Sunday, December 25, 2011

Demolition Day!

I remember the first thing I did when we got the keys to our current house-- also a major fixer-upper, if you remember-- was to come in with pliers and remove carpet tacks from the stairs.  It seemed carpet tacks, nails, and staples literally grew out our floors and doorways for the next few years, as I kept on finding them, even in places I was sure I'd scoured previously.  Nevertheless, that first day, sitting on the stairs without heat or light, just plucking away with pliers, I had such a feeling of accomplishment and oneness with my new house.  Yesterday, with a whole day off (and in town to boot!), as well as the okay of our plans by both the State and the County, I packed the family up and we spent a few hours with two hammers and a crowbar.  It was magical.

Okay, so maybe, as Abby said, what we were doing was much less efficient than what our contractors could do, and they're going to be paid no matter what, but it was nice to finally get something done to our house!  We split up: Abby headed downstairs to see what she could do to/with the paneling; I took a crowbar into the kitchen and, standing on a step-ladder, tore the drywall off the kitchen ceiling; and each kid got a hammer and was told to bash wherever they wanted on the big ugly wall that separates the two parts of the Great Room.  Apart from Abby, who I think was probably the smartest of us, we all got a lot done.  For your viewing pleasure, I give you THE WAHL FAMILY'S VERY HAPPY CHRISTMAS DAY AT THE BUNGALOW!

Isaac's first taste of hammering.

So proud
Taking ownership
Lola with her hammer.

The kids with the former wall.
Trying out the ladder.

Me in the kitchen
Lola means business.

The wall starts to crumble.

Results! All we could reach with the step ladder

Looking down from the balcony

Looking towards the kitchen

Looking eastward in the Great Room

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Day 204: MoCo Approves!

Big night tonight in Silver Spring: The Montgomery County Planning Commission approved our application for an Historical Area Work Permit!  (Hooray!  And hooray for lots of capitalized words!)  Although this was not a contentious thing-- we knew we were recommended to be approved by the staff, and we were placed on the consent calendar, which means there was pretty much nothing wrong with our application-- it was still one of our last obstacles to get this darn thing moving.  And it took a grand total of about three minutes.  At 7:30 they called the meeting to order; by the time I silenced my cell phone they had introduced the agenda; by 7:33 I was walking out the door, my and four other applications approved by unanimous consent.  Not bad.

So here's where we stand right now:

  • We've got permission from both the State of Maryland and Montgomery County to go through with our plans, as modified of course;
  • We have to bring whatever architectural drawings we have to the County in the next few days to have them approved, which I'm told takes hours, not days or weeks or SIX AND A HALF MONTHS, which is how long we've owned this house without legally being able to do anything to it; and
  • Once the drawings are approved, we have to apply for building permits, just like anyone else does working on any other house.  Again, days, not weeks or HALF A YEAR.
  • Also, we just got "approved" for a six-month extension of "work" by our loan servicer.  Kind of ridiculous, if you ask me, because there was no way we were doing the whole thing in six months, but we had to put that down initially and extend after that was over.  Then they loan people were apparently going to give us shit about not having stuff done, as if we had been sitting on our butts the last six months, just paying this enormous mortgage and enjoying our shell of a home.  Weirdos.

The State did reject not only our choice of shingles, but the very thought of anything other than extreme top-of-the-line shingles or regular old cheapo Home Depot shingles, which does suck.  Apparently in the 115-year history of the house, there have only been two documented types of roofing: the original cedar shakes, which would cost upwards of $40k to install; and the current army-issued cheapos, which just look cheap.  We tried to argue that having higher quality shingles that look like cedar shakes should be good enough, but the State argued that their goal is to avoid the Disneyfication of historic areas-- only historically documented materials are allowed, and reproductions are a non-starter.  So it looks like we'll be searching for the best cheapo shingles we can buy, and dealing with it.  I'm disappointed, not only because I wanted to be able to upgrade, but because the Dutch Windmill's owners replaced their dilapidated roof with beautiful cedar shakes.  But, alas, we can't break the bank on roofing.  Maybe when I win the lottery... which I don't play...
The shingles we can't afford.
The shingles we wanted.

The shingles we'll have to get.
 Anyhow, it looks like we're now reaching the light at the end of the tunnel.  And that means, hopefully, more things to update on the blog.  We were hoping to decorate the place for the holidays, but we had to run out of town unexpectedly and only got back two days ago, so Bungalow Christmas Part One is going to have to wait until next year.  But I'm looking forward, albeit very warily, given all the crap we've had to deal with just in the red tape, to getting moving.

And I promise, if we all take sledgehammers over to the house this weekend as a Christmas present to ourselves, I'll definitely take pictures. :)

Friday, December 9, 2011

Just Push Pause

So our shingle choice is not good enough for Maryland.  Or rather, it's too good; it "promotes a false sense of history" by making it seem that there had been slate on the roof before, when it had just been wood shingles.  I completely understand that.  (Really, I do!)  But the problem is they want us to replace the current shingles "in kind," which means exactly.  The current shingles are pretty much Army surplus shingles from 1989, and look like the cheapest thing on the market.  The ones we bought, slate-color notwithstanding, are really nice, quality shingles.  (Who'd have thought this would be an issue?  Gregory actually wants to spend money on this, and the State wants him to tone it down!) 

Unfortunately, I have a big mouth, and when I got the news about the shingles I was also dealing with the fact that our renters' rent check bounced, and therefore our mortgage was (I thought, incorrectly) not paid.  And the kids were at the dinner table and the microwave was beeping and Abby was out for the night.  So I may have left an annoying voicemail message at poor Amy with MHT's office.  Later on, I emailed her apologetically, asking what we could do to get the shingles replaced without doing it in kind.  Haven't heard anything back from her in three days, which is unlike her.  Hopefully I haven't pissed her off...

A shot of the Bungalow from way back when, complete with
what we believe to be the original cedar-shake roofing.
 So today, what we are going to do is email her all the different shingle types we like, and ask her to tell us which would be acceptable.  Cedar shakes, fancy-pants shingles like the ones we picked out, and one other kind (I forget the third, a la Rick Perry), and none of them will resemble slate.  In fact, all of them will resemble what we believe were the original shingles on the house, dark brown cedar shakes, as seen in the attached photo.  We'll be in South Carolina for the next week, but hopefully during that time we'll get the approval and can start working, because the only things standing in our way now are the approval, actually buying the shingles (which we can do from SC), and getting the building permit from Montgomery County.  That last part is something Rory was going to do on Wednesday.  No word from him on how that went yet, or on how long it might take for them to respond, but hopefully we're very close.  So for now, it's not a "stop" or a "play" for progress-- it's a "pause."  And I just hope it won't be on pause long enough for the video to stop altogether and revert to whatever's on channel 3.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

On the Cusp

The silver lining mentioned the other day has proven to exist, and, lo and behold, we are on the cusp of being able to begin work!  Montgomery County's Planning Department deemed our roof to be not of an historic nature, so even though we do have to deal with a two-week delay in having them consider our application, the roof no longer has to be part of the application at all.  In other words: we can just go to the permits office and get a permit to work on the roof, without any further ado from the County.  Huzzah!  I've submitted the specs for our shingles to Amy with MHT, who assured me the turnaround would be "faster than the full EC review," so our fingers are crossed that in the next few days Rory'll be able to start assembling the forces to tear the old roofing off. (Note to Tim, my contractor cousin: I made a mistake and we'll actually be reusing the same porch shingles that are on there now, but thanks for the heads up!)

I'm still miffed at the permits office, but their director did reply to my email saying she was looking into how the application fell between the cracks, and that's all I can really hope for.  Even if they had Rick Perryd the situation with an "oops," they wouldn't have been able to include us on the December 7 agenda, since Maryland Open Meetings Laws require one-week notice of all stuff like this, and the agenda had already been sent out to the local papers.  Oh well.  This might actually allow us to start the roof a bit earlier than we would have anyhow.  (I'm just hoping that the County's determination that the roof is not historic will not prevent them from reimbursing us when it comes time to show them our finished product.  My feeling is we're still fine on that.)

Isaac & my parents with Justice, by the Italian Villa
As an aside, I failed to mention the other day that another of our neighbors has begun construction on their home.  The Swiss Chalet-- the house that initially brought us to look at Forest Glen-- now has work humming along.  When I went by with my parents on Monday, we saw all the old windows had been removed, all the decrepit railings were gone, and I think there was even new siding, although I'm not sure.  Jealous they got a jump on us, but glad for them just the same.

Leo, Isaac, and Theo
My parents coming by was an interesting event.  We had one full day together post-Thanksgiving, so I was able to show them the place for the first time, Isaac in tow.  You could tell they were thinking "Gregory & Abby are (still?) nuts," but I think it was with more appreciation for our nuttiness than the last time around, when we bought our current house.  (I think the neighborhood maybe makes up for it?)  Don't worry, Mom & Dad, this place will be great when we are finished.  That said, the Beltway was louder than it ever was before, which was a bit annoying.  Sure, it was Monday rush hour, but I kept on glaring at the road as if to request it shut up for a few moments while my parents were here...  You might say that was futile, but remember, I am the king of anthropomorphism, so you never know.  Anyhow, I think they really enjoyed the grounds, and hopefully are giving us the benefit of the doubt on the house-- at least for now!

Great Room sans lions
It was also the first time I saw the house without the lions in it, which was cool, since I could walk around unimpeded in my own living room for the first time.  The lions are on their pedestals next to the house, with a sign noting they need to be repaired, and people shouldn't sit on them.  (You never saw the pics of my kids sitting on them.)  (Honest, Bonnie, that was before we knew they were made of zinc!)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Little Win, Big Loss

Yesterday, we got two pieces of news about the house.  The first was great, and set off a nice little wave of emails.  The second was not, and set of a torrent of emails and phone calls and hopefully-not-so-mean-spirited-in-retrospect voicemails.  Needless to say, I had a lot to write about last night when I got home.  But instead, my iTunes decided to crap out on me, and I spent the end of my evening kvetching at the computer screen at the loss of 30 months worth of music (again).  Now, the next day, I can bring you, with a much clearer head, the events of the last 24 hours as pertains to our house.  And hopefully I can do so without sounding like a sailor.  (Or Abby playing Taboo.)

Our Little Win

Notice the two different slopes, and different shingles.

Our roofing plan was approved by Maryland!  It took two weeks, but we finally received word the Maryland Historical Trust approved our plans to remove the shingles, put in insulation, and put up new shingles.  That was the last obstacle of the main plan for the house to have to go through the State.  Now all we have to do is forward the exact product info for the two types of shingles we need to Amy at MHT, and she can make sure they're kosher-- but most importantly, there will be no "process" involved.  Any tweakage can be just that-- tweakage-- with no need for formal applications, 45-day processes, and the like.  We've already got the first of the two shingle choices made (slate-gray shingles from Lowe's), and Rory's checking with our roofer to find out the specs of the others.  The reason we need two different kinds of shingles is that the roof has two different slopes.  The main slope can have regular shingles, but the porch roof's slope is too flat for regular shingles; standing snow would seep under them and deteriorate everything pretty rapidly.

Our proposed shingles
for the main part of the roof
Anyhow, with that victory, I called Montgomery County to ask whether they needed anything more than a copy of the email from the State saying our roof was okay, in order to complete our application Abby had dropped off back on November 15.  (Remember that date.)  I had to leave a message, so I wrote an email as well, just to cover my tracks.  On my way back from the gym, I noticed I had a voicemail on my cell from the County, so I called them back.  Josh, the guy working with the Montgomery County's Historical Preservation Office said we didn't need to send anything else, but, um, there was an issue.

Our Big Loss

You see, I had spoken with Josh a few weeks ago.  He was the one who alerted me to the fact we needed to have our County Historical Area Work Permit application in by November 15.  He was very nice on the phone a few weeks ago, and humored me as I went step by step down all of the things we needed to do, because I wanted to make sure we got this all done correctly.  He was very nice on the phone yesterday, too, except that he said, very apologetically, that someone in the permitting office screwed up.  Apparently, even though Abby hand delivered the application on November 15, right after she dropped Isaac off at school in the morning, someone at the permitting office decided to sit on it for a whole WEEK before even stamping it as having been accepted.  Our application, stamped "November 22," was not on the docket for the December 7 meeting.  (No matter that we were in North Carolina starting Novmeber 19.)  We would have to wait for the December 21 meeting.  That means, instead of being approved by the County and getting all the permits by about December 10, and starting work before Christmas, we now would be lucky to get permits before the New Year.

Gregory not happy.

The course of events over the next half hour or so remains blurry to me.  I know I tried to stay as calm as possible on the phone with Josh.  I know I received a phone call from Abby, who was going to pick me up from work on the way to get something someone in Falls Church had put on Craigslist, and I think I swore at (with?) her.  I know I called the woman in charge of the permit office and, I hope very politely, told her voicemail her office had screwed up and now my house wouldn't have a roof before it started to snow.  I know I hung up on the voicemail and proceeded to send an email to her saying the same thing, copied to Rory and Abby and Josh.  I know I left the office in a daze, or in a huff, or maybe both, and had what probably looked like an argument with my wife in the street in front of my office, but was really a big bitch session between the two of us (with the doors closed so the kids couldn't listen in).

Then we went home and had pie.  That made things a bit better, until the aforementioned iTunes debacle.

Silver Lining?

So where that leaves us right now is with an approved roof plan, but shingles left to be approved by MHT staff; with an accepted addendum to our application, but an application that won't be considered until nearly Christmas; and with the distinct possibility that someone in the permit office will have cost us nearly a month of work-- two weeks in meeting postponement, and then having to work around the schedules of government offices and contractors during the holidays.  But there's a slight, possible silver lining: Josh said there's a possibility the roof work might not be viewed as historic by the County, which means we wouldn't have to wait for their okay to start work on the roof at all; we'd just have to get the State okay and the County permits, which theoretically could both take only days.  That said, I'm pretty sick of thinking in terms of theoretical days, so I'll believe it when I see it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Last Submission. We Hope.

Well, today was the day.  The day we submitted what we hope will be the last application necessary before being able to start work on the house.  It was for the Montgomery County Historical Area Work Permit, and it's a three-plus-week-process that started today with the submission.  Over the next three weeks, Montgomery County's planners will pore over our submission, make it all pretty, and have it ready for their December 7 meeting.  If all goes as we hope that day, we'll have an afternoon of running things around and getting stamps and whatnot, then we can proceed as planned.  I keep thinking to myself: "Remember, at the end of this all, they're giving you a lot of money back for filling out these mandatory forms.  And it'll all be worth it."  Mantra helps, sometimes.

This application wasn't too different from the state forms, other than it was a form we actually had to print out and write on with a pen, rather than typing it out online.  And there were spelling errors-- I don't mean that we made, I mean written on the official form!  We had to show them our plat, give them the contact information for everyone whose property abuts ours, take pictures of the house from an angle indicative of how each of those properties views us, et cetera.  It's only for the exterior, but I included everything -- interior and systems included -- just to make sure we didn't forget anything.  I spoke to Scott with the County, and he said there's no problem with including too much.  So it's all there.  And now we wait.

We also are waiting for word back from Maryland on our roof application, which we submitted last week, and which was debated at yesterday's Historical Trust board meeting.  Theoretically, it should go well, because we went with materials they recommended.  Okay, they couldn't "recommend" materials, since they're a government entity and they're not allowed to do that.  But they strongly hinted that the way we should go was in one direction, and that was exactly what we chose.  If only they could have told us that one cycle ago...  Regardless, we are waiting on that too, and the county has been nice enough to allow us to submit anything we get back from the state between now and December 7 as an addendum to the packet.  So that means more running around by Abby and Lola, who have already driven out to Crownsville three times (about an hour each way) to drop off materials for the state, and did a run to Rockville this morning (about 45 minutes each way) to drop off the county stuff.  It'll all be worth it.  It'll all be worth it.  It'll all be worth it.

By the time the county has its meeting, we'll have owned the house for more than 160 days without being able to touch it.  I haven't been there in more than a month, because, well, what would I do there?  Bonnie with Save Our Seminary was nice enough to bring by the house's original exterior lighting, which was saved when it looked like it might just fall down (and maybe bring the house with it?) a while back-- it'd be really nice to see that.  But for the moment, I think going up there's more annoying than anything else, just because I know there's nothing I can do.

So I'm doing other stuff, like reading the community listserve, where the current issue is whether people should have their porch lights on at night.  (Sorry folks, but I was raised by Chuck Wahl, and therefore my goal is to have the brightest porch lights possible.  Plus, as a security professional, I know darn well you don't want to be the darkest house on the block.)  I can't wait until mundane stuff like that is the big news of the day.  What was that mantra again?  It'll all be worth it.  It'll all be worth it.  It'll all be worth it.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Progress and Plodding

So it's been nearly a month since my last post.  That about sums up how much progress we've had in that time.  *Opening Sigh*

The last time I wrote, we had just gotten the official news that we passed inspection for Maryland Historical Trust's requirements, for everything except our roof.  We were on our way!  Well, not so much.  That was the last major step, but alas, it was not the last actual step.  Historical permitting is just the opposite of a sporting team in the playoffs: once you win at Nationals, then at States, you have to go to Districts.  For us, that means we still have to get the blessing of Montgomery County.  And what do you know: they have a periodic process just like Maryland does.  So we have to submit a new set of paperwork, detailing everything we detailed for Maryland, and have it ready by November 16, in order for them to gather on December 7 to meet and discuss it.  Well, we don't have to detail everything-- actually, just the exterior changes.

It's all just so frustrating.  But then I have to calm myself with the understanding that, when it's all over with, there's a reason for all of this paperwork.  Sure, it's so all the historical homes remain consistent with their roots blah blah blah blah...  But it's also because these organizations are going to give us MONEY.  When all is said and done, Maryland will give us back 10% on everything we spent to make the house livable-- for instance, redoing the plumbing and the electric, but not necessarily on upgrading the tiles; and Montgomery County will give us back 20% on everything we spent to bring the exterior up to historical standards-- again, on replacing rotted porch wood and taking lead paint off the shingles, but not on landscaping or buying a new American flag for the pole up top.  So it's all gonna be good.  But for now, it's supremely frustrating.

However, the one good thing about having to wait for the Montgomery County meeting is that today is Maryland's deadline for their next meeting, which just happens to be next Tuesday, November 15.  (Are you writing this all down?)  In a nutshell, since Rory and Mohamed finished the plans for the roof, we submitted them today, will hopefully have them okayed next Tuesday, and then can turn around and submit them with the entire already-approved plan on Wednesday to the County.  Therefore, MontCo's December 7 meeting may very well be the final hurdle for the historical stuff.  And we've been told that the County hardly ever says no to plans that have already been approved by the State.  So, one more month.  Hence the sighing.

After that, it's just running to two places in Montgomery County to get the plans stamped (which I've been assured takes hours, not days) and to get the permits.  Theoretically, we could have work starting by the beginning of the week before Christmas.  But I'm not going to plan on anything happening until after the New Year, just because I don't want to be disappointed again.  That means, basically, we will have owned the house for seven full months before we were legally able to do a thing.  Maybe.

I say "maybe," because, although I haven't checked, I'm pretty sure that once the State and the County say we can do certain things, we can go ahead and do certain things, even without the permit.  Certain things like, say, tearing down all the paneling in the basement, or pulling down drywall on walls that are getting the ax.  We'll see, because that will be a lovely day.

In the meantime, we've been window shopping.  We think we've found a dining room table, at CB2.  Abby's been looking at dining room chandeliers, and she's focusing in on simple, modern ones with Edison bulbs (the ones where you just have a bare bulb with an exaggerated filament).  We're narrowing down our choices on bathroom cabinetry-- we're going to have cabinets that are furniture, rather than built-ins-- and have discovered we pretty much like the second-cheapest kitchen cabinets at every store, from Home Depot to Lowe's to IKEA.  We've picked out our bathroom tile and wood flooring already, we think, and have chosen the shingles for the roof-- dark gray, mottled shingles that resemble slate.  Once things are finalized, I'll put pics up of our choices for you all to denigrate, er, I mean, enjoy. :)  In the meantime, though, Abby's driving to Crownsville again to drop off our roofing application to MHT, and after that, we wait. *Closing Sigh*

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

They like us! They really, really like us!

Dear Mr. and Ms. Wahl:

The Maryland Historical Trust (MHT) is in receipt of your application, dated September 27, 2011, requesting approval to rehabilitate the Bungalow.  The MHT Easement Committee (Committee) reviewed the application at its meeting on October 4, 2011.

Based upon the review and recommendation of the Committee, I approve the rehabilitation of the American Bungalow (as outlined in the September 27, 2011 application to MHT) except for the proposed roof work.  The Easement Committee did not review the roof work item at the Applicants' request and anticipates a future Changes/Alteration submission focusing on that work item.  The Committee approved the construction of a new bedroom closet in the great room space contingent upon the closet height terminating at the height of the picture rail.  While the Committee does not endorse blown-in insulation, the method is approved conditioned upon review and approval of the installation method and details on how cross bracing will be addressed.  Lastly, the proposed architectural plans should be updated to be consistent with the approved work item #3 which states, "as for the entryway between the kitchen and the Great Room, the portion of the remaining wall to the left of the door opening will extend the depth of the kitchen cabinets and the height of the cased opening, thus creating a door opening that is larger than the current opening."  This work is consistent with The Secretary of the Interior's Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties, General Rehabilitation Standards 3, 5, and 6.

Approval is valid for a period of six months from the date of this letter.  Should you require additional time to complete the work, make any changes to the scope of work as approved, or have any questions regarding this letter, please contact Amy Skinner, Easement Administrator.


J. Rodney Little
Maryland Historical Trust

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Lions in Place

Leo & Theo have been moved out of our living room, and are now watching the entrance to Forest Glen, right next to the bungalow, as they should be.  Love this pic of them basking in the sun, courtesy of Don Hall.

Leo (left) and Theo basking in the sun.  They'll eventually be restored, once funds are raised.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A Non-Response Response

As you can see, we have received an answer -- albeit a cryptic one -- from the Maryland Historical Trust:

From me to MHT, Tuesday 10/4, 4:06pm:

"Hi ladies!  Just me being a pest again.  Any word on anything?  Wanting to know whether my margarita tonight should be celebratory or consolatory...  --G

PS- Lions are being moved tomorrow!"

From MHT to me, Wednesday 10/5, 5:40pm:

"Hi Gregory [changed from "Greg," since my name is not "Greg..."]

Congratulations on having two less lions in the house!  Now you only have your two instead of the four :p, although I guess yours are more "cubs."  Anyways, yes the application was reviewed at the Easement Committee meeting and there was no ground shaking this time, always an improvement.  You will receive a letter from the Director in approximately two weeks.  Until then, go out and have a drink :) and enjoy your time in Mexico!  Thanks, Amy"

From me to MHT, Wednesday 10/5, 6:01pm:

"Come on, you're killing me with the suspense!  Should the drink be celebratory?  Should I have it but hold the salt?  Oh, the metaphors I could continue to use!"

From me to my blog, Wednesday 10/5, 10:28pm:


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Goodbye Lions!

Received word today that Leo and Theo, the lions that have resided in our living room for a while now, are going to be moved tomorrow to their rightful places astride the pathway leading down into Forest Glen from DeWitt Circle.  New pediments will be built for them, and they will eventually be restored.  Found this out via the neighborhood listserve, which has actually proven to be pretty interesting, if you don't count people complaining about their refrigerators... (what does that have to do with anything?)  Anyhow, we're hoping we can make good use of the lions no longer being in the house, because today, hopefully, a decision was made about our application.  I say "hopefully" because the board meeting was scheduled, and as far as I know, not interrupted by an earthquake like the last one was.  I sent an overly pleasant email note to Amy and Renee with MHT, asking them whether I should have a celebretory or a consolatory drink tonight, seeing as I am currently on a business trip in the hometown of Tequila, but didn't get a response.  Who knows what that means?  Could be they were so excited talking about my house at the meeting that they didn't get back to work in time to check emails.  Or could be that they didn't want to tell me the super-awesome news without the sound of a marching band in the background.  Or could be the application continued to be conentious, and we'll have to wait another 45 days.  If that happens, I might just have a few more of those local concoctions than I had planned.

But in the meantime, at least the lions are leaving.  That's progress.  Right?


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

MHT Deadline Redux

Okay, so it's been 45 days since the last deadline to hand our plans in to the Maryland Historical Trust, so that means it's time to do it again.  We've spent the last two weeks going over our previous, unsuccessful application, editing our words, adding stuff they wanted us to add, removing stuff they didn't like.  Gone is any mention of ripping out the kitchen ceiling.  Added in is a stipulation promising not to get rid of the wall to the left of the kitchen doorway.  Still in is my bedroom closet, which they didn't like, although we were pretty much assured it wouldn't stand in the way of approval.  Iffy is our plan for exterior insulation: they wanted us to rip off all the exterior shingles and apply a vapor barrier, but they thought the shingles were going to be removed anyway.  Now that they know we're only replacing the few shingles that went bad, we're hoping they're going to be okay with blow-in insulation from the inside.

But here's the kicker: we've removed any mention of the roof.  Argh.  They asked us to explain how we were going to insulate the roof without raising its profile more than a few inches.  At the walk-through, Rory said that wouldn't be an issue.  They asked for a mock-up of what he planned to do-- first one made of plywood, but later saying we could just send an architectural drawing.  So last night, less than 24 hours before we have to drive out to Crownsville to deliver the application, he calls us and says it's not do-able, and that we should just fill out the form however we like, because there's no way to get the profile to go up less than five or six inches.  Our stomachs dropped like we were on a bad roller coaster.

We spent the entire morning texting, emailing, and talking to Rory; leaving messages for and finally talking to Renee at MHT; printing and reprinting new versions of our application; debating what to do about the roof.  All the while, Abby delivered Isaac to school, then sat outside my office for a while in the car with Lola, then spent the whole morning at McDonald's so Lola could play on the playground while Abby figured out the application.  Oh, and I was at work.  Needless to say, we were both stressed out.  Did I mention Abby had the beginnings of a migraine?

Finally, after noon, Renee called and told us we should submit the application sans roof, and write a note alongside our submission noting we weren't eschewing talking about the roof altogether, but rather needed another few weeks to discuss our options.  I find myself constantly saying "fingers crossed" about this project, but our fingers are definitely crossed now, because we were basically told if we did everything according to plan this time around, we would be fine.  Now?  Who knows?  Regardless, Abby drove the hour back out to Crownsville, headache and Lola and all, got lost along the way, but finally delivered the packet.  Luckily, on the way home her medication kicked in and her head felt good enough that she was able to pick Isaac up after school and catch a play date at the zoo.  I think we're both going to have a bit more Kahlua with our ice cream tonight than we usually do...

So that's that.  Now we wait.  The Easement Board meets next Tuesday, after which we should hopefully get a nice, quick answer from our friends Amy and Renee, regardless of how long we have to wait for the paper answer.  We'll have to have a serious conversation with Rory about the roof, because I don't know that I want to have absolutely no insulation in my roof, and I don't know that I want this situation to happen again where we have all our ducks in a row, yet are held back at the last minute by what seems to have been a miscommunication we could/should have resolved at least a week ago.  As Abby drove off this morning from my office, en route to McDonald's in Falls Church, we looked at each other and said "Here we go again."  Hopefully, this time, this will be one of the bigger bumps in the road.  (After all, we're just now getting the electric upgrade on our current house that we were permitted for back in 2004.  No one can accuse PEPCO of jumping the gun, that's for sure...)  *sigh*

Friday, September 16, 2011

Clarifications and Chagrin

It's been some time since we received word from Maryland that our plans weren't good enough, but today I managed to talk to one of our main points of contact up in Crownsville, Renee.  I wanted to see if she could clarify some of the points the board put in one-huge-paragraph of a letter, and she did so quite nicely.  I relayed the information to my dear wife, with all her Southern sensibilites, on the phone from work, and she unloosed a cute little tirade of unpublishable words.  Not aimed at Renee, mind you, but at the situation.  (She actually really liked Renee when they met on Monday.  Really!)  Here's why she's not happy:

  1. We will not be allowed to raise the ceiling in the kitchen, which at my last measurement was about, oh, 4 1/2 feet tall.  And we have to keep it beadboard, which is not exactly the look we were going for.  Apparently, one of the bungalowish things about any bungalow is its abundance of porches.  It's not our fault that the Army enclosed the porch, and they're fine with us taking the already enclosed porch and making it into a kitchen.  But since the porch ceiling is still there, we've gotta keep it as is.  I guess this was one of the main objections of the board to our application.  It's also one of Abby's main problems with the house.  Hmm...
  2. You see the boards under the ripped drywall?  THAT's what they want us to keep as our kitchen ceiling, rather than having the gorgeous exposable beams that are directly above them and continue into the Great Room.
  3. We will not be allowed to make the doorway into the kitchen into a wide opening.  We will be able to widen the doorway and get rid of the door itself, but wall has to remain on both sides.  Again, because of the original this-is-inside-and-that-is-outside nature of the rooms.  That we can both deal with, although I think it'll look silly.
    This is the doorway they will only let us expand, and not remove.
    And above it are the beautiful beams they don't want us to expose.
  5. We can raise the ceiling in the upstairs bathroom.  Huzzah!  If the kitchen's clearance is 4 1/2 feet, the bathroom's is just over a yard.  They would rather we not have the bedroom closet jut into the Great Room.  Yeah, so would I, but I would also like a closet.  I guess this is not a make-or-break section of the plan, so if we leave it in the next application (which we will), and it's the only problem, then they'll either say okay begrudgingly or just make the approval conditional on us getting rid of or shrinking the closet.  Then I'll just hang all my clothes on a hook outside the house or something, I guess.  That'd be "very bungalow," no?
  6. They do not care about our paint colors or tile colors, at least at this point.  Too bad, because Abby has them pretty much all picked out.  Cabinet facing too, after a lucky trip to a specialty cabinet place in Hyattsville yesterday that was fortuitously located across the street from a brand new Burger Delite-- the best place for Carolina Barbecue outside of NC.
  7. The board wanted us to put together a "mock-up" of what our roof will look like.  Puzzlement ensued.  Did they want us to do a third-grade diorama?  No, actually, Renee clarified, just some architectural drawings of a cross section of how the new roof won't make the dormer look weird.  That we (and Mohamed) can deal with.
So it shouldn't be that bad.  We have 11 more days until the second round of applications is due.  No doubt we'll be working on it a lot this weekend, and hopefully will have it done by Monday so we can pass it to Rory.  Renee repeatedly mentioned to me that she and Amy were reminding the board that our financers are not too happy about the work not having started.  That said, I made sure to email Patty (our financer) and Sheyy (our guy from FHA) to let them know we had another 45-day wait ahead of us.  I'm sure they're both thrilled...

From everything Renee said, it sounds like the people on the board (who are all specialists of one kind or another-- architects, historians, bungalowists...) are just trying to get things to be perfect.  That said, a comment I received on my last post from Paul, a neighbor I haven't met yet (Hi Paul!) echoes a sentiment I'm sure is shared not only by us and our neighbors but by Renee and Amy as well: that the heretofore moniker "Save our Seminary" should be altered to be "Finish our Seminary!"

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

It's a No-Go For Now

I just got off the phone with Amy at MHT, who delivered the frustrating news: We won't be able to start work on the Bungalow for at least another 45 days.  She said our application has been rated as “Incomplete” (a technical term) and has to be resubmitted for the next cycle before any work can be done.  She seemed pretty frustrated as well, and said our application was "really good," and “really close” to being accepted with conditions, as we had hoped would happen.  However, it’s a no-go for now.

Apparently, the main issue in our not getting a conditional acceptance may have been that so few of the board members had ever been in the house.  Therefore, they weren’t able to picture what we meant by a lot of the changes, even with drawings and pictures, and even with explanations from those who had been there.  We're going to fix that on Monday: Abby and Rory are going to meet the board at the house for a walk-through.  Afterwards, we can work on resubmitting the same exact application we put in last time, but with edits, additions, tweaks, and other such helpful ways to get this party started. *sigh*

The news is not all bad: I asked her about several of our main concerns, and she said that the board has absolutely no problem with us moving the kitchen upstairs (yay), and no problem with the excavation under the porch (double yay).  Their only two concerns, apparently, are the roof and that damn wall between the dining room and the kitchen.  For the roof, it is her understanding that as long as we are there to explain exactly how we will maintain the current slope with the 2-inch rise we propose due to the need for insulation, they’ll be happy.  As for the wall, they have apparently given us recommendations as to how we might approach it without changing the authenticity of the great room.  She will mail the packet of recommendations to us today, but will also email me an electronic version of it for us to look at, so we will have something to occupy our time over the next few evenings.

So our timeline now has been pushed back by 45 days.  The next board meeting is on October 4, and the deadline for submission of a new application is September 27.  However, she did mention we might want to put information into the packet about specifics such as paint and tile preferences, so we can start taking those steps and making those decisions now.  We’ve already started making some of those decisions-- we went last weekend on a Lowe's date, and will have no issue attempting to do the same this weekend, albeit with kids in tow.  Once we make decisions, I'll post them here on the blog for you to ooh and aah over (and, I'm sure, to try to convince us to go in other directions...). 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Irene in the House

This morning we awoke to a mess of leaves all over the street, a freakishly clean car, and a nearly empty freezer, but other than that there was little sign of Hurricane Irene's overnight "wrath" in our neighborhood.  But we were not-so-secretly worried about how the storm treated the Bungalow, so we took a detour up to Forest Glen on the way to my sister's place in Virginia.  Little more than a half-mile from the house, we saw a tree that had formerly lined Illinois Avenue laying nicely on top of a surprisingly unsquooshed Cadillac.  Small limbs were abundant on the ground, but it wasn't until we got to Sixteenth Street Heights that the traffic signals were blinking.  Once we crossed the border into Maryland at Eastern Avenue the power to the signals went out altogether; not a good sign, we thought!  To make it worse, on the last split before the Seminary, at Brookville and Linden, a DOT traffic sign blinked "detour to Forest Glen."  Uh oh.  But from there on, no sign of Irene at all.  Driving through the tunnel on DeWitt, I crossed my fingers, but emerging from it we saw the fountain working, the trees standing, and the Bungalow, er, Bungalowing.  Roof looked wetter than normal.  Abby says the extreme left (as seen from the front) corner of the porch roof looked like something happened to it, as did the middle of the right side, but I think both of those things were already like that.  (You decide: there are before and after pics to compare below.) Not to mention, both are set to be replaced completely, so who cares?  Sigh of relief...

Bungalow pre-Irene
Bungalow, post-Irene.  Supposed new lean at far left,
and supposed deeper rut at center right of porch roof.
I went inside while Abby walked around the neighborhood with the kids.  Downstairs, where everything is rightfully musty normally, there was no sign of new wetness.  Upstairs, where there are BROKEN WINDOWS, no sign of wetness on the floors.  That's right: hurricane... broken windows... dry floor.  It had only stopped raining about an hour before, so it's not like things had time to dry.  Weird.  The only interior "issue" seemed to be the far corner of the upstairs bathroom, where there was wetness on the floor.  But that was due to a bad seal on the vent leading up through the roof, so all in all, the house made it through Irene like a champ.  Hooray!

Wetness next to the toilet.
Who can't aim?  Irene!

We met another new neighbor on the way out: Peter, a pediatrician who commutes to work via Ride On (the Montgomery County bus system), and his 18-month-old daughter Anna.  He recommended I get on one or more of the area's many resident Yahoo listservs.  We'll see... it might be a great way to find out the skinny on what people really think about the place... or it might just be a good way to be annoyed by people who themselves are annoyed.  Other than that, we're still waiting for the MHT decision.  Believe me, you'll all hear about it as soon as we do!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Earth Moves (and other things do too)

We haven't been out to the Bungalow since Tuesday's earthquake, but I'm guessing if the house completely collapsed we would've been contacted by now!  Funny thing is, after we got ourselves outside and onto the front sidewalk, the first thing I thought of was not "how is my son faring after this earthquake, seeing as today is his first day at school?"  No, rather, it was "I sure hope the Maryland Historical Trust Board Meeting didn't have to be canceled!"  On Wednesday morning I shot off a polite-as-can-be-yet-completely-ants-in-the-pantsy email to Amy at MHT, asking how Tuesday went.  Her response makes me tentatively hopeful:

We were actually in the middle of the Easement Committee meeting when the quake hit.  We did review your Application and the Committee will have recommendations/comments shortly.  I wanted to let you know that a site visit was requested by Easement Committee members so that they could see the house and be better informed when reviewing future Applications.  Renee and I will contact you (or Rory?) shortly to arraign a site visit for early September.

A shot of Leo (or is it Theo?) in our
Great Room, by Michael G. Stewart
The part I, as a hopeful applicant, picked out of that statement was the "recommendations/comments" part.  And the fact she didn't say "the Committee laughed in the face of your application, and your house fell down because of the earthquake."  I'm hoping you all see the same potential conditional acceptance reflected in this reply I did.

Besides the movement represented by MHT's partial answer, we also got a partial batch of pics back from Laurie and Michael, the two photographers who were in the Bungalow on Saturday.  (And I have to correct something I said earlier: Michael is not Laurie's assistant; he is a photographer in his own right, and found it amusing I referred to him as such.  Sorry, Michael!)  Anyhow, Michael sent me a few really cool pics he took of the place.  My favorite is of Theo (or is it Leo?) in front of our fireplace.  Check it out.

A shot looking up at the ceiling in the Dining Room
section of the Great Room, by Michael G. Stewart

Finally, there's some more possible movement on the neighborhood home-sales front.  According to local real-estate websites, the Swiss Chalet has been put under contract.  For those of you who may not know, the Swiss Chalet, which is located on the edge of the Seminary property right next to the Chinese Pagoda, is the house that initially drew us here.  We toured that house-- absolutely gorgeous, but in even more desperate need of help than the Bungalow-- first, then looked at the Pagoda next door.  It was only after that, when I was hooked on the former, and Abby was hooked on the latter, that Marc, the realtor showing the places to us, suggested we walk through the tunnel and see the Bungalow.  So, for better or worse, we owe our being here in the first place to the Swiss Chalet.  Danke schรถn!
The Swiss Chalet: the younger, more expensive, and
in-worse-shape "Alpine" version of the Bungalow

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Taking pictures, crossing fingers

Interesting weekend with the Bungalow, in that it involved others availing themselves of the house without needing me around.  Yesterday, while Abby played the model parent helping Isaac's new school do last-minute set-up stuff (I think it's called "barn raising?"), I took the kids to the Bungalow so a local photographer could do a shoot inside.  I had seen her stuff while doing online searches of the place, and had commented about liking some of it on her blog.  She wrote back and asked if she could shoot inside, and I didn't see the harm, so yesterday happened.  She showed up with an assistant and they took about two hours to shoot, while the kids and I rode bikes outside until we were sweating too much, then headed inside to the community room, ostensibly to play foosball and pool.  But it was Saturday morning, and some kids that lived in the apartments were watching cartoons, so invariably my kids sat leaning against the foosball and pool tables, transfixed with the images on the tv screen.  (Pokemon: what a ridiculous cartoon...)  Once the kids left, I switched it to something more palatable for me, and enjoyed the air conditioning.  In a week or so, I'll be able to see some of the shots she did, and hopefully they'll be linkable so I can put them up here, but in the meantime you can see the photographer's stuff at her blog, Laurie's Lane.  Her assistant also has an interesting website, and says he's shot album covers for local bands on the grounds of the Seminary, which would definitely be cool to see.

Today we went to Six Flags, but my friend Dave, who works for State Farm Insurance,  told me he wanted to see the place.  So I gave him the combination to the lockbox and hoped he wouldn't find some terrible reason we shouldn't have bought the place-- a reason the home inspector and the general contractors missed.  I trust him because he's been an interested bystander (and frequent contributor) to our current house in its various states, and because of his professional background.  He came over afterwards and had interesting and constructive things to say, but nothing like the crazy awful things we were fearing, so yay!  (And no, Dave's not the holding-punches kind of guy...)  He did mention it was funny we had two lockboxes on our door, yet some of the window panes were knocked out and, if you really wanted to, you could just reach in and unlock the door from the inside.  (It's like I teach in Botswana: it's the appearance of security that matters!)

We're still crossing our fingers for Tuesday's board meeting, after which I've convinced myself the Maryland Historical Trust is going to call me personally to gush over our wonderful plans.  That, or there are 1000 things we left off the forms, and we have to redo it all and spend another 45 days waiting until the next meeting.  (I already know we forgot to talk about removing the paneling from the basement, and talking to Dave has me second-guessing our room placement again...  Argh!)  But no matter: it'll be another 36 hours until the board meets, and it could be up to two weeks before we hear their results.  I asked Abby to bake some cookies and show up at the meeting, but she says she doesn't think showing up with baked goods as well as two screaming kids would help our cause.  I say bake a second batch and stuff the kids to stop the screaming, but she says I'm crazy.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Applications Submitted, Waiting Game

After a flurry of activity this weekend in the hours after we put the kids to bed-- filling out forms and such... get your minds out of the gutter!-- we finally finished the two applications for Maryland Historical Trust last night.  Abby did a TON of work, labeling things, going back and forth matching up numbers from one form to another, taking and choosing the right pictures for submission.  Then today she drove out to Crownsville, which is a suburb of Annapolis, about 45 minutes from here, to drop the stuff of in person.  Now we wait.

We already received confirmation that the packets (two of them-- one for the permission to do stuff, and the other for the tax credits) have been stamped as "received" by MHT, meaning we satisfied today's deadline to be considered in next Tuesday's Board Meeting.  We had one little oops: we forgot to pay the fee.  No worries... I ran to the post office in the late afternoon, bought a postal money order (because I don't keep a checkbook at work) and sent it in the mail.  Hopefully they'll get it tomorrow.  (Only ten bucks, although the application to receive the tax credit at the end actually costs 3% of the tax credit itself.  Don't understand why they don't just lower the tax credit by 3%... there's your convoluted taxation system for you!)

So now we wait.  Renee from taxation and Amy from easements, both of whom I met with and showed around the Bungalow a few months ago, are going to pore over our applications and let us know if we are missing anything or need to modify/clarify anything.  Then, next Tuesday the Historical Board meets, and hopefully they like our application enough that we get passed.  I don't know if this is an all-or-nothing proposition; if we have one thing they don't like, will they send it all back?  I seriously hope not, or that'd mean we'd have to go through this whole process again and wait again just to start doing simple stuff like demolition.  Fingers are crossed!  In the meantime, we're going to have to busy ourselves with other things (like finishing fixing up our current basement to get back out on the market) and ignore that we are nervous about the whole thing.  We really had no direction as to what to include or exclude, how much or little detail to put into explanations, and whether our pictures were good.  The directions were crazy specific, as in we needed not only to take multiple pictures but we had to submit them with certain specific labeling as well as with a DVD with all of the pictures loaded onto it.  (We spent an hour and a half at Target in Falls Church yesterday making sure it all worked out... I've already come up with a couple things that they could dislike about it... crap!)  But at this point there's no turning back.  Believe me, you'll hear when we hear how this thing turns out.



Saturday, August 13, 2011

Ganzo Has a New (Second) Home

Our new parking sign, with our house and future
barbecue area in the background.
We visited the Bungalow for the first time in a few weeks today, to take some pictures to put into our application for the Historical folks, and saw the first small bit of progress on the property.  We've got a new parking sign!  So hopefully now when we get to the house, people won't be parking in our spaces (under threat of being towed, no less) and we won't have to ignore aforesaid threat and park in the Windmill's spaces.  (Shhh: don't tell them our little secret!)

We also managed to keep the kids happy while we were there, which is a new feat for us.  It seems we always turn into the family no one wants to be around when we get to the Bungalow.  We're trying to pay attention to something/ someone, such as our contractors, and the kids all of a sudden become the neediest creatures on the face of the earth.  We have even gone so far as to consider the idea of getting a used portable DVD player solely for the purpose of shutting them up... er... entertaining them in situations at the house.  (Although I am still firmly in the anti-portable-DVD-while-driving camp.)  However, today we just needed to take pictures.  So Abby played photographer and I took the kids into the common area and we played with their pool table and foosball table.  (I'd say "we played pool and foosball," but anyone who knows even the slightest thing about either one of those games would likely not recognize either game from what went on around those tables.)  Took some pictures in the common area to show you all what we have access to.

Abby & the kids playing with the foosball and pool tables.
The Bungalow is located directly outside those windows.

The common area, with original fireplace and flat-panel tv.

One of several fitness rooms, just off the common area.

Two final notes for the day.  First, I met a new neighbor, Malcolm, who lives in one of the apartments directly across from us.  Seems like a nice guy, and didn't seem alarmed at all when my kids stormed into the common area, even though he was using his computer there.  Props to Malcolm!  Funny thing is when I introduced myself as the owner of the Bungalow, he said he knew.  Guess word travels fast in these parts! Second, it looks like the Windmill next door is undergoing its lead-abatement process.  There are warning signs on all the doors, and a bunch of stuff on the interior is wrapped tight in plastic.  I love that there's such progress going on there, and hope we can get some of that progress to come our way in the next month or so.  For Malcolm and our other neighbors, of course.  Purely an altruistic hope...

Friday, August 12, 2011

A Good Deadline

Abby & I are great with deadlines.  Give us a month, and we'll get it done in the last week.  Give us three days, and we'll get the same thing done in two, and maybe better too.  That said, we've got our next big deadline: Tuesday.  Spoke with Renee at the Maryland Historical Trust today, and she says if we want to have our proposed changes in for this cycle, we have to have everything turned in by Tuesday (8/16) so they can consider it at the next board meeting, which is 8/23.  Granted, we've got Lola's birthday this weekend, and were hoping to go to Six Flags to celebrate, but we can do this!

An historic picture of our Great Room, without the dividing wall
We've already got the plans, but what we have to get done over the next 72 hours is as follows: for every big change we want to make (and they are numerous...) it is recommended that we have pictures and narratives to back up the proposal.  Pictures, as in of current layout, proposed layout, and even any historical references (such as a picture of the great room as it once was, sans wall, to show that it'd be historically accurate for us to tear down the big divider).  This is gonna be a challenge, and will probably require a personal delivery of the packet to the MHT HQ in Crownsville (near Annapolis) on Tuesday, but I know we can do it.  We are, after all, (generally) pretty good with deadlines.

The best part is that if (when!) we get the packet in by Tuesday, we will likely hear back with a decision by around Labor Day.  And if (when!) that decision is positive, that means DEMOLITION can start.  Needless to say, if you try to contact us this weekend, and we cut you short on a phone conversation, you'll know why.  Wish us luck!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


So I finally have some plans to share with you all.  These are the latest and greatest, and are part of the set we'll compile and send to the MHT folks over in Crownsville for their approval.  There are a few kinks to work out, such as the absence of a dividing wall in the downstairs bathroom (separating the sink area from the shower and toilet, so the two kids can get ready for school at the same time... idea courtesy of Abby's experiences growing up with (as?) a bathroom hog on the same school schedule), but nothing major.  We've got five sets of plans-- current layout, proposed layout, electrical, HVAC, and plumbing-- but I'm just posting the proposed layout so you can have an idea of where we're hoping to head.  Progress!

Upstairs Floorplan

Downstairs Floorplan

Friday, August 5, 2011

Movement Behind the Scenes

So nothing's been doing, on the house or on the blog.  The absence of blog movement can be explained in that I was in Russia for work, and was hesitant to sign into anything from which I felt the Russians might grab password information; not being in Russia anymore, here I am, updating.  The absence of house movement is just a further testament to the patience we're all going to have to show during this whole process.  Believe me, there is movement; just behind the scenes!  Of course, we have been shown the drawings, and have signed off on the initial where-walls-go stuff.  While I was away, Rory put all of the HVAC and electrical stuff into the drawings, and says we should have the complete set by this weekend.  My hope is that, after we sign off on those, there will be a submission to the Historical Trust and the bureaucratic process can finally get moving.  We won't have picked tile colors or appliance brands by that point, but we will have been given the go-ahead to start demo work, which will feel SO nice!

The problem lies in that, having a federally-secured loan, we have to have a monthly home inspection.  We didn't have one in July, since, well, nothing was changed to inspect.  We are fast approaching our August inspection date, and our lender is requesting an inspection in no uncertain terms.  I'll leave it to Rory and Mark to explain to them what's going on-- I don't understand how they (the bank) wouldn't be familiar with this whole historical-homes-progress-slowly process-- but hey, that's why we pay Rory and Mark the big bucks, right?  So we don't have to deal with stuff. :)

So all in all, there's movement, but just nothing appreciable.  I'm looking forward to getting back to see the house very soon, and this time with a new set of eyes: my friend Dave, who's a State Farm Insurance guy, really wants to see the place.  He was very enthusiastic about stopping by while he's in Frederick for the month (or more), and was actually a great resource to have while we were rehabbing our current place.  I guess I'll just be holding my breath for him not to compare the Bungalow to the hurricane- and tornado-ravaged places he's used to evaluating.  Fingers crossed!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Firming plans, Parking signs

So we just met with Mark and Mohamed to firm up our plans, and it seems like everyone's on the same page now.  Some lines were moved around since the last time we met (I promise I'll get the plans on the site as soon as we get an electronic copy.) and, alas, I have lost my bid for a laundry chute.  It's weird because the front porch is much bigger than I had thought, and I just assumed a chute where I thought it could be would drop right into the laundry room... but instead, it would be a big hole in the family room ceiling.  Not so good!  We finalized that although Isaac will get a bigger room, Lola will get a bigger closet (Mark told Lola to remember this detail when she was in her teens), and we also now understand our bedroom will be a whopping 91 square feet.  Yeah, 9.5' x 9.5'.  And 7' x 5' of that will be our bed.  We went home last night and measured it out around our bed, and figured we'll actually have more space on one side than we do now, given the crazy placement of Abby's grandpa's armoire at the foot of our bed.  (I can't wait to get that thing outta my room!  I bank into it constantly because it doesn't close properly.)

Our poorly numbered entranceway
 So I was told by some readers that there has been all talk and no action lately, and although that is very much the truth, there supposedly was some action yesterday after I left.  Immediately south of the house are four pull-in parking spaces; the two on the right are posted as belonging to the windmill, and the two on the left have empty posts-- they're ours.  I went to the manager's office and asked when ours will go up on those posts, so that when we go there we'll actually be able to park (and not have to park all the way over in the common lot or steal one of the windmill spaces...).  Funny enough, apparently the signs were printed a while ago, but no one knew where they went, because they say "9618 Dewitt Drive."  Yeah, that's our address.  But the thing is, the house has two different numbers by the front door, and neither is 9618: one, 106, is the building number from when the house was part of Walter Reed; the other, in the 2800s, is an address on Dewitt Circle, which we front.  No idea when that went into effect, but it isn't our address, and now it's screwed up not only the local mailman but also the parking people.  Dave thanked me for checking something off his list and for allowing him to get random signs out of his office.  Can't wait to park in my own space next time we're up there... that is, if someone isn't bogarting it!

The four spaces behind our house.  Notice our car parked in one of the marked spaces... Sorry, Richard!
Finally, there's a debate Abby and I are having about the downstairs bathroom.  It's one Abby's probably going to win, mostly because it's not something that matters a crazy amount to me, but I figured I'd bring it up anyhow... What do you all think about seeing a toilet when a bathroom door is opened?  I had never considered that it's something that does or doesn't happened, that it's something people plan around.  Have any of you ever planned a bathroom so you can't see a toilet while standing outside the bathroom and looking through the door?  Do any of you have bathrooms that allow for prime toilet viewing from afar?  I'd be interested to know.  Anyhow, the real debate stems from this one: would it make more sense to halve a medium-sized bathroom so the shower and toilet are behind a wall (and door... gotta get in somehow) and the sinks and cabinetry are in a separate room?  Abby says when she was growing up, she would be late to a lot of stuff because her brother was taking too long in the bathroom (and it would never have been the other way around!).  Since Isaac and Lola will be sharing this bathroom and may be in the same schools and therefore on the same schedule, especially in high school, this is an interesting point.  I like a bigger bathroom, just to have more air, but I see where she's coming from.  Any ideas?