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?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Passing Out

Few things are as scary to parents as seeing their child faint and crumple to the ground. We've experienced this many times. Alex had the tendency to pass out when he was between the ages of 1 and 3. When he got hurt he would let out a huge cry, then take a long break, forget to breath, and then he would pass out. I hated it. But he seems to have outgrown it, thankfully.

Now, it's Marissa. Hers is less of a forgetting to breath problem and more of a response to getting hurt problem. The problem is that she gets hurt a lot. Like almost daily. She is brave and daring and only three, so she falls, trips and injures herself frequently. When this happens there is a very good chance that she will pass out. Just her body's way of dealing with pain. Usually she lets out a cry, but not her normal cry, her "I'm going to pass out" cry. The one that Jared and I have come to recognize and instinctively know to come running. Then she loses consciousness for about 20 seconds, while we urge her to please wake up. When she does, she is usually pale and weak for a little bit, and sometimes she wets her pants while she is out. More often than not she is ready just minutes later to be the daredevil that she was before.

In the last 10 days she has passed out six times, that I can recall. Once she fell down the stairs, once her fingers got pinched in the door, once she got stepped on, once she tripped on something. One of the worst of these times was when she got hit in the mouth with a mop handle while she was standing on the couch. It wasn't so bad until she passed out, fell onto the mop and hit her head on the floor. That's what makes me most nervous. It's not so much the passing out, it's what might happen to her after she does. What if she's in the bathtub or the pool? What if she's on the sidewalk and cracks her head open? What if she's at the top of the stairs and tumbles all the way down? What if I'm not around? I don't like it. Is it any wonder that I've been praying for angels to watch over my children lately?

I looked up why kids pass out and this is what I found:

What causes the “common faint” is actually a kind of reflex that is theoretically hard-wired into all humans, and, in fact, many mammals. When we use the word “reflex”, we refer to an automatic reaction by the body to a particular stimulus.

In this instance, the automatic reaction is a sudden drop in heart rate or blood pressure, as mentioned above. The provocative stimulus most commonly is an exaggerated and sudden adrenalin effect on the heart due to any of a variety of events:
  • Posture-related pooling of the circulating blood volume while sitting or standing for prolonged periods
  • Unexpected minor trauma; the sight of blood or injury (“blood/injury syncope”)
  • Even listening to a discussion of frightening or graphic subjects
In her case, it's the unexpected minor trauma that triggers this response, which seems to be fairly common. So common that it was evidently passed on from her parents.

Jared has an interesting history with passing out. He was able to watch my entire c-section--the blood gushing, my uterus being pulled out of my body and then getting stitched up on the outside of my stomach--and he was absolutely fine, no problems. But then he'll do something like stub his toe or pinch his finger and he will pass out. One time we were at Burger King where he bit his tongue and passed out. It's true, you can't make this stuff up. It's not that these events are that painful, it's just his body's response to minor trauma.

His best passing out story occurred in one of his college labs. In an attempt to raise his chair up his finger got pinched between the armrest and the table. He laid his head on the table, passed out, and proceeded to slide off the table because the chair was, unfortunately, a rolling one. At that point, his head hit the hard floor and he split his eye-brow open. The next thing he knew, his teacher, security, the paramedics, and others were crowded around him as he regained consciousness. He rode in a police car instead of an ambulance because he knew that would cost lots of money, and got the cut stitched up nice and neat.

The story doesn't end there though. A couple of years later he was taking a math class and joined a study group with some girls. The story came out in a study session, and one of the girls exclaimed, "That was you?!" Evidently, because he rode in the police car, the story made it into "Police Beat" in the Daily Universe and had become one of her (and her roommates') favorite story. She had actually saved the clip because she found it to be so funny! And Jared knew nothing about the story until then. (It kind of makes me wonder if I ever made it into Police Beat without ever knowing about it... i.e. getting caught by the cops for trespassing at the mental hospital. How would I know that beautiful lake was part of the mental hospital anyway? It's not like I hopped over any fence that wasn't already halfway down. It was just a good place to read my scriptures.)

Here's the other funny part. Jared spent a good amount of time yesterday and today searching through hundreds of Police Beats from 1998 to 1999 trying to find the article, and he actually found it! Here is the link, it's under MEDICAL, not INDECENT EXPOSURE, in case you are wondering. There are some pretty funny ones, I have to say. This is what his said:

A 22-year-old student was sliding in a chair in 1130 CB when he smashed his finger against a desk and went unconscious on Nov. 9. As he went unconscious, he fell and suffered a cut above his eye from the fall. He was treated at the Student Health Center and released.

He assures me that he was not sliding in the chair. Those reporters obviously didn't know the whole story.

I can't blame all the passing out genetics on him, though. Evidently, I used to do something similar as a child. I've passed out giving blood many times and once in the temple while doing sealings. Great place to pass out, by the way. They had juice, cookies and other snacks in the back room for just such incidents. And most recently I've passed out a lot while throwing up. Yes, while, which equates to an even more disgusting mess than it ever would have been. And this is what you get for reading all the way to the end of this blog entry.

We're hoping Erin and Connor escape the same fate that we've all endured. Here's to hoping!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


I've been waiting to write this post for a long time, and now that it's here, it doesn't seem quite real. We finally closed on our house in Florida, I mean I'm pretty sure we did. I wasn't there. There were so many snags along the way that made the whole process pretty stressful, especially not being there.

For the first month on the market, there wasn't enough interest at the price we had set, so we lowered our price by $10,000 and got an offer the next day. We went back and forth with four or so counteroffers and were all happy with the outcome, even though it was less than we wanted.

Then we thought the deal would fall through with a low appraisal, but they still wanted the house. We were losing even more money than we had thought, but just wanted to get rid of it.

Then there was the inspection which found evidence of termite damage, which we had never seen before. That's not something you want to hear. I don't know about you, but when I hear "termite damage" I panic just like I do when I see a house that has to be tented, like the whole house will be eaten away from the bottom up . Luckily it was relatively minor, about $250 worth.

Then there was a water leak notice from the city, which left us baffled as to where it was or how bad it was. For all we knew there was 6 inches of water throughout the house. If only we had been there! That one turned out to be an outside leak, I think, that would be taken care of by the buyers.

Then there was "an exposed nail in the roof", which would have taken Jared about 15 minutes to cover with tar. But oh yeah, we weren't there. That one was only $50 to fix with a contractor. Duh.

Then there was the whole air conditioning fiasco. Blast that air conditioner! We had it replaced about 6 years ago, so you wouldn't think it would have any problems. But alas, it had problems. Not always, just in the last couple of years. It would still be blowing cold air, just not very strongly sometimes. On really hot days, which are plentiful in Florida, it just couldn't keep up. We had several people come out to "fix" it, only to find it was not actually fixed. I hated summers the last couple of years. I loathed that air conditioner! Is it dumb that the air conditioner is one main reason why I wanted to move? Yeah, probably. Anyway, before we left, we decided to pay for a $500 home warranty because we knew the AC would have problems. And it did. The people came out and "fixed" it three or four more times throughout this process and still, I am not convinced that it is fixed. I just hoped that the buyers would not get scared off by this. But the warranty is good for the owner for the next year. If I were them, I would get the whole thing replaced for free. So glad we got that warranty!

Is this making our house sound like a total dump?

Yeah, probably.

It is a 27 year old house so things are bound to happen. But it really was/is a good house. No, really.

Where was I...

Then there was the violation from our HOA which said that our garbage can was left in plain view. The garbage can that the city delivered and left in the middle of the driveway. Yeah, that one.

Then there was the other violation from our HOA stating that our weeds were out of control and we couldn't close with a violation on our house. We'd been having a lawn company come mow our yard, but nobody was weeding, so I can imagine how bad they were--which is kind of a bummer because I just planted tons of stuff right before I left. Gratefully, two of my good friends went over in the sweltering, sticky heat to pull weeds for a few hours. Now that is true friendship! I'm so grateful for them. They said it looked great when they were done, but again, we wouldn't know.

The inspector would though. I talked to him the next day and he said that yes, the weeds were indeed gone, but that they had pulled out some of the plants, so we were given yet another HOA violation. Ridiculous! Especially since it was in a 10 inch strip that never had any plants from the time we moved in until the month before we left. And we never had a violation before. This stuff would have been so much easier if we had been there. I called my friend and she planted $10 worth of flowers so we could close the next day.

But did we close the next day? No. We kept signing extension after extension because of their bank not processing the loan. One of the worst parts about it was that in the contract it stated that they had to have a loan commitment within a certain time, and if they didn't get it from the bank, it was not their fault and could walk away with all $5000 of their earnest money. So even though they had done everything they were supposed to, the bank would not give us the loan commitment letter. The best the bank gave us was an approval letter, and in it was the phrase "this is not a loan commitment". We weren't sure if we should just string this out, paying our mortgage again and again with the chance that they could leave the table at any time, or if we should put it back on the market. We felt so vulnerable about the situation, but were amazed and comforted that the buyers still really wanted the house.

This is longer than a birth story...

After they had passed the original close date, we found out about the small leak in the roof, which caused us even more stress. I was imagining water dripping into the house, moldy drywall breaking off the wall, thousands of dollars of damage and basically a deal gone bad. If only we had been there! How could you trust a contractor to come fix your problem if you don't even know how extensive the problem is? Luckily, it was not that bad. Just one nail that had allowed water in slowly over time. Thank goodness. The buyer almost did walk away until they found out how minor it was.

It was stressful until the very last minute, when they hadn't gotten the closing funds wired to them yet on the day of closing, and finally when we found out that they thought we had not paid off our second mortgage (which we had--months ago), 15 minutes before the end of the day. It is still hard for me to really believe that the closing actually happened, that we don't own a house in Florida anymore, that we will actually get money from it instead of constantly pouring money into it, that we are indeed... homeless. At last! I keep imagining that we will find out something else that has gone wrong or caved in or broken or leaked or overgrown. But the new owners have the keys. It's their house now. It's their air conditioner and water leak and roof repair. I have no idea who these people are, but I imagine they will have a happy life in the house that we were so happy in for 8 years.

It was truly no small miracle that it finally, amazingly closed. I have felt the hand of the Lord in the whole process moving to Utah. I have felt comforted, especially a week and a half ago when I was in the temple. I know that Heavenly Father knows the beginning from the end. He can see it so clearly, even though it is impossible for us to. I feel like He just needs us to show a little faith and hold on until His purposes are fulfilled, and that He can give us real comfort in the mean time. I have been praying and praying for this to happen the way it is supposed to happen, and feel such gratitude that it finally did. I also feel so grateful that Jared's new job paid for all of our closing costs. We would have owed them a little money if it hadn't been for that.

Now we can focus on the down payment for the new house and watch it be built relieved in knowing that we can move in with only one mortgage, for the home we will actually be living in.

I've never been so happy to be HOMELESS! (Jared keeps informing me that people that rent are not actually considered homeless people, but I still like to say it.)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

What do I do all day?

What to write? Life is about the same as it was two weeks ago, with a few exceptions. Our home sale in Florida was about to go through and then we got some bad news, then some more bad news, and then some really bad news. As of right now, we still own a home in Florida that is still under contract, but may probably fall through. It is totally stressing me out! We keep extending the closing date because they still haven't been able to get their loan, even though they are approved and it's been over 30 days. The most recent issue may be a leak in the roof, which was just replaced less than three years ago. So frustrating to not be there.

Update on the house (since I wrote that last week): we've extended the contract for the fourth time due to their bank not processing the loan. The buyers have met every condition, are a good credit risk and still very much want the house. It's just a lack of employees and restructuring at Bank of America that is costing us money every day. We found out they have begun the finalization but it will take 5 days. A lesson is patience and perseverance and faith, I suppose. Our Realtor says that all the banks are experiencing delays and most of his closings are like ours right now, so putting it back on the market would probably not help matters. Oh, and the leak is minor; it's only $300 to fix and the buyers still want the house. Just holding my breath that it will go through and praying for a miracle.

So... to combat the stress, I started doing p90x. (Brace yourself for the infomercial). I'm on week three and I absolutely love it! My goals are to feel better and to fit into my pants again, without a muffin-top. I feel so much better since I started it. It is without a doubt time consuming--an average of an hour and 15 minutes a day for 6 days a week. Sometimes I feel a little neglectful as a mother doing something for myself for so long, while my 3 year old overcooks her own burrito and boredom ensues (this only happens when the kids upstairs aren't around); but then again, I used to spend the same amount of time at the gym and not feel guilty about that. Anyway, I like it because there is a different work out every day and because it doesn't hurt my lower back like running does. I feel like I am getting stronger, and slightly less muffin-top-y. Erin even said that my legs looked skinnier than before. I knew I liked that child. Truthfully, I don't feel any skinnier, but I feel stronger, more toned and happier (those endorphins!). Seriously, these are amazing DVD's. There is also a nutritional guide that I've been trying to follow--i.e. right now I am enjoying a steak, artichoke, and tomato salad and avoiding processed food and overall crap. Why is that so hard? Exercising makes me motivated to eat better, so I have to keep this up.

Oh, you are also supposed to take before (and after) pictures which were totally embarrassing. Jared keeps threatening to post them on the blog, but don't get your hopes up. That will not be happening!

The other day my 16 year old sister in law asked me what I did all day. A perfectly valid question. Ummmm.... yeah, good question. I must have rambled off something like "pack lunches, do dishes, clean up, make dinner, do laundry, go grocery shopping, read to the kids, mow the lawn..." Wow, that's kind of a monotonous, thankless existence once you think about it. Really, that is what I do all day and no matter how much I have done, it is never done. So if you are wondering if I have time to exercise, the answer is yes. All that other stuff will be there when I'm done.

One last thing, I started using coupons and I think I've been giving it a good, at least semi-concerted effort. My conclusion? NOT WORTH IT! I know lots of people do it and save all sorts of money, but here's my experience: Tuesday morning, a supposedly good day to shop with coupons since Walmart has double coupons up to a dollar. I get online figuring out what I want and which coupons apply and print some out and get interrupted by six different kids 15 times and can't find what I want and have trouble with the printer and can't believe how not easy this "easy" program is and get completely frustrated. Take Erin to school, but since I'm still not done getting the coupons together, I wait another hour to go. Load three kids in the car, then the cart and begin one of my all time top ten worst shopping days ever. Connor was ready for a nap (self-explanatory), Marissa was whiny, kids kept getting out of the cart and I was frazzled the whole time trying to match the right product with the right lousy coupon. In the end, I save seven bucks. Seven! Isn't my own sanity and time worth my than that? My new goal: don't ever go shopping with three or more children again. Ever.

Okay, one other last thing. I emailed Erin's teacher to see if I could start volunteering, which by the way, is welcomed and needed at this school. Last year it seemed like her teacher kept blowing me off when I asked, so I never even went into her classroom. Weird. Anyway, she emailed back and this is what she said at the end:

P.S. Erin is absolutely darling! She is always such a wonderful little girl and I think she is adjusting well to Fox Hollow. She's very smart and has made many friends in the class. I'm glad she's in our classroom!

Can someone tell me why I started crying when I read this? Isn't it exactly what you want your child's teacher to say? I'm so glad Erin is enjoying school here. Starting a new school in a new state is never easy. (Flashback from moving to Utah in 5th grade and only making one friend who ended up being a shoplifter, in my presence no less. Cringe!) Thankfully, no shoplifting friends for my kids... yet.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

My Wife is Amazing

So although this is our "Family" blog, in reality this is Laura space to share with the world her thoughts, joys, sorrows, activities (personal and family), and in some instances to simply vent. Although I can claim some credit in setting it up for her and teach her how to use it, it really is her space. But...I hope she doesn't mind if I hijack it for a post about her.

Maybe a mother's day, Birthday or anniversary would have been a good 'time' to post this...but why wait for such an excuse when I can simply surprise her?

Nine years ago I asked her to marry me... I have been so blessed that she said yes. We now have 4 beautiful children, and she has shown time after time what an amazing mother she is. She takes the time to read with them, play with them, and takes care of their every need. She manages our household so very well, working so hard to keep it clean and making it a sacred place. She dislikes cooking but does it anyway, putting us first. She has a vision for our home, and does so very well at implementing that vision. I am always glad to be home after a day of work.

She has a degree in Music because it was "easy" and she didn't "know what else to do" (her words). She loves to use this gift to teach our children how to play the piano. They are developing a love of music, and it is fun to listen to them as they practice the songs they have learned.

She also has a love of Architecture, and has spent countless hours of effort getting a second degree in it. She has a keen eye for what looks good, and loves to walk through any home she can just to see what it looks like (she doesn't forget any of the floor-plans that she sees). Because of her we are now in the process of building a beautiful home that will be a perfect fit for our growing family. In the mean time she has made our temporary housing into a home where we can enjoy life as it comes at us.

More recently she has been "rescuing" old discarded furniture. Somehow she sees in these pieces of refuse a vision of a better future. I have seen it so many times in the last year that I no longer question what she wants to do, but simply question if we have the room to store whatever it is that she has rescued. Perhaps when our new home is complete I won't need to even ask this question...

Laura is definitely what I would call "socially gifted." She has great friends and really is a good friend herself. She can be a bit on the quiet and shy side but if you stop and actually listen you will find an amazing sense of humor, understanding and quality of conversation that is very engaging.

Her testimony of the restored gospel is something I have always looked up to and is one of the many qualities that drew me to her. She is loving and patient (especially with me), standing beside me in so many ways. Why she ever decided to marry me will be forever clouded in mystery!

Laura - you are every-bit the woman of my dreams. I truly do appreciate who you are and the sweet spirit that you bring into our home. You are an exceptional woman.

I love you, and just wanted to say thank you for being my wife!

Your devoted husband

PS - You are also gorgeous ... need I say more?