Baby Steps.


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Every day Dear Husband and I wake up and work. We work, eat lunch, work, eat dinner, watch the Olympics and sleep. Seriously. Every day. The boys help and have some great feedback. Little fella said he’s happy we’re getting the electric installed because we will know what every single switch is for, sadly an anomaly from our other homes.  Our older son will also pitch in. They’ve both learned to frame, drywall mud, and handle the drill more skillfully. This is absolutely a family project.

Each day I think we’ve made huge progress but then I see the long list of things we still need to finish. Instead of getting overwhelmed I just think back to a month ago and how little we had done. It puts things in perspective. It helps me digest this process evenly.

Our recent baby steps included installing bathroom exhaust fans, having our heating installed (still being done), having the electric boxes hung/holes drilled for wires (he’s still working too), and installing stairs (we are working on an upstairs railing – the upstairs of our house will be dry storage). A huge leap was having our rough plumbing complete and inspected. We actually have running (cold) water!

This huge project makes me appreciate the small steps that lead to giant progress. Half a railing leads quickly to a whole railing and yet another trip to the lumber yard for more supplies. A stack of drywall becomes a wall when sealed with tape and mud, and gives our space true form. Sweeping up the wood chips and dust on the floor at night makes me smile as I picture the future cabinets laying in waiting.

And we wake up and do it day after day. It’s the baby steps.

Chicago, IL.

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Being raised in the Chicago suburbs, I am no stranger to this city. However, it’s been a really long time since I’ve been. While driving back from Sonoma, in a bad mood because 1. our trip plans were trashed because 2. we had flooding in our storage building, I talked to my sister on the phone. Instantly she perked up.

“You’re coming home? What about going to see Coldplay?”

It didn’t take me long to go from cranky to excited. So, the week after we started organizing our stuff and pouring that concrete floor to prevent future flooding, I drove to my sisters and we headed downtown.

We parked right between Millennium Park and Soldier Field and started walking. We saw The Bean, we saw Buckingham Fountain, we hid in a hotel lobby to cool off and shockingly noted the weather at 103 degrees. I texted photos and messages back to Dear Husband and the boys throughout the day. I laughed when he texted back, “You look sweaty.” Apparently our hair was getting wetter and hugging our foreheads the later it got.

We took a taxi to Eataly. This unique grocery store/restaurant/café was a fun lunch spot and accidentally broadcasted some terrible news (to me). We were sitting diagonally from the Shriner’s building, which sadly is now a Bloomingdales. I made my sister go inside to congeal my depression. I used to come almost annually to the circus here as a girl. Now it’s a department store. I hung my head.

Even worse, terrible clouds were rolling in and the storm projections looked undeniably against us. We made it to the concert dry and evacuated to the rain shelter to wait out a lightning heavy storm. While we hugged the wall, we hoped the weather would quit sooner rather than later. Fortunately we only missed the opening acts.

I have no good photos because cameras weren’t allowed. My cell phone photos are painful, so let me just try to explain it. Every patron wore a radio controlled light bracelet. The stadium lit up in one solid glow of yellow (for “Yellow”) or white (for “A Sky Full of Stars”) to compliment the songs. Sometimes all the bracelets pulsed multi-colors. There was confetti and lights and fireworks and even balloons. It was the best produced concert I’ve ever seen (although I’ve not seen many).

We made it home by 1:00 AM and I trucked home to my family (and brother who was helping roof our coop and garage) who made fun of me for liking Coldplay. There is no chance any of these boys will like Coldplay. It’s a darn good thing I have a rocking sister!

Making Home.

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We’ve been talking about this since we left Tennessee, the flooding just made us get to work. We have farmland in Southern Wisconsin which had an unlivable house on it. Last July we knocked it down. This July we started building our own.

I’ll spare you the mundane details of permit getting, vendor finding, etc. We got that all in order and got to work. In WI we are not allowed to install our own electric, plumbing, or HVAC. Anything else we can. Going pioneer style, we are building, literally swinging the hammers and erecting the walls, our little house in the country.

Every single day we work. All day. All tiring day. With our small square footage we are making huge progress quite quickly. We decided to build living space inside a metal pole building. Here’s where we are with that.

First, we paid someone to install windows. They peeled the metal off, framed in windows, and reinstalled the metal. Then we paid to have colored concrete poured as our flooring. We’ve had the septic system installed and the yard shaped via bulldozer to prevent future flooding. We paid to have the building insulated. We framed the interior walls and erected the i-joists. We’ve fixed the chicken coop roof with metal Dear Husband bought at auction. Currently, I’m drywall taping the exterior house wall while the plumber, electrician, and HVAC professionals do their thing. Family has been out helping too.

I feel like our full-time job is shopping at Menards. We are there too often. Equally though, we are busy, busy, busy sawing, nailing, screwing, creating. It’s like the best craft project ever! We’re repurposing some things from the old house too. I just can’t wait to share the end product. Stay tuned.

(This is moving along pretty quickly. We have plans to travel again, but we wanted to get our final stop in order.)

Sonoma, CA and then…

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DSC_0104Before we left Tennessee we planned on taking our oldest son to any NASCAR race he wanted to. He said he wanted a road course, which was Sonoma CA or Watkins Glen, NY. We were heading to CA at just the right time of the race, so we thought we’d try that. (It was pretty fabulous that brother-in-law got our tickets for us. Thanks!)

It was California, June, and no shade, so yes we piled on the sunscreen like you’d never believe. We also chugged water and played happy sitting on cement blocks. (Sonoma race track, I’m here to tell you that cement blocks as stands is odd.) However, my oldest son sat still the whole time and watched every move. He was very happy, which in turn made us all very happy. Little fella even said he’s “getting more into racing because of his brother,” but I did leave the stands with him a few times.

Before the race the boys dutifully explored the vendors/sponsors tents. They created lego race cars and had some friendly racing rounds. We won glasses that Little fella donned, a hat, and a tape measure.

Our on site camping was overpriced. Unfortunately, our weekend neighbors were foul-mouthed college somethings who didn’t want to sleep. Fortunately, we were so tired from walking and sunshine we passed out pretty easily.

After the race, we got to walk the track. The boys found some lug nuts which make darn cool souvenirs.

We were driving to Redwoods State Park and received a phone call. Our metal shed storing our “stuff” flooded behind it and it was leaking into the building. Three more weeks in California were dashed as we hung an east instead of a south. It sucked. I kept thinking about everything we planned, what our boys would miss, how it would take very long to drive to California again. I was not happy. Then our truck exhaust broke. Ugh.

It is what it is. We took care of the flooding and are very fortunate nothing was ruined. We also decided to stay a while at our property in Wisconsin and get to work building our home. Seems like now is as good a time as any.

Jelly Belly Factory, Fairfield, CA.

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On our way to the Sonoma NASCAR race, we passed by Jelly Belly and saw they have factory tours. Well, of course we had to check that out.

The factory tour was an enclosed catwalk that toured us above the operation. We read signs and ran into a few employees to answer questions. We were very curious about bean boozled beans. (Have you played that game? It’s quite yucky…and funny.) We were told by employees it smells awful when they make the horrible flavored beans. We were shown piles of dog food flavor below. Insert gag motion here.

The tour was quite quick and oddly backwards. Meaning, they make you tour through the packaging first, the mixing of the beans, and so on back to the beginning. We were given free bags of beans, and bought a few as well.

I love to stop at factory tours to give the boys a sense of where things come from. However, I’m not sure this place is a good destination. Just a fun stop on the way. Fortunately, that’s how it worked for us.

Millteron Lake SRA, Friant, CA.

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One thing that is downright hard to get used to is the dry yellow grass combined with the hot temperature. To me, dry yellow grass usually pairs with cold temperatures. California is a brain bend. I keep pretending the grass is wheat ready for harvest, that helps. Alas, it looks quite interesting.

Millerton Lake State Recreation Area campground is completely opposite the dam and takes a windy path to drive there, but it’s a nice little spot. Importantly, it is near my best friend’s home, and the sole reason we decided to stay. However, with few water spots in the hot California desert, I could easily see the attraction for locals.

The birds here eat well enough. I’ve seen several chomping on chipmunks or other little rodents. I also saw a woodpecker mother feeding her little brood in the tree right behind our camper. The birding is nice enough but the fire ants… not so much.

Truthfully, the time we spent here was visiting my friend and her family nearby. We did very little “camping.” I did spend a few hours one morning walking around and taking photos. I appreciated the spacious expanse after a lot of crowded California driving.

Light Art Fireworks.

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For the past couple of years I’ve had the boys shake the camera around at fireworks and see what we got. This year I didn’t ask them. Sometimes it’s hard to know if they are truly enjoying something or are just doing it because I ask. I decided to leave them comfy in their chairs. Behold, Little Fella popped up and came over asking to do our light pictures. I was happy to oblige. My older son joined in readily. It’s so fun to see what comes of these shots! (It’s also nice to know they really enjoy it as much as I do.) Next year I’ll be sure to ask.

 

Yarn Along: Ghost of the Fireground and My First Socks.

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Joining in at the Small Things blog for Yarn Along today.

Knitting: I am knitting my very first pair of socks. I decided to do a ribbed pair so if they weren’t quite the right size, they’d either stretch larger or grab tighter. If that doesn’t work, I always have smaller feet (my boys’) and larger ones (Dear Husband) that I can pretend I made them for. I decided to stick with the square dpn’s this time, because I feel comfortable with them. One new thing at a time, I suppose. I am going to be knitting an afterthought heel very soon.

Also, I’m quite excited that I finished the cabled blanket I started last…. June. I decided to go for a knit blanket last summer because the pattern was just so lovely. My older son claimed it last September. I thought perhaps it would be done for him by Christmas. Ha, not to be. But, alas, I kept on chugging and am doubly happy as he still wanted it come this June. Now, I’m past the fear of starting a blanket. Perhaps June is my try new knits month? Weird. Anyhow, little fella thinks this is all particularly unfair as I never knit him a blanket, so we’ve settled on a pattern and as soon as these socks are done, I’ll dive into that one. He is incredibly motivating, so the socks should be done quickly!

Reading: Ghosts of the Fireground by Peter M. Leschak. I know each area has their natural pitfalls, tornadoes, flooding, drought, earthquakes, hurricanes, etc. So when I grabbed this book I was startled to read about the historical fire larger than the Great Chicago Fire that took place in Peshtigo, WI. Being in California, I usually attribute the fires to their dryness, but holy cow, safe little WI had 1200 fire deaths the SAME TIME as the Great Chicago fire. Chicago was more famous, so they stole the headlines. This book is amazing. It weaves a modern firefighter and his seminary school reflections with the historical story of a Priest who survived the Peshtigo disaster. I’m floored by the things I read, both modern and historical in this book. Firefighting is something I respect, but know almost nothing beyond cliches about. I’m so glad I accidentally found this book.

Chicago Joe’s, Las Vegas, NV.

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Almost 18 years ago, Dear Husband and I got married in Las Vegas. (When I met Dear Husband, he joked he just wanted Elvis at his wedding. He’s no extreme Elvis fan or anything, I think he was just being goofy, but the joke led to reality.) We ended up getting married in Graceland Wedding Chapel in Sept. of 1998 because we were in Vegas for a trade show. It was fun, we got a video, Elvis sang to us. We even rented a limo for the night and bought rings at the mall on the way to the chapel. I know, it’s ridiculous. But, that’s what we did.

Our limo driver took us to a little restaurant before the ceremony.  They served fabulous Italian food and gave us free cheesecake to celebrate our 12:00 AM wedding, a few hours later after our dinner.

Well, we brought the boys to this little restaurant and took them to the little chapel. It was so sweet to remember where we sat, what we ordered then, and then add a new little chapter, one that includes two more boys I love dearly.

 

Hoover Dam.

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When we pulled out of Wisconsin I was on the phone with my Dad. He knew we were on the way to California and we talked about the route. I mentioned Las Vegas. He said, “Well, you are taking the boys to Hoover Dam, of course?!” I didn’t answer. Truth is, I have been before, and our oldest has been. I didn’t really think it would be interesting for them. But, when we parked in Vegas, Dear Husband said,  “We should see Hoover Dam tomorrow.” So, we went.

It helped that the two art deco statues atop the bridge are statues that come to life in the Percy Jackson we just read. (It always comes back to Percy Jackson, right?) That kept Little Fella very intrigued. He just couldn’t believe the book characters were “actually real, Mom. Like they are in the book, but they are actually here. I’m going to rub their toes like in the book.” I must say, the statues are quite beautiful, so strong, yet graceful.

Then I remembered how the bridge was built in the depression era, complete with the art deco influence of the time. The doors are beautiful. The door knobs are beautiful. The floors are amazing. The statues awesome. I started remembering how fine this dam is.

My older son thought the reference to taking “all the dam photos we want” was quite hilarious and ran away with that. “Mom, how long does it take to walk across this dam bridge?” “How far to the dam door?” Insert dam, and you’ve got the comments covered. Chuckles all around.

We were fortunate to get into the first tour of the morning, (courtesy of older children who can actually get out of the door with little help, yay.) We were not overly sweaty walking around taking photos topside and even lingered to check out the new beautiful bridge. Our bellies got the best of us, so we pressed on to a great little pizza place in Boulder near lunch.

Lingering thoughts?

1. What will we do when the lake runs dry? The guide said it’s at the lowest point it’s EVER been. That was depressing.

2. Also, Wow! I mean, WOW! What a project that was. What a cool country to put men to work who were full of pride to create this.

3. Rick Riordan, well-played. (See Percy Jackson reference above.)

4. Dad and Dear Husband, you were right. This stop wasn’t dull but in fact, quite beautiful.