Thursday, December 31, 2009

The naked face

Earlier this week, the last of the exterior trim went on, and the scaffolding came down. Now only the naked face of the house is left:

It's the building equivalent to getting your braces off.

Look at that dazzling smile!

Meanwhile, on the inside, Mark is installing insulation. Lots of it!

The girls find insulation very entertaining. It can be used for log-rolling.

And as a lofty sofa.

Who knew insulation could be so much fun?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The best kind of gift

I say this every year, but THIS was the best Christmas ever. We were blessed with wonderful gifts, and had a very relaxing day.

One thing that made me really happy was the way the girls treated their presents. As they opened each present, they treated like it was the best thing in the world. It had their full attention, and they played and played like it was the only toy in the room. There was no blistering rush from toy to toy. Not sure how long this will last, but it sure was great to see this year, so I'm savoring it!

Gail's family came down later in the morning, so we had two rounds of present-opening. Don't they make balloons look fun?

But the best gift of the day was one that Gail's kids had prepared for their parents: T-shirts with their hand and foot prints, and favorite mom & dad quotes.

We were privy to the preparation of these gifts, so I knew all about them, but you can bet I got teary seeing my sister and brother-in-law open these special treasures.

Doesn't that capture the true spirit of Christmas? Great job, guys!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

My little angels

Last Wednesday was the "Winter Program" for the elementary school--the girls' first time up on the big stage! The school is K-3, with two classes of each, so a total of eight songs were performed. Now, this was not only the girls' first experience with this sort of event, but also ours as parents. We were AMAZED at the turnout! I'd guess there were 400 people in the audience--along with the 170 students, that comes to about 20% of the population of the town! And they all must have arrived at LEAST half an hour early, because by the time we got there (at the requested time of 6:45), there were just a few seats left in the back of the auditorium. We stood along the side, which ended up being the best seat in the house, with a clear view over everyone's head.

The kindergartners go last in the program, since they are generally the piece de resistance. Our class was singing "Hark the Herald Angels Sing". I must say, I was a little surprised and pleased to find that you can still sing those traditional carols in a public school. My thought is that no matter what your religious persuasion, those songs are a part of the historical culture, and should be treasured as such. The kids did a fantastic job, complete with sign language. I must say, I teared up. Hopefully my sniffles aren't too loud on the video tape! Here are the girls after the performance, still wearing their sparkling halos.

The event closed in what is apparently their tradition...the whole room singing "Silent Night" together (another breach of p.c. etiquette). It was really quite beautiful.

Holding our water

What is this?

A gigantic model of veins and arteries?

A dialysis machine?

Nope, that's my sister Karen with our new water manifold. The house water flows into it, and it has valves that can shut off water supply to each item in the house. Blow a valve under your sink? You can shut it off here.

And I'm sure you've guessed the is hot and blue is cold! Isn't that clever? The material is called Pex, and Mark is madly in love with it. In addition to being pretty, it is also very easy to work with. Just like his wife :-)

So here's what it looks like as the pipes run through the crawl space.

And here's their elegant profile as they arch out of the floor for the bathroom sink. Isn't that cool?

We turned the water on a couple of days ago, which was very exciting. Mark called for both mechanical and plumbing inspection yesterday (Monday). It didn't go as well as planned. The plumbing test consisted of bringing a hose to the roof and filling up the drain vent pipe (after plugging up all the drains in the house, of course). Any flaws in the system will leak, and they did--several unsealed joints, and a cracked pipe, all work done by the plumbers. They are coming back up to fix these items today. We also found that we need to have the fireplace installed before we can pass mechanical. We scheduled the installation for Thursday, so HOPEFULLY, by next Monday we can reaccomplish both inspections and pass. This is a key step before insulation can be installed, which is our next big milestone.

Wish us luck!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Those crafty kids

Several months ago, I noted that I was craft-impaired. Apparently, not so with my children. After my public confession, my sister-in-law Tracey surprised me by sending me some craft books (thanks, again!). Whenever we have some down time, the girls love to page through the books, and set their sights on a new thing to build. During this past looonnnngggg rainy weekend, they did just that, and I have to share the results.

They initially wanted to make this castle:

They dismembered many an egg carton. The resulting carnage:

Then, I noticed the project slowly morphing. Abigail wants to decorate her tower in rainbow stripes. Suddenly I realize...they are no longer building a castle. The page has turned to this:

At this point, the girls are literally buzzing with industry (they get this from Mark's side of the family). I leave them to their work, decorating the castle/dollhouse with markers to show where they want windows cut. Next thing I know, they're asking for string. Why? Because they have plans drawn out to put a working elevator in the building.

Yes, a working elevator. Not in either picture.

Abigail hands me a little scrap of cardboard which she calls a lever. She wants to wind the string around it to raise and lower the 'vator. I did help by poking the hole in the top of the building, and tying the knot around the "carrier".

Ops check:

In use:

Now I ask you, is that a good use of a rainy day OR WHAT?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Fall no more

It seems like just a few weeks ago I was talking about the fall season and all its beauty. Well, that's over. Now we have a new season. A cold season. Both the temperature kind AND the virus kind...we've had both!

Here is our first snow on the house.

Got the girls all geared up for snow, but it was melting faster than they could eat it!

They had better luck with these items...gingerbread (graham cracker) houses they made at the library.

Those little creations were stripped of their trimmings (except the minty stuff) within 24 hours and now sit naked and forlorn on the counter.

But here to cheer us up is this crazy sight:

Yes, that is my sister, Gail, on crazy hair day. If you look close (click on the picture), you can see that her hair is trimmed like a Christmas tree.

Gail works at the elementary school, and let's just say she has a reputation...

She is one of the most outgoing, creative, funny people I've ever met. People look forward to seeing what Crazy Gail is doing next. Which makes it a little bit of a let-down when people who know her meet me. I think most people understand that there can only be one Crazy Gail per family, though. The rest of us are good straight men!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Dirt work

After a much appreciated break during Thanksgiving visiting Mark's brother & sister-in-law, John & Kim (Zack's folks), we jumped back into it yesterday. Our favorite dirt work guy, Matt Saar, showed up with all his man toys.

The official reason was to dig leach lines and do some grading around the house.

There were two pieces of equipment, so Mark got to (play with) drive one and do some very important work.

Look at all that dirt he's moving!

He has a tough time containing himself.

Santa, can we get one of these? I've been very, very, very, very good!