Home "Improvement" Means Leaving Gaping Holes Where Decks Used to Be

I used to drive by this creaky old house with a disassembled porch and think "How could those lazy people rip apart their porch and just leave it there in shambles for months?"  It's like they sledge hammered it then pinned up a rickety board across the entrance to make it look like a haunted house in the spring.  This judgment was, of course, BEFORE we began our very own home improvements on our front porch and back deck.  Now ours sits in the same state of disarray as the one I previously judged.  I see how easy it is to have your house fall into the chic "abandoned crack den and meth lab" look all in the name of house renovations.

Adrian and his brother Ben working on the back deck.  Building a deck takes a village.

Rewind several months... we hired a contractor to replace our front porch floorboards ready to fall under the weight of any visitors larger than chipmunks.  To save money we decided to paint it ourselves, and when friends and family offered to take turns with painting and watching the kids we gladly accepted.  Overall, it was not a bad process- a couple weeks and the porch was complete, so the back deck shouldn't have been such a big deal to do by ourselves, right?  Thus begins my husband Adrian's famous last words of "It'll only take a few days."  Ha!  Let's just say our long weekend for Labor Day did not turn out to be quite enough time for the handy hubby to get the job done.  Even with my brother Bryan visiting from Ohio to help, Adrian's brother Ben pounding nails most nights after work, and a few friends with tools and expertise to lend, we were far from finished.  What could have possibly gone wrong with a SWAT team of helpers and one porch already under our belt? 

The boys enjoying pumpkins on their new front porch.

For starters, we took off deck boards to uncover nasty rot.  Ugh.  Then we looked at the foundation of cracked cement not even touching the ground as it was slipping off into its own space not attached to anything: think California drifting off to sea during the next big earthquake.  We checked out the slats on the bottom latticework which were all were molded and frail.  We would have to rebuild it from ground up.  The hubster read how-to-build-a-deck websites similar to Pinterest for Men (would you call it Minterest?), watched YouTube videos in his "spare" time, and asked knowledgeable people for advice.  Then Adrian built stairs, took them apart, built them again with Ben, and then took them apart, repeating this process for every square foot of floorboard, railing, and lattice work.  Being a perfectionist yet lacking basic experience can really add years to a D-I-Y project.  Frankly I was getting irritated carrying an almost 1 and 2.5 yr old down the twisted basement stairs to the side door, and I am afraid I had little compassion after 2 months of a gaping hole out my back door!  Torn between wanting to encourage my husband and just wanting the project done, I ended up passing him names of contractors instead of patting him on the back. 

"Come on, Dad!  Get the back deck done already!"

Now it is the middle of October and I feel like I have not seen my husband in 2 months without him whisking off to work on the deck.  He comes in frustrated, covered in mosquito bites, and with the occasional nail pierced hand, all the while the night-time routine of getting the boys to bed falls at my hands sometimes after working all day.  (Thank goodness my mom has been so stinkin' helpful or I would have cracked!)  Now I must continue to wait until the railing gets finished, boards get sanded, stairs get fixed, and then we can finally stain the deck BEFORE IT SNOWS!  And this is Maine, people, it may snow any day now, and God help us if that happens.  Well, at least Halloween is approaching so I can always get some of those synthetic spider webs and plastic spider rings and make it "festive" to add to the natural charm of it all.  Or will that make it too "crack den" again?  I know I am scared just thinking about it.

Not the finished project, but at least boards are down and it's starting to look grand.





Family Favorites

You know how you're not supposed to have favorites among your students or, say, family members?  Yeah sure, okay, and whatever.  I'd like to consider myself an equal opportunity mother, but certain ages of my loveable kids seem breezy and perhaps more desireable than other ages where I find myself ripping out my own hair follicles on an hourly basis.  My kids are 10 months and 2 1/2 yrs old and though I love them to pieces, the Terrible 2's are making me a little biased, or what's a better word... ummm... psychotic, at the moment.  Let's sample some of our daily habits and let you decide if one age group seems to be winning the positive spirit award over the other.


Meal-time:   Tristan (my 2.5 yr old) hoots and hollers for whatever food I attempt to devour, and when I give him a piece he refuses to touch it because he then classifies it as "too hot" even if it came straight from the fridge.  When I ask him if he wants yogurt or applesauce, he picks yogurt; but he secretly wants pineapple yogurt without pineapples in it, then asks for blueberries yet picks them out if I put them in the yogurt.  He thinks it's awesome to throw his "nilk" and "poon" on the floor along with the wash-cloth (that he calls "tiny bwankie") when he finishes, even though we've been working day-in and day-out honing in on these basic skills.  Everett (my 10 month old), on the other hand, sits happily sucking on his little mesh popsicle holder with fruit in it.  He might sample an avocado with the widest open-mouth bass position possible: think of that old "Reach" toothbrush commercial with the guy with a flip-top head.  And when he's done, he proceeds to clean the food from the floor like a mini-vaccuum, which makes me think we're slightly more lax in raising the second one.  Anyone else find certain unalienable rules kind of melting away with the second child or is it just us?  In our defense, we had the chihuahuas to gobble up the food with the first kid, and no dogs now means quite the salad bar on the floor some meals, so bon appetit!

Play-time:   All the toys in the Kingdom belong to King Tristan and must stay on his mighty couch mountain.  If any baby tries to touch his "It" toy, then he will get sound lashing and knocked over brutally.  Without parental intervention, that toy reacher may also get walloped on the head with a lego or bit on the arm by an impenitent tyrant.  He doesn't care if he hasn't played with it since birth, if his brother wants it, then it is the new coveted object.  Everett happily smiles at his brother's looming apex of toys and tries heartily to touch all the bright shiny and fluffy off-limit trinkets.  He is excited if his brother looks his way or even brushes against him in his quest for total toddler domination.  I do wonder when all that brotherly awe will wear off.

Changing-time:   Toddler screams bloody murder as he runs to the nearest exit, be it door or window.  I have to whip out some of my best WWE moves just to get him down on the floor to get clean clothes on him.  He will only wear two shirts- his googly eyed snail shirt or his Minion shirt, so heaven forbid if both of them are in the wash!  He shrieks and wants to go "Owside!  Owside!" anytime we have to change the boy yet the outsiders may think we are trying to injure him by his cries for help alone.  Shortly thereafter in the nursery one room over, my baby lays on the changing table babbling away saying "Mama Mama" in soothing tones and claps for me after I change his latest Chernobyl-like diaper.  What kind of youngin' claps when you are changing him?  This seriously can't be my kid.

Sleepy-time:   Tristan's Yoda toothbrush does its best job and after reading settling stories of serene ocean animals, he runs amuck thinking he can party like it's 1999.  Nighty-night-time must be code for time to bounce on his toddler bed, stand on the heater to see out the window, kick the wall, ask for 95 water cups, and head bang to his little heart's content.  An hour later, Everett chills out with Mom watching a little Jeopardy some nights, snuggles a bit, has a great nursing session, and falls alseep until 6am the next day.  So, yeah, no favorites here, just the facts, Ma'am.  Look at the bright side- I am positive that when Everett hits the "2" span, he'll be equally as nightmarish, and then maybe Tristan will have mellowed out a bit and can help us parents find our sanity.  They do take turns being hellions, right?  Currently the baby takes one look at me and cracks up laughing while the toddler glances over at me and starts crying.  Will this switch in a couple of years or are these their forever-personalities?  Well, at least I got one who likes me, but no, of course I don't have favorites.  What kind of mother do you think I am?





Subscribe to Front page feed