Tuesday, January 20, 2015

update #3

I can finally breathe at work for a bit. And by "a bit" I probably should mean about 5 minutes. But I'll spend a few more here. I wish I had the day off and could just do whatever outside. It's so beautiful. I would die up north. A week and a half of dreary days in the 40s leaves me just this side of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Obviously the weather makes me distracted and rambly. Back to business.

If you've been playing along on FB you saw that I got a new car. It's a 2015 Highlander. I love it. It's a greenish grey color that doesn't show up well in photos, and it's way fancier than I am. I think we got a good deal but even better than that, we got something big crossed off the list. I had one glorious solo ride in it. Without carseats even. But then back to reality...which, of course, I wouldn't trade for anything.

We're still at the hotel, and things are still going well. Our transition to the grandparents' house starts next week. We check out of the hotel on the 30th. Still no idea what we're doing come March. There are quite a few things to consider.

We picked a contractor and I am pleased with them so far. They seem proactive, which is good. Right now they're trying to settle on the budget with the insurance company so wish us luck with that. I've started a wish list and am thinking about what changes I'd like to make. It helps me to focus on that part instead of things like being homeless for months or that the chairs I really liked in the living room are no longer made (and I swear nothing like them can be found).

Our inventory folks were great. They were so much faster than we would have been if we had to do it alone. Now we await their list and see what the insurance folks say. Again. So I guess the next step is to start piling things into a dumpster. Hopefully by the time that's done we can get going with piling the interior of the house into a dumpster.

So my tip of the week. If you find a contractor you actually like and would use (or use again), keep their number. Then if some disaster befalls you, bring them in to create the estimate alongside your insurance adjuster. That apparently shaves a lot of time off the front end. I didn't even realize you could do that. We wouldn't have been able to, of course, but it's worked out fine since we can't exactly drop everything and deal solely with the house. So far the pace seems ok. I'm about to get a little antsy, though. Patience.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

update #2

I remain exhausted but still wanted to let y'all know how things are going. It feels like there has been a lot of progress in the last week.

My car was removed from the "garage" yesterday. Yea! Hopefully I'll have a check for that by next week. We've done a bit more research and more test driving and I think we are narrowed down to two. Let me tell you, you haven't lived until you've car shopped with toddlers/preschoolers. Oh, did I mention that I had about 6 payments left on my old car? Isn't that the way it always goes?

I love our hotel. People are so nice and it doesn't feel weird staying here. Maybe it's because I've stayed in so many hotels over the last several years for work. It's really quiet, and I'm able to work fairly well here. It's obviously much smaller but that hasn't been a problem yet. And I have to say that I do enjoy that someone else cleans and cooks (at least several meals). Someone who isn't me. So I'm not sure what we'll do starting in March. We'll see what the options are.

We've interviewed several contractors and I think we've narrowed it down to two. We'll probably decide over the weekend. It does seem like everyone is thinking that it will be about 6 months to finish. And it will basically be a new house inside. And obviously a new garage.

Yesterday morning folks came to get our larger furniture that we'll have professionally cleaned. And last weekend we had so many people come to help pack things up to move to storage. And by that I mean sift through the good and the bad, clean everything, pack into boxes, load the truck. We even had some extra nice folks come with us to storage to unpack. I tell ya, people are nice. So we made tons of progress then. Hubby and I took off on Tuesday to get a little more done. Maybe one more good workday and we'll have all the salvageables out.

On Tuesday, a guy comes to help me inventory all the total loss items. It really isn't that bad. Well, except for the garage. My tip of the day is to take pictures of what's everywhere in your house AND garage. I have house pictures (I take them every year on the anniversary of our move-in date) but none of the garage. Sigh.

Everyone is still doing fine. The kids like the hotel. They say we could stay here a long time. They really are well behaved. Buns will remind us every time that we need to be quiet in the halls. And of course they love the elevator. I don't think I've wanted to stab people since the last update so that's good. One thing that is interesting to me to observe is that I'm annoyed when people ask how the fire started. I'm not sure why. It's a perfectly natural question that I would totally have done myself before this. I think even though it's not intended, I feel like there's an accusation there or something. I don't know. I'm defensive I guess. And perhaps I don't want to look back. I'm trying to focus on progress instead.

We're really back at work and that is making me a little insane. This is honestly the busiest time of the project and if I can just make it through this month I think I'll be ok. But I could use a sabbatical. There's so much to do. All. The. Time. Speaking of, I guess I better get back to it. Thanks again for all your help, concern, gifts, etc. It really is nice to have you in our lives.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

update #1

So I'm sort of working today but because I'm waiting on someone to do something for me, I'm taking a bit of a break. My "working from home" looks a little different. Hubby went to the office today, too.

First, thank you to everyone who has been concerned. I hate that I can't update everyone individually but there's just so much going on. And I guess it's getting me blogging again a little bit. (Goodness, this is as far as I got this afternoon.)

Since we left off, we started some car research and test drove a few. I think we might be down to a short list but still have some work to do. They still haven't gotten my car yet--maybe Friday. But that should all be resolved pretty quickly. It's pretty obviously totalled and it's much easy to resolve than an entire house.

We're staying in an extended stay hotel for January. It's nice. Free breakfast, cookies, laundry, dinner three nights a week. We have two bedrooms and Maggie is allowed. It should be fine for a month. Then we'll be at the in-laws'. We have a company that will help us figure out March and beyond (for free through insurance).

I think all the various people who needed to come look at the house now have. We'll just be waiting a couple more weeks for things to get wrapped up with the claim. We'll be trying to find a contractor till then. Sounds like we're looking at 6 months or more and lots and lots of remodeling.

We sent off most of our textiles and I think have washed the rest. We also got our emergency clothes back. Plus some random other things. Even in whatever state I was in on Christmas, I'm pretty confident that I didn't send all of Buns' swimsuits to be laundered first.

Up next is dealing with sorting through everything in the house. We'll basically have a pile of things that are trash, things that we'll send out for the pros to clean, and things that we'll clean ourselves. There will be someone to help us inventory all the trash. That should be fun. And, of course, figuring out everything that was in the garage is all on us.

We'll all doing ok. Buns is very resilient. Chicken seems just a little unsure but she'll be ok. I think it will be good to have some consistency. And now that Maggie is with us, we're all under one roof again. I got a few things to make them feel like they're home so I imagine they'll be fine. Since her birthday is at the end of the month we obviously won't be having it at home. The kids go to a little gym that will host it. Got that taken care of on Monday, too.

There have been two instances where I wanted to stab people but I figure that's not too bad, all things considered. While I was shopping at Target this morning I felt like I was barely keeping it together. I don't know if it was because I was alone for the first time, with only my brain to keep me company. Probably.

I think that's about it for the update. I know so many people have kindly asked what they can do. If you're interested, we'll try to triage things at the house on Sunday. I'll update FB with more info soon. As for things you could send? I'm not sure right now as we don't have a ton of storage space. We'll probably be getting a storage unit soon and then we can go from there. If you absolutely cannot sleep until you help, perhaps gift cards (restaurants, groceries, etc) or books for the kids. Our mail is getting forwarded to my in-laws'. If you want to send anything there directly, just let me know. Here's to a better 2015.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

christmas 2014

There has to be a clever title in here somewhere. Maybe something about chestnuts? I don't know. I'm exhausted. So we started out with a really great Christmas. We opened family presents on Christmas Eve. It was the first year both kids were really excited about it all. And the first year I had to work extra hard as a parent to pull it all off. We opened Santa gifts Christmas morning (after checking that the reindeer ate the food we left for them outside and Santa polished off most of the cookies). Then we played and Hubby took the kids to the park for a bit (using the jogging stroller that was inside the garage). We all ate a little lunch and were going to try to get the kids to nap (I totally needed one, too).

So we were in Chicken's room, and they were a little wound up. Hubby actually mentioned at one point that it smelled a little like smoke up there. It was pretty cold on Christmas eve so there were lots of fires (appropriately in fireplaces) so it didn't seem that weird. He had just moments before closed the blinds that look out over the garage. We read a little to the kids and then they decided they didn't want to sleep in what they were wearing. About that time, there was banging on our front door. Like urgent banging. I don't know what I thought. Maybe that the out-of-town relatives were stopping by our house afterall. That someone just had over zealous knocking? So I went downstairs while Hubby put the kids in Buns' room as that's where they wanted to nap.

Turns out it was the across-the-street neighbors' son who had been installing a new Christmas car stereo and noticed the smoke. Hubby and I were trying to recollect all the specific details later that night but it's kind of a blur. He must have heard what the neighbor said so he ran downstairs to investigate. I must have seen it through the kitchen window to know that it was bad enough that we needed to get the kids out. So I ran upstairs yelling at them. Later, Chicken told me that she thought they were in trouble. I think that's kind of funny that she didn't realize my tone was different from when she's in trouble (and probably different from anything she's heard before). They were jumping on Buns' bed--she in underpants and him in a Pull-Up. After I opened the door I told them to go downstairs. I grabbed jammy pants for them from her room, which already had smoke coming in.

Meanwhile, the guys from across the street were smart enough to ask for the keys to Hubby's car to move it out of the driveway. I guess Hubby told them where to look but they needed help. After I got the kids headed downstairs I pointed to where the keys usually are. The kids were, of course, slow moving. Once we got downstairs, there were already people gathering in the yard, on the sidewalk, etc. I went back in because Hubby was yelling to get the fire extinguisher. I went to the pantry and realized we already didn't have power to the house (the breaker box was in the garage). So gave that to him. Randomly grabbed my phone but oddly not my purse. I looked and someone was holding Buns. I didn't see Chicken so I went back in to make sure she hadn't followed me in. Maggie was still inside and I yelled at her to come on after I saw that Chicken was, indeed, outside. In underpants. Got pj pants on them and walked them 2 doors down to our neighbors who also have small kids. I figured they had shirts for our kids, and the kids wouldn't think it weird to be visiting.

About a million and one neighbors were congregating. Multiple folks had called 911. Seemed like it took forever for the trucks to get there. Ended up being 3 that responded. I guess one lucky thing is that we have a fire hydrant at the end of our driveway. By this time, the fire had already crossed the breezeway from the garage to the house. I can't tell you how helpless it feels to watch that. I don't know what I was thinking. I mean, lordy, we've had enough crap happen in our lives to turn me into expecting the worst but somehow I still never do. I was surprised when the actual house was on fire.

The in-laws came to get the kids and Maggie. They were just matter-of-fact; "Grandma, the garage is on fire." She took them home while we just hung out watching the firemen. We had to stay out another hour after the burning stopped. Hubby, my best friend, and I walked through with the FD Chaplain. There was smoke damage everywhere. Soot and ashes on everything everywhere. The four rooms closest to the garage were most damaged--both the kids' rooms, the laundry room, and kitchen. Just like with my brother's house after the hurricane, it was weird what looked fine and what didn't. Like in the kitchen, it was so hot that the plastic flouresent light covers melted and warped and fell onto the island below. But right next to the island sat the two bites of banana that Buns hadn't eaten at lunch. So, yeah, lots of damage. Not livable.

The night of the fire the insurance contacted us and hooked us up with folks to board up and tarp the missing windows, wall, roof. They did that yesterday. And we also got the textile people in. They'll have an emergency cleaned stash of our clothes ready by Monday. The rest of the clothes, curtains, linens, rugs, and stuff will be cleaned if they weren't burned. There will obviously be irrepairable damage to things like upholstered furniture and mattresses and toys and things. But things like our dining room table will be able to be treated for the smoke.

It will be a long road. We'll be staying at my brother's for a few more days while they're out of town. Then we'll probably be in an extended stay hotel for most of January. Oddly enough, we'll be able to house sit for about 5 weeks at the in-laws' from the end of January to beginning of March. By then, hopefully we'll have a better idea of when we'll be back in.

I haven't really been that emotional yet. Just more in crisis management mode. Obviously the most important things got out. It's kind of funny how you theoretically talk about what you'd take if there were a fire. Apparently nothing matters to me expect the living things and my phone. Go figure. I still can't believe I didn't just grab my whole purse. Or shoes that were right by the front door. So strange.

I'm sad to report that my big blue chair that has been with me for so long and through so much (I wrote about it before when talking about Buns) was for sure a casualty. However, the chair that my brother and I were rocked in as babies will be fine. It was in the corner of Chicken's room. The worst corner of the fire--there aren't walls. And yet that chair just had one tiny charred mark at the bottom. Also, in her room? Her gallery wall was destroyed--except for one needlepoint that my grandmother made. I tell ya...

Saturday, November 01, 2014


We made full use of our costumes this year.  We visited a corn maze prior to Halloween, then Halloween proper (including school and trick-or-treating that night), then a Halloween party the next day (today), and finally we're going trick-or-treating at our favorite neighbors' tomorrow as they were at the football game last night.

We all dressed up as characters from Frozen--some of us more low-key than others.  Even our pumpkin joined in the fun.  I imagine it's the only year we'll be able to do this as the kids are starting to have opinions of their own.  She already had the Elsa dress for, you know, dressing up.  But we did make her a cape and jazzed up some Cinderella shoes.  Her hair got a few snowflakes and she had a crown that she has misplaced.  He was Sven as I couldn't get him to be Olaf but I think this turned out better.  Whipped up Daddy's costume in about 5 minutes, and I did a quick-n-dirty job on embroidery for mine.  The Olaf pumpkin was pretty fun but he barely lasted till Halloween.  Now he's just a head.