Friday, August 07, 2009

In which I blather about my house

I know I write an awful lot about my house. It is a subject that is endlessly fascinating to me, although I realize, probably not as fascinating to others. But here I go anyway.

When we got home from Rome, I announced that studying for NCLEX was my number one priority to which all my usual chores would be sacrificed. I can't honestly say I devoted all that much time to studying, but I was fantastically successful at not cleaning. Then my sister-in-law announced a visit, and I passed the NCLEX and now I'm trying to take care of all the things I neglected during two long years of nursing school.

I finished stripping the windows and I repainted them white. I painted the living room blue-gray. Formerly it was yellow, which was fine, but I really like the blue. For one thing, it's so clean, and it looks fabulous against the newly painted windows and baseboards.

We used to have a wood burning stove in the living room that took up way too much floor space and that was messy, and not at all efficient, so we took it out, but then we were left with the piece of stovepipe that stuck out of the wall, like a horrible black umbilicus. We could not figure out how to remove it, as it was firmly attached to a metal liner that went all the way to the top of the chimney and all our tugging and twisting was useless. The other day I persuaded Jon to take his sawzall and slice through the pipe so at least it would be flush with the wall. After he had sawed about halfway through, the whole pipe popped out of the liner, as easy as anything, along with a shower of soot. Now, of course, there's a giant hole in the wall, but we're not going to repair it because we're undecided about whether we should expose the old bricks or not. There may have been a fireplace at one time.

The bedrooms finally look decent. My new bed is fabulous and the girls are comfortably installed in our old one. I bought a new bunk bed at Ikea for the boys, replacing a haphazard thing that Jon built for them. When we bought our house, the owners were amazed that we were moving in with four kids, since they, with just two children, considered the house too small. Mr. McP was an infant then, so he slept in our room, and we squeezed the other three kids into the big bedroom, leaving the small bedroom to be Jon's study.

The small bedroom is one peculiar to the vernacular house style of Charlottesville. Charlottesville readers who live in old houses, particularly in Belmont, will know what I'm talking about: the tiny mystery room upstairs that forces many owners to list their houses as "two bedroom" because this room can't be considered a bedroom by modern standards. What is it supposed to be? Nursery? Study? Our upstairs bathroom is twice the size of this room.

As Mr. McP grew, we got really cramped. We gave Mad Scientist the small room, but Mr. McP was sleeping on an air mattress in the girls' room, an arrangement that was highly unsatisfactory to everyone. I envisioned bumping into the attic to create a fabulous sleeping loft. We actually consulted an architect, but she discouraged us with dire tales of the roof spreading and collapsing onto the house. Her idea was a massive two story addition to the back of the house. "Wouldn't that be expensive?" I asked. She waved her hand dismissively. "They'll lend you as much money as you want," she said, as if our ability to pay it back was of no consequence, which, in fact, it wasn't, since this was the height of the real estate boom. I told my friend about all this and she said, "Why would you spend all that money on a bedroom when Mad Scientist will be moving out in five years?" That brought me to my senses. In the end, we did a major renovation with a modest addition, but no extra bedroom.

To manage the kids' sleeping needs, Jon built a bunk bed. Why didn't we just buy one? I have no idea. All I know is that one day Jon drove away in the minivan and came home with it loaded down with lumber. He then proceded to build a "bunk bed" in the middle of the living room, which we then had to disassemble and rebuild in what was now the boys' bedroom. I blogged about it at the time and made many trenchant observations, the most important being that to criticize one's husband's carpentry is like telling him his penis is too small. The bed was massive, but swayed like a ship in a heavy sea. I don't have a picture, but imagine what sort of bed your husband would build if he'd bought a random collection of lumber and designed one out of his head with no instructions.

At any rate, the boys complained about the swaying, and about the inadequate support for their mattresses: problems we tried to solve by applying more wood. So I went to Ikea--my first, and probably my last visit there. Jon says the new bed looks like a prison cot--I prefer "military"--but it is neat, compact, safe, and the both boys say it is much more comfortable. It looks a million times better than the old one. The lumber has been stowed in the basement. Maybe someday it will be repurposed as a chicken coop?

Yesterday I lugged all our assorted large trash--the girls' old bed and carpet and many other things that I found in the basement--and a huge dump truck came and hauled it all away.


  1. If my husband decided to build a bunk bed, it would take him two years (I'm not kidding).

    I'm starting to panic about tomorrow's party. I hope the guests will laugh *with* us as they look out upon our unfinished house and weedy gardens.

  2. How big is the hole? Stovepipe size? I'm sure they still sell those pie tin type covers. I thought for years that my parents had just painted over paper plates.

    Here's what I'm thinking of, though this one is decorative:

  3. I love your house posts, so keep telling us stories.

    If it makes you feel better, just six months after we've moved into our house, we're seriously considering redoing parts of our bathroom, as a couple of things we did are not working for us.

  4. Ah, the growing pains in a house. This was a fun read--it really made me feel more normal on my end as we redo rooms and move beds and dressers thither and yon!
    I'm with Jen. Keep writing these stories!

  5. I have a hard time watching my husband put together pre-fab furniture (he's all about the "that's close enough"). I can't imagine watching him trying to construct something from scratch out of his head.