Our House

Backyard Summer Fun by Leslie

This weekend was full on summer fun. It was a gorgeous 85 degrees most of the time, hot and sunny, sweaty and sweet. We spent the whole weekend outside doing fun stuff. Yesterday afternoon the kids hung out the backyard playing in the sprinkler and getting wet while Chris and I were cleaning up, fixing things and climbing ladders. Well, Chris climbed the ladder. I held it. We ate lunch outside, Milo played with a grow snake that he got for his birthday and Quinn rode around on his little motorcycle. There is nothing like summer fun.

Country Living: Replacing a Well Pump by Leslie

A few weeks ago we were reminded that we really do live in out in the country. It was 8 pm and we were in the middle of our nightly bath with the kids when our water just stopped. We have a well and it's always made me slightly nervous, for example, I've always wondered how long can I let the water run before the well gets low or runs out of water.

When you live in town you don't have to worry about water. Even if your electricity is off, you still have water. Not here. If you have a well, it relies on electricity to pump the water out, so if the power goes out, so does your well. But our electricity was not out on this night, everything was working except for the water.

You realize pretty quickly when you don't have water, that you can't do very much without it. You can't flush the toilet, shower, cook, brush your teeth or give your kid a glass of water. It's a bit scary actually, to not have any water.

We put the kids to bed and Chris went to the store to get jugs of water and we put a call into the pump company and our plumber to see who would call us back first. We checked the basement to see if there were any issues that we could see, but nothing was obvious.

The pump guy called first thing in the morning and came over immediately. It didn't take him long to determine that it was nothing above ground that was causing the problem. We had a general idea of where the well was located, but because it's an old house, the well head was buried underground and we were going to have to do a little digging to find it. The pump guy left us to dig the hole, promising to return as soon we found the well.

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Chris began digging, but he actually had a funeral to attend that morning, so I called our landscapers to see if they could send a couple guys over to dig the hole for us. Digging holes in our dirt is not easy, it is full of shale and rocks and it takes a long time to make any progress. Chris made a good start and the two landscapers finished it, finding the well head in a few hours of digging. When they were done we had a hole that was three feet deep and five feet across.

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The plumber showed up with his assistant to check up on how things were going, the landscapers left, and the pump guy returned and opened the well. They pulled up the pump. The pump is attached to 100 feet of flexible pipe and they have to pull it straight out fairly quickly because if the pipe breaks (it was brittle due to it's age) the pump could fall back into the well and I can only imagine what kind of fancy equipment they would need to get it out then.

When the pump finally emerged, the pump guy said, "That's an antique!" We guessed that the pump was the original one that was installed when the house was built 46 years ago. Most pumps and wells are expected to be good for about 20 years, so this one lasted well beyond it's time, but I was still wishing that it had decided to quit about 5 years ago, BEFORE we bought the house. But that's how it goes with an old house, things need fixing and replacing and since we have decided not to sell this place, it's just what we have to do to live here.

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The pump guy prepped 100 feet of new pipe, attached a new pump to the end of the pipe, extended the casing to be a foot above the ground so the next time we need to service the well we don't have to dig, and lowered the pump and pipe down the well. We could hear it when it hit the water. He then sealed it up with a bright blue cap. I'm not thrilled with the new decorative element in my backyard, but hopefully we can cover it with plants.

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What I didn't know was that when you mess with your well and it gets all stirred up and contaminated, it needs a dose of chlorine to clean out any bacteria that may have been introduced when it was open and that chlorine needs time to clear out of the well. The sediment also needs time to settle down. Our water was back on, but we couldn't drink it, cook with it, bath the kids in it or wash our laundry in it until it was cleaner. We basically had dirty pool water coming out of our taps. But at least it was working again. It took about a week and a half to get back to normal and hopefully we don't have to worry about the pump for a while. I'm just wondering what will be next.

Installers, Plumbers and Electricians...Oh My. by Leslie

We've been living in the house for almost a week now and our life here is starting to take shape. The first few days in a new house are always tough, we felt like we were camping using plastic plates and cups and digging through boxes to find that one thing you need to get something done. Everything takes three times as long because you have to find everything first.

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Getting the essentials set up was so wonderful. Our bedrooms are done, the kitchen is done, we have a dining table and the basics of our living room. The rest is a mess but we are slowly getting things put away and in their place. It's difficult to do anything with a one year old toddler running around, so Chris and I have to take shifts when he is home from work.

Our new stackable washer and dryer have been installed in the upstairs closet. The ones that came with the house were old and in the basement, which you need to go outside to get to. We bought them from Sears and the process has been complicated. At Sears, you can only buy items from the people in the specific department, so you have to do separate transactions if you are getting more than one appliance. Then, they have people who deliver it, and you have to call and schedule a separate installation. The first people that were given the job were very far away and couldn't come for over a week. I called Sears back and it was a huge problem for them to give the job to a local contractor instead. Finally, we got someone local, but days had passed and they ended up able to come only a day sooner than the first guy. We wanted to stack the washer/dryer so we had to make a special trip to a Sears Parts building miles away from the Sears store and buy a stacking kit for $3.00 that ended up being included with appliance anyway. We are also having a new dishwasher installed, once we call a tile guy to remove the tile underneath the old dead dishwasher. And we decided to go for it and get a new fridge too. We've gotten used to a side by side fridge with an ice maker and water dispenser and the house came with a top freezer version with no ice maker. So more strong men will be in and out of the house getting those things done in the next couple of weeks.

A plumber came on Thursday to quote us for a water treatment and filtration system. We have well water and there is a slight sulfur smell. It's not a huge problem for me, but the sulfur bothers Chris, and the dogs turned up their noses at the water in their dish. Maybe they just need to get used to it, but we are exploring the options anyway.

Yesterday the electrician was here to troubleshoot a few problems we were having. There was one circuit breaker in the basement that kept tripping. It said furnace, but it turned out not to be. All the kitchen outlets were also dead, and we had a weird set up where the counter top stove was plugged in a chain of outlets with one ending outside the kitchen in a spot that Milo could easily get to. $600 and 4 hours later everything is working properly and the outlet for the stove was moved. It's certainly expensive, but it's nice to know that it's being done properly and the peace of mind that it's safe. He will be coming back next week to upgrade about a dozen outlets we have from 2 prong to 3 prong and to properly hang a ceiling light. The previous owners took a light with a cord, cut off the plug and hard wired it to wires in the ceiling, leaving nothing but the wires to support the weight. It fell just a few days after being here (of course). It's a silly set up, but we love the light, so we purchased a replacement light, which was damaged when it fell, and now the electrician is going to put a proper outlet on the ceiling, plug the light in, and use hooks to support the weight.

Finding the Well, Controlling the Hives and Giving Away Good Junk by Leslie

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We went to Warwick yesterday to check on a few of the key systems at the house. We needed to find the well and the septic system. The previous owners had never bothered to find or service either of them in the year that they owned the place and we wanted to make sure that they were located on the property.

The Propane company was coincidentally there when we got there. They were taking away a big old ugly tank for the pool heater that was not located on our property. They replaced it with 2 smaller new ones and put them on our property next to the shack by the pool.

The pool had been opened, but it was only half full of water and very dirty. The sellers think there may be a leak and have offered to have it checked out, cleaned and made operational for us. I hope that they replace the liner for us, instead of just repairing it. The first thing I'm doing up there when we move in is taking a swim!!

The well guy was able to locate the well head, it's on the edge of the circle of grass in front of the guest house and thankfully on our property! When he checked the box on the hot water heater though, there was a spark and a flame that shot out when the hot water heater kicked on. It's a fire hazard and he was very concerned about it to say the least! He turned everything off and will be back to fix it next week for $180, hopefully on the seller's tab.

The septic company also came out and found the tank, it's in the clearing below the house, but closer to the house than I thought. They cleaned it and checked it out. They said it's in good shape and to have it emptied again in 2 years. Then they can determine how we use it and how often we need to have it serviced.

We also found out that the septic system should be newer than the house. The original owners, the Firestones, were using the house as a weekend place, but the leach field was wet and the tank was always full. They had it checked out and it turned out that Mr. Hillman, the guy who subdivided the property, had originally installed only one septic system for our house and the 3 houses just down the road!  All four houses were emptying into one system! Firestone sued his title company and had the septic systems separated and had his tank and leach field redone.

We also found out that Skip, the septic guy, grew up in the community around the lake (his parents still live on the road above ours) and that he used to swim in the lake, but now there were too many weeds. Hillman, who dug the lake himself in the 50's, used to drain the lake every year when he was alive and tractor out the weeds. Now, because there are fish in there, the home owners association can't just drain the lake, they need to have the environmental agency involved and it would be expensive and complicated. The history of this Hillman character and the community around the lake is pretty interesting and we love hearing all the stories.   

It was almost 10 degrees cooler up there than it was here in Ridgewood! That's good news, we hate the swampy humid heat around here. It was 98 degrees in Ridgewood yesterday and we had a really good thunderstorm early last night. Chris and I were taking a break, sitting out on the front step watching the lightning, when we saw an amazing streak come down. We saw pink flashing on the clouds for a while after that, so I think it must have hit an electrical wire or something. The energy in the air was just magnificent and perfectly reflected what's going on in our lives. I was glad that our last night here was marked by a thunderstorm and lots of electric energy.

I can't believe we are leaving here today! I cried a bit up in the bedroom when I said good bye to the house this morning. As exciting as it is to move to a new place, I will miss it here. We've had so many good things happen and it was the beginning of not only our life together, but also Milo's. I'm sure in the future the memories of this place will be sweet.

Chris broke out in hives on Monday night for some unknown reason. He had a wicked looking raised rash in his armpits and on his neck. We think maybe he got bitten by something in the attic or he's allergic to all the dust we have been stirring up with packing. He got Claritin, an antihistamine, but it just kept getting worse, it spread to his chest and arms and back, so he went to the ER and got a shot of Presnidone and some Benadryl. He was gone for 2 hours and finally got home at 1am. We didn't get to sleep until 2am. Not good with a move going on! Tuesday morning it was better, but after moving stuff in the heat, it flared up again and he had a bad night on Tuesday. He couldn't sleep and was very itchy and uncomfortable, pacing around in the kitchen all night. By Wednesday morning the spotty rash was raging again on his legs and back, so he went back to the ER and they took him off the Claritin and Benedryl and gave him Zyrtec and Zantac instead. I think that is working better for him and he felt much better yesterday and got a good sleep last night.

Wednesday was junk night, where we can put anything we want out on the street and the town will pick it up in the morning and trash it. It was interesting to see and meet the people who came to pick through the pile. There was a line of 3 cars at one point and people were fighting over stuff! We really should have had a garage sale, but just couldn't manage to make that happen. A lot of what we put out wasn't junk at all, but good stuff we just didn't want anymore. I'm sure to those people we looked like crazies for throwing away good stuff, but I knew none of it would make it to the garbage pit so I see it like a donation.

One guy was picking through the old computer parts that Chris had collected to make art with, he cut cords off stuff and took things apart looking for good parts. Chris had put out a very old Apple computer that he was going to take and so I also gave him my old laptop that wouldn't turn on anymore and smelled burnt. I was going to keep it, because I didn't want to just throw it in the trash, but I was glad that this guy might get some use of it. I told him we were moving to a place with no basement, but a big open living area and he was horrified! No basement!? or garage?! He asked where I was going to put all my stuff and I told him that I was getting rid of a lot of it!!

Another car came by later on while I was taking out an old coffee maker and some bowls and they took all that good stuff and then I spotted cans of paint in the back of their car and asked if they wanted paint too. They were thrilled! You can only throw out latex paint that is dried but we had like 40 cans that we didn't open soon enough to dry out, so we were going to have to take them down to the toxic waste place, but these people took them all! I wonder what they will do with them?

Well, I've got to finish packing, the movers will be here soon and Milo needs a nap!

A Dream House in the Woods of Warwick by Leslie

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After looking at about 15 houses, Chris and I finally found one that we both liked. We immediately fell in love with the vaulted ceilings, natural light pouring in the skylights and the wall of windows, the huge screened porch, the separate guest house we can use as an office/recording studio, the privacy at the end of a dirt road, the 2 acres of woods and the nearby lake. 

The only concerns were the lack of a 3rd bedroom in the main house, not being in the Warwick school district and the fact that the house had only ever been used as a summer/weekend home. The last issue is probably the biggest, but only time will tell how the septic, well and heating systems hold up to daily use and winter living. Hopefully the electric heat won't be too expensive in the winter and the septic system doesn't need replacing. As for the other issues, Milo can easily share a bedroom with future siblings and when they grow out of that, there is plenty of room to add on. The Florida school district is just as good as Warwick's and the elementary school is on the top of a hill with breathtaking views of the surrounding valley and mountains.

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We can't get over our luck in finding this place. Never in a million years did we think that we could afford something so cool and modern. The wonderful thing is that this place is so much cheaper than our house in Ridgewood! It's true that it is further away from the city, but not so far that we can't go there for the day. It's also an easy 40 minute drive to see Chris's family.

The mid-century modern style of the house is perfect for us and matches the type of furniture that we already own and would love to buy. We are so excited about decorating the place and making it even better than it already is.

We know that our daily lives will be improved by living in such a private, light-filled, airy house that has an openness to nature that we have never experienced before. The seclusion is tempered by a community of friendly people around the lake and the quaint and cosmopolitan downtown of Warwick only a 10 minute drive away.

We are not under contract yet, but we should be this week. After that, it should be smooth sailing to the closing!

Five Offers! On the First Weekend! by Leslie

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Whoa. So we listed the house on Thursday and had the realtor open house on Friday. By the end of the realtor open, we already had 3 offers. Two of them were above our asking price. Over the weekend we had the public open house and our place was the place to see. The phone was ringing off the hook, people had appointments to see the house outside of the open hours and were coming back to see it a second and third time. By the end of Monday we had 5 offers on the table. Even our realtor was shocked. For a down market, we did really well.

We accepted the highest offer, a full $20,000 over our asking price, and we are currently in attorney review. Hopefully that will go smoothly and we will be under contract in a few days. Then comes the inspections and hopefully that will go well too. We are probably going to close on this house on July 1st and if we haven't found a new place yet, we will be moving in with Chris's parents for a few weeks.

We are going up to Warwick this weekend to look at homes and are looking forward to seeing what's out there. I hope that it doesn't take too long to find a place!

Big changes and exciting prospects!

Moving On Upstate by Leslie

How boring. I haven't updated in so long! The last five weeks must have been my busiest yet. First, Milo and I visited my family in Canada. It was a great trip, though quick, and Milo once again traveled very well and charmed everyone he met. I was worried about traveling alone with him, but it went very well. 

When I got back Chris and I finally made the decision to move! It's something that we have talked about for years, we want more privacy and a bigger house. Now is the time to do it, before I go back to work and before we have more kids. We are looking at a town in New York state called Warwick, in Orange County. It's way more affordable than where we are now, because it is another 40 minutes away from the city, and it has more space and a more laid back country lifestyle. Here in Ridgewood we tend to feel a little crowded with a small back yard and neighbors that are very close.

We couldn't be more excited, but right now are in the middle of preparing our house to put on the market and it's a lot of work. We plan to list it this Friday and in the meantime we are packing up a POD with all our extra stuff that we don't need on a daily basis, painting all our crazy colored walls a lovely shade of tan, and tearing down the race track in the basement.

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 Now, onto the whirlwind that is Milo these days. He is almost walking, he can cruise around on the furniture extremely well and lets go and stands on his own often. He is very fast and likes to get into everything. It's difficult to get anything done when he is around. If you take your eyes off him for one minute the next time you turn around he is eating paper, pulling on cords, rolling the toilet paper off the roll, throwing his clothes out of his drawers, crawling after the dogs, trying grab my coffee cup, reaching up to try to open the door, opening and closing cupboard doors, banging pots and pans, spilling the dog's water dish... the list goes on. It's great how curious and active he is though. I try to let him explore and  do things on his own as long as he isn't hurting himself or breaking anything, but inevitably those things do happen. Now that the weather is nice we have been going outside and he's getting into the dirt and getting scratches everywhere and really living it up outside. He loves it.

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He can also crawl all the way up the stairs by himself and knows to turn around and go down backwards at the top. He loves to eat fresh vegetables like cucumbers with dill and tomatoes, shredded cheddar cheese, scrambled eggs, little pieces of buttered toast, grapes, mango and pineapple. I found out at his last check-up though that I wasn't supposed to give him eggs until he was one year old because they are allergenic. Oops! He loves them though and it's a quick and easy meal at anytime. I gave up on cooking complicated dishes for him, he's into simple finger foods that he can feed himself, so why bother with the trouble only to have him not eat it. I think it's probably better anyway to put a few piles of fresh food in front of him and let him pick what he wants to eat.

Sorting Through the Junk by Leslie

To prepare for you know who, Chris and I have been busy rearranging the house and getting organized. Bags and bags of stuff have been purged from this house over the last six months. Hundreds of dollars have been made on Ebay. Papers have been consolidated, sorted and re-filed. Cards written in 1992 have been re-read, shared and put in a new box. Old wallpaper has been found behind the radiator, marveled at, then thrown away. Objects have been considered; junk or treasure? trash or donation? valuable or worthless?

It's easy in a house with plenty of room to let things pile up. Have you ever watched Clean Sweep on TLC? It amazes me what people keep and how they let their junk take over the space so they can't even use it anymore. I like to collect stuff, but I can recognize junk when I see it and toss it out if I don't use it or need it. I love the moment on the show when it becomes emotional. The host always says at some point "It's not about the stuff, it's about your relationship." He's very serious. Someone usually cries and then there is a revelation and a group hug. And there it is, sorting through your junk and getting rid of stuff is good therapy.

In our case it's preparing us physically, but also mentally, for this big change in our lives. Not only are we making room for this new person in our house, but we are reviewing the past and looking ahead to the future. It's pretty amazing actually. I am even considering getting a fireproof safe to store things that I wouldn't want to lose, things that I want the baby to have, papers and photos that document our history.

So it is not only with an empty, freshly painted room, new furniture and lots of empty shelves that we welcome this new person to start adding to the stuff, but it is also with a clear look at ourselves and an understanding of who we are and what we want to teach our children to value.