Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Moved in, sort of.

Hi. So we have a house. Closing was last week and everything went as smoothly as it could have. It was so nice working with the relocation people at Jared's new job. What a blessing! They even gave us a bonus check for using their people to both buy and sell our homes. We spent a few days last week doing little things around the house that still aren't done yet (putting the hardware on the cabinets up, installing the garage door opener and painting the banister). All things we could have had them do but we were trying to save money and do it ourselves. I tell you, a person can really get to know a banister when they spend as much time with it as I did last week. I deglossed it, sanded it, wiped it down, taped and then spent another 4 hours priming it. I still have two more coats. What was I thinking? I just have to remind myself that they were going to charge us $700 to paint it white. I am doing it for around $50.

Friday we threw stuff in boxes and moved everything over on Saturday morning. I cannot even believe how many people showed up to help us move. It was incredible. I couldn't even count because they were constantly moving, but I would guess at least 25-30 people, mostly from our old ward, some from our new ward and also some of both of our families. We started just after 8:30 and had the truck ready by 9:15. We took another truck to the storage unit and loaded that up by about 10:15. By 11:30 everything was in our new house, including our washer and dryer on the second level and our piano--safe and sound. We are so very grateful for everyone's help! It made the move so easy.

Blinds are ordered but not here yet. That's a little awkward, considering our shower has a great view--from both sides of the windows. We were planning to shower in the kids' bathroom on Sunday morning until I realized we had no shower curtain. Instead we opted to tape newspaper to the window and shower in our bathroom. Finding socks and church clothes was another story. I almost gave up all together.

I've gotten the kitchen and laundry rooms pretty much up and running, as well as the kids' clothes. Everything else in the house is a disaster. I don't even know where to begin (which is why I'm writing this). It's either write or snuggle up in a blanket with some hot chocolate, watch the snow fall and think about how Erin brought absolutely no snow clothes to school today. They are around here somewhere.

So far I love the house! The laundry room might be my favorite part. That's weird, right? It's my dream to have three separate baskets so that the kids can separate the laundry by color. Think how easy that would be. It's only a dream right now, but the baskets are in place. I love that it's upstairs right between the kids' rooms and across from the bathroom. Easy access and no excuses for not putting clothes in there.

I love the play room and the kids do to. They have loved playing with things they haven't seen for 6 months. It's a huge mess, but it keeps them occupied while I unpack. I love that the kitchen is so functional and exactly our style. I love the huge pantry. I love that we have a place for our computers. I'm sure there will be more to love, like the garage and such, but right now they are too disastrous to enjoy.

It seems like there are so many things to buy when you get to a new house. Today I just realized that we need to add "shovel" to the list. I think it's finally winter. The day we were moving was beautiful and warm, I mean for December. Yet another thing to be grateful for. I might post pictures of the new house sometime. Just don't hold your breath. Now back to unpacking...

Thursday, December 1, 2011


I'm writing this because I want to remember Connor at this age. This baby is so cute and pleasant to be around. He turned one the week before we moved to Utah. He was not even walking then. We were so nervous about him falling down the stairs at that age. He quickly learned to walk and do stairs. Now he runs everywhere. He doesn't really bend his knees yet so you'll see him running down the hall with his legs going in circles beside him. It's quite entertaining.

Turns out, I don't have too many pictures of him, or anyone lately. Gotta do better about that. Here's one of his cute smile.He still drinks bottles, which is the longest any of my kids have been on bottles. He loves them and will not have anything to do with sippy cups. He will throw it at your head if you try to give him one. He also throws his dinner plate, fork and cup off his high chair when he is done with it. Sitting next to him is known as the splash zone. He loves to snuggle with you while drinking his bottle. I love this time with him. I love looking at his little baby features and being snuggly with him. He's such a sweet boy.
Oh, I almost forgot. He also puts his finger on his belly button when he drinks his bottle, just like Marissa does when she sucks her thumb. Funny.

Along with being sweet, he is also a rough kid. He does have a habit of hitting people, which usually means Marissa gets the brunt of it. A couple of months ago I said, "When is Connor going to start to talk?" and then Marissa said, "When is Connor going to start to be nice?" We have been working on being soft, and he has now started stroking someone's head softly right after he hits them. It's a step in the right direction anyway.

Connor talks all the time, it's just in a language that nobody can understand. He has started to say some words. He says "ma-ma" when he wants milk, or "ba-ba" for bottle. When he looks in the mirror he says "Ca" or "Da", both meaning Connor I think. When he is referring to me, he says "ma-MA?" like a question. It is so cute. Yesterday when he saw grandpa he looked at me and said, "Bompa". He says "toe" for toast, "ch" for cheese, and shoe and sock. And he's getting good at pointing to all of his body parts, including sputtering his lips when you ask about those. He yells a hearty "AYE!" (meaning hi) to anyone that comes home or whenever we pick up Erin from school. He is starting to say the animal sounds as well. My favorite is his growl. He will repeat "wow" and "cool" when he is watching cool videos that Jared shows the kids on the computer. His favorite word by far is "ba" which of course means ball.

This boy loves, I mean LOVES balls. I guess if you have enough kids, you are bound to get a ball lover. He has the amazing ability to find a ball in any room in anyone's house. If there is a ball in the house, he will find it. If there are two, he will have one in each hand. Literally, there is no other toy he would rather play with than a ball and he could probably be happy with a ball for quite some time. He gets pretty frustrated in nursery when they blow "balls" for him to play with and then they all pop. How is that fun? You don't even get to throw it? A while back he started really getting into his throws by putting one leg back, bending his knees and winding up like a pitcher would. Then he says "go" before he throws it to you. It is so cute to see on a baby. I don't know how he thought of doing it, but I think he has a lot of natural athletic ability. I feel like all we have to get him for Christmas is balls and he will be a happy kid.
(Not the best picture, but it's the only one I have of his throwing stance)
He loves to say prayers. He will fold his arms, bow his head and mumble for as long as he thinks the prayer should be. Another funny thing he started doing is raising his hand whenever someone asks a question. "Who had fun today?" and he'll raise his hand with everyone else. "Who wants to change Connor's diaper?" and he'll be the only one to eagerly raise his hand. As long as you say "Who wants to..." excitedly like a question, he will raise his hand. He always wants to be part of things and do whatever the other kids are doing.
He loves to brush his teeth and play in the toilet, sometimes at the same time. One week I found three toothbrushes in the toilet three days in a row. He likes to dump out all the hair stuff or my makeup, and has learned to unload and load the dishwasher, although he almost always does the opposite of what I am trying to do. We often find dirty spoons in the clean drawer. So he is pretty much a typical 18 month old. He also loves to empty my wallet of all cards. I still haven't found my credit card that he lost at my parents' house.

He has recently started liking to read books. He will get the book he wants, grab your thumb with one hand and place the book in your hand to tell you that you need to read him the book. If you stop reading, he will do it again. He's pretty good at communicating without words like that. He will also get a cup out and place it in your hand telling you that he wants water.

He is happy and sweet and will be 18 months next week. I think I really like this age. Old enough to walk, feed himself and get his own diapers out, but young enough to not be defiant. I love that kid! We started taking him to nursery a couple of months ago and just stayed there with him because he wasn't official yet. This week we can finally leave him. He does well sitting and holding props for singing time. I think we will all enjoy nursery (as long as we don't get called as the leaders).

Keep being your sweet, lovable, ball lovin' self, Connor. We all love you!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

House, Ward and Christmas

Our new house is almost done, as in the cleaning lady was there wiping dust from the floor today (right before the inspector tracked dirt through it). Our final walk-through is on Friday and we close next Tuesday. Overall, I am extremely happy with our builder. They were doing so well until about three weeks ago. Then there were a series of things that weren't right. The island was put in the wrong spot (by two feet), the big bowl of the sink was put on the wrong side (requiring a new piece of granite cut--ouch!), they poured the patio in the wrong spot, they poured the steps in the front one foot too short, the light switches weren't the ones we chose... stuff like that. But, to our builder's credit, they had each one of these things fixed to the way we wanted it. Really, it wasn't their fault that the concrete people didn't read the plans and that the granite people did it wrong. I would recommend this builder to anyone (McArthur Homes). It's looking great now. We are so excited to move into it.

We started going to our new ward two Sundays ago and it felt like home. Funny enough, we knew more people in that ward than we ever knew in the ward we've been going to for five months. All our fault, I'm sure, but it was so nice to go to a ward on the first Sunday and be greeted by the 14 neighbors that we've met over the course of visiting our new house on a daily basis. Other people in the ward were super friendly as well, including one of my cousins. I'm not sure if I'm nice enough to be in a ward like this, but there's always the chance that I could start being nice. I've definitely given it some thought, anyway.

This is just too awesome not to write about. The names of my three neighbors (across the street, next door and right behind us) are: Bobbi, Brandi, and Bendi. Seriously. Isn't that great? All very nice people, by the way.

Our first day was also the primary program, which meant that even though we were a few minutes early, we were still in the very back of the second cultural hall. It is a huge ward with a huge primary, so add a bunch of grandparents into the mix and you get nearly as many people as stake conference. They laid wood over the armrests of the choir seats and crammed three kids to a seat up on the stand, and there were still kids sitting in the congregation. They all looked like they were the same age, between three and five, and there were hundreds of them. They came up and repeated something together 6 at a time, because there would never have been enough time to have everyone speak--and it still ran over 20 minutes. This is a huge change for us coming from a primary of 25-30 kids. There will be no shortage of friends for the kiddos.

There are 4 nurseries, 5 Sunbeam classes (five!), 2 classes for every other age until Valiant 8, 1 Valiant 9 class, 1 combined 10-11 class and 2 deacons passing the sacrament. Crazy! Erin, who is in CTR 6, is in senior primary because there isn't enough rooms for all those classes. I don't know how there are enough rooms as it is. Probably the lack of youth. So that's our new ward. We'll be happy to finally belong again.

Since we are so focused on moving, I haven't been thinking about Christmas much. When I do think about it, I can't think of a single thing that we need. Over half of our stuff has been in storage for 6 months so unpacking it all will feel like Christmas already. Why would we then give our kids more stuff that they don't need two weeks later? I started feeling really strongly about wanting to find places that we could serve as a family or give gifts to for Christmas, instead of giving presents to ourselves. We have been so, so very blessed. When we sprung this idea on our kids, I'm not sure they really understood until we showed them two contrasting videos. The first was of people in the Dominican Republic who didn't have food or a change of clothes. One kid got his first ball when he was like 12. He had never even had one before. It made us all realize what we have and that we have more than enough to give. The second video was a scene of Walmart on Black Friday where a mob of greedy shoppers were fighting over $2 waffle irons. It was sad to see what materialism and greed did to people, even punching each other over such a ridiculous item. I think my kids understood more about the true meaning of Christmas. At least I hope. I know I don't want to fall prey to that, even though it is such a human tendency to want more and more.

Yesterday was one of the best days of shopping I've ever had. I took all four kids to the store to pick out presents for kids their own age (for the giving tree) and then had them each pick out hats, gloves and socks for another drive that we found out about. I've always done the giving tree in the past, but this year, it just felt so different because that's all we were doing. We are not buying gifts for ourselves at all this year, just homemade stuff. Okay, Santa might come, but nothing from the parents. I felt so good thinking about the kids that would receive these gifts and about finding more opportunities to serve this year. I think this was/is one of the main things that Jared and I have been missing lately. I saw this quote on a blog recently, “Never will you feel better about yourself, until you forget about yourself.” It is so very true.

Happy holiday season!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Halloween and Such

I realize I have not been writing a lot lately. This in part is because our life is pretty uneventful and boring, and in part because I've been extremely uninspired. I know there is much to be grateful for, but I have had way too many not good days lately. I feel stressed out about little things that I should be able to handle. I feel trapped in the in between stage of moving, like I'm paralyzed and not able to do anything (like projects and such). I don't have a calling or friends in the ward, which is understandable considering we were never going to be here long. I don't do a whole lot except keep the family alive, which is not exactly life-fulfilling, entirely. I just feel like there is something missing right now. I really hope I can find purpose and belonging in our new house and ward. I hope I can find friends there. Really, just one... one good friend is all I need.

We are going to our new ward for the first time next week. I'm looking forward to the change, and also looking forward to not being called Melissa Brown anymore. She arrived in this ward the same week I did, has four kids about the same ages as mine and I guess looks similar to me. I think people have called me Melissa Brown like 15 times, no joke. And people don't call her my name, it's one directional and so annoying. Just had to get that off my chest.

We did have Halloween. I had such a great idea for family costumes, but Erin refused to cooperate and Jared and I had no place to wear them anyway. Maybe next year. Instead Erin was a rainbow fairy (she loves the Rainbow Magic Fairy books), and everyone else got to be whatever happened to be in their size at the thrift store. I think they were all happy about their costumes and looked cute.Poor little Dumbo. I don't know whose idea it was to put those hoods and baby costumes, but I have never had a kid that didn't act like they were being tortured whenever one was put on. He was cute anyway. He was much happier once he found the football, and the hood was off.
Marissa as RapunzelAlex loved being Batman. Look at those muscles!I told him not to put his underwear on the outside of his costume...And Erin.She insisted on the rainbow wings.After trick or treating
Oh, and here are the pictures from Disneyland... Okay, not really. It was at the ward Halloween party where they took pictures in front of a green screen.

We managed to carve a couple of pumpkins. Nothing too exciting, but a tradition nonetheless.

The happy girl pumpkin.
The scary boy pumpkin.All lit up.

On to Thanksgiving. I know I should be thinking of more things to be thankful for every day. There is so much when I stop and think about it. My family is one of the greatest blessings. Each of the kids' unique personalities brings joy into my life. We have been so blessed with good health and safety. I cannot tell you how many blessings we have received in the past year that have led us to find a new job, move to Utah, sell our house, and build a new house. The blessings are countless. We have been blessed financially through the relocation package and other means. It's been a blessing to live in the basement apartment and to build the relationship with the cousins upstairs. I am grateful to have both of our extended families so close and for the relationships our kids can have with their grandparents and all of them. I am grateful for the mercy of Heavenly Father, for repentance and peace amidst challenging times. I am grateful for the plan of salvation, for what Christ did for us.

And now, all of a sudden, I feel much better.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Happy Fall!

First, the good news... we have seasons! Look at these amazing colors.
I have been practicing with the different settings on my camera. I definitely know a lot more about photography than I did four weeks ago, but it made me want to take another class and get a better lens. You hear that Santa?
Now for the bad news... we have seasons. I told myself that I wouldn't complain about the cold when I got to Utah because I was so sick of the humid Florida summers, but I have since changed my mind. Holy flippin' heck! It is so cold!!! I woke up this morning and it was 30 degrees outside. Our thin Florida blood is not adjusting very well. I am wearing the only sweater I can find, am wrapped up in a blanket and I still have this uncomfortable feeling of never completely being able to warm up. It's the same feeling I had when I arrived in southern Argentina in the dead of winter, made worse coming from summer here. Our heater had to be turned off at night so we woke up to a frozen, tiled apartment at 6:30 every morning. I honestly never thought I would thaw out. I did though, in Florida.

I went out last night and bought everyone a coat. It had to be done. And I'm realizing that this is only the beginning. We all need new clothes for winter. Alex had one pair of pants (which isn't actually that much of a problem because he wears the same thing every day whether he has a drawer full or not). I seem to recall a box of winter clothes that we used for our visits to Utah, but it is safely tucked away somewhere in the storage unit. As well as one of my brown shoes that were going to be my winter shoes. Yeah, I have just one. These flip flops aren't cutting it anymore. Ugh, I am no good at buying clothes. Will someone be my personal shopper?

I can't wait to get into our new house. I am so grateful to have this basement apartment to live in and for the cheap rent, but we just don't feel quite settled here either. It will be so nice to have a garage so we don't freeze on the way to the car. Looking forward to that. You would think that if you were able to live 5 months without all the things in the storage unit, that probably means you don't actually need all that stuff. That may be true with some of it, but if I had a nickel for every time I said, "Oh, it's in the storage unit", I'd have at least enough money to pay for all the teeth my daughter keeps losing. (Lousy tooth fairy... apparently she's having trouble finding our new location.)

Anyway, last week was beautiful. It was warm for fall but there was also a crispness in the air. Just perfect. We went up the canyon to take pictures of the leaves. I didn't want to go in the morning because I hadn't done laundry in a while and couldn't find anything for the kids to wear (don't look too closely at Connor's attire--I pulled it from the dirty clothes). But my brother's family wanted us to take their pictures, so we went. We found this beautiful spot. Aren't the leaves amazing?My brother's family's pictures turned out great. They are like models. Ours? It is impossible to get one of everyone looking good. They sort of reflected our day and life a little. Erin threw up just minutes before from being car sick, which is why she is wearing the gray bands (only we put them on too late), Alex was mad about something, like not getting a pancake right then, Marissa was just being a stinker in most of the pictures and not smiling, and Connor was just plain tired.
I love Connor in this one. Okay, so I photoshopped Marissa's face in the first family picture because I wanted one where everyone looked good (ha--don't look too close).This is what Marissa really looked like. Stone faced.This one makes me laugh. Mad Alex, squirmy Connor, Marissa completing the circuit (thumb in mouth, finger on belly button). So typical!Cute Erin. And feeling much better here.The best one of Alex.Marissa being silly but refusing to smile......and here, smiling but refusing to look at meThis is what Connor looked like up the canyon. Tired child.My solution, photoshop a picture we took later that day into the fall background.This is the original. We decided to go through the drive through and eat at our new house. Looking back, it was a dumb idea. There was white dust all over the place and no place to sit. Go figure.Oh, I forgot to mention... Jared and I are actually models too.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


For the last week we have been sick on and off. Some sort of stomach bug (for the second time since we got to Utah and third time this year!). Some of us have thrown up and all of us have experienced it in the other direction. I know, this blog has some quality content. Alex was on his death bed last Thursday. He only moved once all day, and that was when I carried him to the bathroom. I'll spare you all the other disgusting details. I am hoping we are on the end of this one.

But even in our sickened state, we have been blessed with many tender mercies. Jared was in a racquetball tournament last week and he won his first two games. This meant that he was gone the next night as well. Even though I would have liked to see him win, it was a blessing to our family that he didn't so that he could be there for us the next day when we really needed him. Since it has not been continuous, I have noticed that we have felt perfectly fine when we really needed to, like when we sang in the choir and during my photography class, and probably most importantly, the day we had to do stuff for our new house.

They finished the framing last week and gave us a couple of days to do whatever we wanted within the walls before they put the drywall up. This only left us Friday night and Saturday all day. We spent hours over there wiring for an intercom system, surround sound system, some extra cable and cat5 wires, and installing a pipe from the attic to the basement for future wires. We also added some extra insulation around the laundry room and master bedroom and put extra bracing behind towel racks, toilet paper roll holders and behind doorknobs--'cause you know, we have kids. We tried to think of everything since this was our only chance to do anything. We also put some bracing in the ceilings of the kids' bedrooms to add swings. Yep, I'm really going to do it.

The point is, none of us were at all sick those two days. The other point is that the drywall is just about finished now so don't try to tell us we should have done something else, because we can't now. One more point... they did our 4 point inspection last week (framing, plumbing, electrical and HVAC) and only two minor things needed to be corrected: one bolt in the garage and one staple that didn't make it into the stud. The guy told me it was the best inspection he's had on any house he's ever built. So that makes me feel good. Especially since they did a bunch of stuff in the pouring rain. Just a bit disconcerting, I tell you. But it's looking good now and the sun is shining.

Okay, so the truth is, Jared did the majority of the work, with the help of his brother. I am grateful that he is so handy and that we aren't doing the rest of the work to build the house. I was attempting to help and watch our kids. Totally not a fun day. It was a construction zone, so there were hazards all over the place. The only fun place was the big pile of dirt in front of the house where they got so completely filthy! I'm sure we left a great impression on our new neighbors by leaving four small children alone out front in a pile of construction debris and dirt. At one point I came out and Connor was face down on the pile eating the dirt and Marissa was all the way to the top of our neighbors' scaffolding! So glad that day is over.

How I miss our friends and babysitters in Florida. I am so excited to get into our new ward and make some friends. The ward we are in now is a good ward, but it is hard to get to know people when you live in a basement and when we all know we won't be here for long. Less than two months now!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Alex turns 5!

My due date for Alex fell right smack in the middle of the semester, October 2nd (2006). I had a big midterm on the 5th and my teacher was anything but lenient. It was a stressful class (and the only one of architecture school that I ever got a B in--still bitter about that) and I had to make it to that midterm. It made the fact that I was overdue much more bearable, despite the fact that I was fat and uncomfortable. After my midterm I was ready to have the baby, but he didn't come.

The Sunday after your due date is not the best day to go to church pregnant, but I did anyway. Somehow I made it through all the inquiries. Believe you me, I wanted to have him more than anyone else, and I was getting frustrated. Because Erin was a c-section and I wanted to have a VBAC, I was going to the Miami Maternity Center to have my baby. I loved their approach to having babies--midwives, no drugs, a bedroom type environment but with modern medicine at their fingertips if needed. Because I was going there, I had to wait for my body to go into labor naturally. I did everything I could think of to have the baby, but I sincerely don't think anything worked. The next Monday I took Castor oil, which left me feeling very sick, but gave me no contractions. I picked my mom up from the airport, mowed the lawn and then went to our friends' Canadian Thanksgiving dinner as pregnant and frustrated as could be.

That night (Oct. 10th) around 2:30 I woke up with contractions. The first two were kind of uncomfortable, but then I remembered to breath and things got better. I went into the birthing center around 6:00 am and had contractions all day. It was even kind of fun hanging out with Jared, the midwives and my friend Jen who was there to give me support. I was fine between contractions. I sat in the tub for a while and then my contractions stopped. I got out and they got going a little but then I stalled again when I was at 8 cm. They broke my water, but I still didn't progress, for two hours. It was so frustrating and I was so tired. I was sure I would have to be taken to the hospital to have another c-section, and I was about ready to give up and go. The midwife even said that this was the point that the hospital would tell me I needed one. Dumb Florida hospitals. I owe a successful VBAC to my midwife, Sheri. Upon her examination, she found that even though the water had been broken, the bag was too strong and was not allowing the baby to descend any further. She worked with all her might to get the bag around his head (she even broke a sweat doing it). Once she did that, I went from an 8 to a 10 in less than 30 minutes and was ready to push.

I felt so much better at this point. I got in the birthing jacuzzi and pushed for 30 minutes. When he finally came out I laid him on my chest and he snuggled right up to me. I will never forget that moment because he was so cuddly and calm, and he didn't cry at all. I felt like I bonded with him as soon as he was born, an experience that I did not have with all of my children. It was a mixture of amazement that I had actually had a successful VBAC without drugs, and pure joy to meet this special child. That unforgettable moment was interrupted by the tub filling up with blood because I began to hemorrhage and both the baby and me being whisked out as quickly as possible.

The next thing I remember about Alex was his weighing on the other side of the room. "9 pound 6 ounces!" the midwife announced, to which my friend immediately said, "Holy cow, Laura!" Nobody expected him to be that big. He only wore newborn clothes for a week, and that was because I squished him into them. He looked like a 3 month old from the start. A sturdy, healthy baby boy. Alex was born.

Now I can hardly believe that he is turning five! He is a quiet child, sweet and gentle. He brings a special calmness to our home. He genuinely cares about other people. I will often see him helping his sister onto the swing or getting her shoes out. He will always be the one to come to me if someone is in trouble and needs my help. He is not mean or mischievous, but kind and honest by nature.

He has a special relationship with Erin. He loves her and she loves him. They are always buddies. My friend commented that it was interesting when they shared the front seat of an airplane ride instead of fighting over it. But this is how it's always been. They are always together, and prefer it that way. Whenever he gets a treat, he always gets one for Erin too. I'm not sure how he thinks of it, but he always does. They have shared a room for almost four years and have loved being together. He loves Marissa and Connor too, but you can just see something special between Erin and him.Alex is a deep thinker. He will take time to process what he has heard and then never forgets it. You can tell that the wheels are turning in his head a lot. He is a smart kid. A few weeks ago we were talking about singing the alphabet backwards, and so he just busted out with half of it right then and there. Now he has the backwards alphabet mastered (you try, it's harder than you think). I think it would be so funny next year when he goes to kindergarten if he sang that when they ask if he knows the alphabet.

He is still cuddly and sweet, just like the day he was born. I cannot imagine our family without him in the middle.

For his birthday he wanted a crayon cake, and this would be my professional cake making at its finest. I find that if you squint it actually looks pretty good.Here they are "helping".He wanted to go to Trafalga where we rode the merry go round, rocked climbed and played laser tag. Alex loved the laser tag and did it twice. Erin hated it! Apparently people kept shooting her. The poor girl had to hide in a corner until the warfare was done. Rock climbing was a big hit too. Erin, Alex and Marissa made it to the very top a couple of times. Yes, Marissa too. All these people were staring at this tiny child climb up a few stories with no fear. Amazing!
Ha, ha... can you tell I am taking a photography class? This was after one class and I had not figured anything out yet. That's why it's all fuzzy. Hopefully I can learn something.

All day Alex kept saying that it was his birthday so he didn't have to do any jobs, or it was his birthday so people had to be nice to him. As it turns out, he actually does help out a lot around here and I sure noticed when he had a day off.
We had cake and presents at 8:30 pm, which is always a good time to pump kids full of sugar. Grandma and grandpa came, as well as the upstairs cousins. He totally cleaned out on the presents this year, partly because his primary teacher gave him some awesome stuff, Zoobmobiles and art supplies. He also got Lego's, a puzzle, a boat and a dog money bank. Lucky kid!
I love my boy Alex and can't wait to see what this next year brings for him. Happy Birthday!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

I Like Houses (like a lot)

I am not sure exactly when my obsession with houses and architecture began. My earliest memory has to be in the third grade when we were assigned to make a model of our house. I don't remember that much about it, except that my dad was the parent in charge of helping me, and that he was pretty gung ho about it too. We got out a cardboard box and began making some rough measurements. I think I remember my dad leaving the room and me cutting the top of the box to create to roof line, and then him coming back to see that my third grade cut was much lower than it should have been. And pretty crooked to be sure. But we worked with it and made a pretty good replica of our Wisconsin house. We even painted it white and had little shutters. I remember taking my house to the school library to get my picture taken with it, and then it appearing in our small town, Middleton newspaper. That was my first model.
I remember going out on Sunday afternoons to look at open houses. I could not have been more excited to go see each house to examine every detail, pick out my room and imagine what my life would be like in each home. I still remember one of the houses we looked at. Weird. I was probably only 8 or 9.

I remember one Christmas getting a dollhouse that either my parents or Santa painted, wallpapered and furnished. I still remember the first time I saw it in the corner of the dining room across from the piano. I loved imagining that I was the one living there. I loved that there were three stories and an attic and stairs that you could really go up, I mean if you were 6 inches tall.

I played with that dollhouse for years. Not in the normal way that girls play with dollhouses though. For me, it was about the house, the floor plan, the arrangement of furniture, the expansions that I would add on with blocks marking out walls, and when I ran out of blocks, pencils. This whole game involved a pile of Fischer Price people, a pile of furniture, me, my sister Emily, the basement, blocks, pencils and of course the big doll house, and was known lovingly as "douse" (doll+house... get it?). Whenever one of us thought of the brilliant idea to play douse, which was probably almost daily and which was never, in my recollection, ever cleaned up, we would look at the other one and say, "Krem-La Douse?" (which meant Emily-Laura, downstairs, doll house... want to play?). Then we'd put our arms around each other and float down the stairs to our half of the basement, which was never enough space for my creative mind. My poor brother taught violin lessons on the other half and would have to shove his kid sisters' embarrassing mess of pencils and such to the other side so he could be professional. Anyway, from this point, douse went something like this: we'd separate all the people and furniture and take turns picking. Then we'd name them, assign them ages and design their houses. This was the best part because I would imagine them going down penciled hallways, into living rooms and bedrooms. Once I was done designing everything, I was done playing. Poor Emily, though. All that set-up was just a formality so that she could actually play with the little people, and I was done. Of course, I did play douse until I was 12 or 13. The point is, it was always about the house, about the architecture.

I remember drawing floor plans of houses on graph paper. I remember really bad ones in the beginning, and then filling books of them whenever I was bored. I used to draw perspectives of my dream bedroom, with each exciting detail like where the fish tank would go, the drawers for my clothes, the built in shelving unit lining one wall and the carpeted corner where I kept my kittens. Cool dream, right? Kittens...

Then there was the architectural drafting class that I took as a senior in high school. Fourth period, right before lunch and right by the lunchroom. My friends would come in and have to pry me from my drafting table so that we all could eat. I loved that class! I loved architecture. I always have.

I still remember the first Parade of Homes that I went to. It was near my house and I was around 12. There were 7 houses in a row that we spent our afternoon walking through. I could think of nothing better than that! I still remember some of those homes. I went to the Parade of Homes every year that I lived in Utah, and some years that I was just visiting. So important is the Parade of Homes that I dragged four children through 20+ homes this year (you know they liked it). And I still look through Parade of Homes books from years past at all the floor plans.

What I really don't know is when I started walking through houses that were in the process of being built. I remember one night hanging out with my friends and there being a framed house next door. Somehow I convinced my friends to walk through it with me, even though it was really dark. There was some kind of thrill that we found creeping through someone else's house, imagining what each space would look like. Then going down the unsteady stairs to a dark basement because I needed to know what that would look like too. I remember that house specifically because my friends thought I was crazy. But I told them that I did it all the time, so it must have started before then.

Now, more than ever, I love going through houses, finished or not. Sure, it may be illegal. Call it trespassing if you must. But I love it, and I just can't resist it. I live in a city that is chock full of fields that are in some stage of being developed. There are holes being dug every day, there's foundations being poured, and plywood being formed into houses all over the place. There are 7 in our new neighborhood and on the way to Erin's school I can count at least 6 that I pass four times a day. I finally walked through four tonight, till it got too dark. I love the smell of fresh 2x4's and sawdust. I love the smell of drywall and mud. I love to imagine the spaces and the furniture, just like in douse. You see, I just love houses.

And our house is one of them. The framing began last week and they already have everything up to the trusses. These builders are incredible. This is where it finally takes shape. Now it's our house that smells like wood and has nails and sawdust littered all over the place. It's our house that we can walk around and imagine ourselves living there, because we actually will be. It's really happening. Every day we'd drive by and see something new that's been done, but I would never actually see anyone working on it. I was starting to wonder if it was elves, or maybe illegal immigrants that had to work in the middle of the night so as to not be deported. But today I actually met the framers (neither elves nor illegals). This is the fifth house just like ours that they've framed, so they are getting pretty good at it. I am really impressed by how well they are following the plans because we've made a bunch of changes. Every detail is there. Tomorrow, we'll have plywood on the roof. Cool.

foundation wallsour pile of dirt in the back yard
with window wells and dirt filled in to the foundation
preparing the basement floor for concrete
...and the framing begins in the basement supporting the floor aboveground level, and yes, we will be able to see in our neighbor's windows
(I am kind of bummed that we didn't get day 2, 3 or 4 of the framing showing the first and second floors. So it jumps from the one wall picture above to the picture below.)
the machine putting the trusses up with most of the trusses up

Did I mention that I like houses?