea), to spending more family “together time” (since we’re always sharing the same 300 square foot space). And I love the bursts of creativity when we’re planning where outlets and lighting go, and start imagining how it will all come together. I can see how this might become addicting.

Demo Dan taking down the door

Pretty woodwork hidden behind drywall

So, what will the next few months (or trimester)bring? Things like stucco, installation, and drywall, and then the long process of finishing (floors, tile, lights, cabinets, etc.). That means trying to stay upbeat, overlooking the hassles, and keeping our eyes on the prize. A few holiday distractions will help, too. Then, before we know it, all the pains will be a distant memory and we’ll be enjoying our fresh new old home.

But that’s where the pregnancy comparison ends. Since unlike a new baby, we’ll be when this is through, we’ll be sleeping through the night in our new master suite.

 

 

letting go

It’s been a milestone week for our family. Not really because of the house project, but because we sent our first born to his first day of high school. And it struck me how the house project and our life are triggering parallel emotions. The ongoing process of letting go.

Just five minutes after seeing my freshman ride down the street to new experiences, new friends, and new challenges, the crew came to tear off the back of our house. When the truck drives up and the sledgehammers come out, you have no choice but to let go. Same as when your 5’10” baby puts on the backpack and doesn’t look back.

We prepared for the week by packing up our kitchen, office, closets, basement and all that stuff that we forgot we had. We tried to think through what we’d need over the next 4 or 5 or 6 months, but then we’d get tired and just dump stuff in boxes willy-nilly. We packed it in every nook and cranny we could find, leaving us Jenga towers of boxes in random places. It’s like the few weeks before moving day, except that a few weeks will be half a year.

IMG_0776The hardest part was to say goodbye (for now) to all the cookbooks, platters, plates and tools we use to cook and share meals with friends and family. A bigger, better place to cook and entertain is a major reason for the remodel, but this will be the longest I’ve ever gone without planning and hosting a dinner party or casual dinner for friends. I feel serious withdrawal coming on. As Summer and Fall turn into the holiday season, I’ll need another way to satisfy the craving to make memories around a table and a meal. And I may need to find a kitchen to rent for my multi-day Christmas cookie bake-a-thon.

So, letting go (not Frozen’s “Let it Go”) is becoming my internal mantra. Sometimes I’m pretty impressed with my ability to look beyond the makeshift kitchen, messy rooms and dusty counters. So much so that Colby was shocked I didn’t have any comment about the clothes on his bedroom floor. I had not been abducted by aliens, but suddenly the clothes on the floor were the least of our challenges. Other times, well, let’s just say that it’s a mantra for a reason — because I need reminding. And when power was out in most of the house for two days, the mantra did me no good. It also didn’t stop me from lecturing the kids to stop their whining and complaining and appreciate all that we have, even without TV or Wifi for a day or so.

Privilege is alive and well at 602 – and so is not always practicing what I preach. I hope this project will have a nice side benefit of building resilience, patience, and gratitude for all of us. You can never have enough of those three.

We did let go of a lot of our house this week. The white office door now opens to nothing. The basement was jackhammered for a full day on Saturday (yes – working on a weekend!) The basement and kitchen walls are plywood. But we still haven’t lost the working part of our kitchen yet — even though it was all packed away in preparation for the demo. The weather continues to cooperate, for which we are extremely thankful.

This coming week will see more transformation as basement floor gets poured and they prepare to frame. And I’ll be anxiously awaiting what we need to prepare to let go of next.

But it won’t be this guy…since Lincoln also started a new school year this week. Grade 4 and his last year of elementary school.

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