Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Living in a Fish Bowl

Not much has happened with the house since last I wrote, although a lot has happened in it.  My parents spent the weekend-- our first guests! --and helped us put a whole bunch of stuff away, emptying a lot of boxes and creating actual open space in the great room, rather than the huge pile anchored by our two enormous armoires and covered with plastic sheeting.  We put Lola's bed together, and decided to buy a new version from IKEA rather than putting together the identical one we bought from a couple off of Craigslist what seems like ages ago; it worked out, too, because my parents took the used one back to their place so the kids can use it when they sleep over.  Slowly but surely, the place is becoming livable.

Living in the house is definitely going to be interesting.  We have chosen to be in a fish bowl by buying the house that's pretty much at the center of the community-- and don't forget the 49 windows-- but at the same time, it'd be nice to, oh, I don't know, be able to change my pants in my own bedroom!  For the first four workdays this week, I would go downstairs to take a shower in the morning (the upstairs shower is still doorless), then come back up and grab clothes from my closet, then head to the upstairs bathroom to change.  One day I picked a shirt that was too wrinkled, so I came back into my bedroom only wearing pants, and a neighbor walked right by.  I'm sure all she saw was me standing there with no shirt on, but I'm also pretty sure by the look on her face that she was pretty sure I was naked.  Oh well-- that's what they get for letting exhibitionists into their fishbowl, right?  (Um, right?)  However, as of the weekend, all of that has changed, as we have had our cellular shades installed.  We got the kind that can be pulled up or down, so we can still have daylight in, say, the top two windows without putting on a show for the neighborhood.  The shades are in the three bedrooms, and should assuage my sister's fears of people watching the kids while they sleep.

The kids, by the way, are sleeping just fine.  The first night they slept with each other in Isaac's room, but ever since they've used their own bed. Lola's tickled pink about her new bed, and I'm sure she'll be even more so once Abby gets her built-in completed.  Isaac's still in his old bed, which will eventually be given over to the guest room once we get a new mattress and give him our current one, but his room's all decked out with the solar system on the ceiling, his toys already strewn all over the place, and his aquarium humming in the corner.  Ah yes, the aquarium.  Abby tried her darnedest to get that thing to stay in DC, but it's made its way over, which I'm happy about.  Having had one all through growing up, I really liked staring at mine as I was falling asleep, and I know I was much healthier for having had a giant humidifier in the room.  That said, we'll take much better care of it in the new place than we did in the basement; when I emptied the water there, it looked more like iced tea than something fish would want to live in.  Driving the six miles with the aquarium in my passenger seat was a lesson in how smoothly I don't drive; even when I tried the most babyish of rolling stops and starts, the couple inches of water I had left in there (with all 30-some fish wondering what the heck was going on) sloshed in a great example of what a tsunami might look like if the earth was placed in a car and driven up 16th Street...

The commute's not nearly as bad as I feared, although it's much better in the morning than in the evening.  In the morning, I'm getting up at 6 instead of 6:10, and I'm not making the kids' lunches-- at least not yet.  If I get out the door before 6:45, I can catch a Montgomery County Ride On bus right outside, take that to Silver Spring Metro station, and I get to work in Rosslyn by 7:40.  If I miss the bus, it's a one-mile walk to Forest Glen Metro station, which takes about 17 minutes.  Of the seven morning commutes I've had so far, I've missed the bus twice, but only once have I gotten to work late, and even then by only about ten minutes.  On the walk to Forest Glen, I see practically no one, which is weird.  That's not the same on the way home, though. Twice I've been timing myself to see which way walking from Forest Glen is the fastest, and each time I've been thwarted by pesky neighbors wanting to --gasp!-- talk to me!  Actually, it's great, because I'm making an effort to learn people's names, and there's no better way to do that than to actually meet them on a regular basis.  I'll admit that after living in our house in DC, there was one household on our block that knew everything about us, but we knew the names of exactly two people in their large family.  Yeah, after nearly a decade on the block.  Now you can imagine how embarrassing this was for me, since I grew up as the paperboy who at least knew the name of the head of every household on my block.  So this time around, I mean business, and started by going to the Homeowners' Association meeting on Thursday, and taking detailed notes not on the issues at hand (which are mostly about money), but about people's names and where they live.

So Susan and Ron, who moved here from Pennsylvania, I was very happy to talk to you two on the way home from work the other day.  And Amy, who just had a baby with her husband Tony, I'm sorry if I freaked you out by knowing your name (and saying it) twice as I walked by over the last couple of days.  And Bobby, who works as a wine specialist at Dean + Deluca, I hope you did well on your test, and will refer you to the winos that are my mother-in-law and her husband when they come by this weekend; and I'm definitely intrigued by your wife, because I can honestly say I've never met a woman named Lady Stacey. And Paula and Richard and Peg with the Easter egg tree and Minh and Janice from Australia and Miss Sally and her daughter Shelly and Jim and Susan and Carol and Lou (whose dogs are Diva and Pierre) and Brian and Laura (hey! I know two Brian-and-Lauras now!) and... well... you get the picture.  We may live in a fishbowl, but those things are made of glass and the fish can see out just as well as we see inside.  Abby and I want to live here for a long time, so it makes no sense not to know our neighbors.  So, neighbors?  Please don't get freaked out when I call you by name, because if I don't do it now, it'll be 2023 and I'll be asking my kids to find out the names of the people we've known since before we moved in.

So moving back inside the house, I guess there have been some small things going on.  All four new windows are supposedly in now.  One has been installed-- in the kitchen-- which is good, since any time the wind blew, the insulation that was there made a crinkly sound that reverberated throughout the whole level. I see one other one ready to go in up on the balcony, but have no idea where the others are.  The cabinets are not complete yet, but the last one has finally been delivered, so we are in the process of scheduling the final install.  Once that's done, they'll take back all the mistake cabinets, which will free up another huge corner of the great room.  The countertop is done, except we realized we needed them to drill four holes instead of two, based on our choice of faucets.  So I emailed them last night and am still waiting for a response.  As a result, the kitchen sink is still out of commission, so tonight I had to wash the dishes in the bathroom. It's gross to wash the dishes in the bathroom, but it's also very nerve-wracking to have to do it on a brand-new porcelain sink that is ridiculously shallow.  I was treating each dish as if it were bone china, not because of the preciousness of the dish, but because I didn't want the sink to get another chip.  Yeah, I said "another;" no idea how/when/why, but there's a tiny chip right on the inside corner of our upstairs vanity.  Already.  I guess it just follows us, since there's one in our upstairs sink from DC that's been there ever since I mistakenly dropped one of Abby's mysterious glass bottles from the medicine cabinet way back when. (Who'd'a thunk that the porcelain would break and the glass bottle would come out the victor in that contest?)

Tomorrow we're having the measure for the upstairs shower door.  If you'll recall, we turned down the $3000 custom door our contractor suggested, but Abby also turned down the perfectly good $700 one I found online because it had an edge on the side, and she wanted a perfectly frameless one.  So we're going to inch up a bit, and go for the Home Depot custom ones that are about $1500, after which we can take a shower in our own bathroom instead of running up and down the stairs to do it.  After that, hopefully the cabinets will be installed within the next few days, which will include the hookup of the dishwasher and range, and the ability of our contractors to install the range hood.  Next Monday we're scheduled for a Comcast install for Internet, cable, and a security system, although we're pretty sure none of it is going to work.  You see, we've been going back and forth with both Comcast and Verizon for weeks, trying to see if they actually provide service to us.  At first neither recognized our addresses, but then they did.  Now they want to just come out and do an appointment, even though Lee told us the windmill next-door was told they can't get service because no wires have been pulled for our side of the street.  If you can imagine, I'm trying to get Comcast to put my house on the same work order as theirs, to save us time as well as to save the Comcast guy from having to come out for no reason.  Comcast refuses to give me any information on an account that's not mine, even when I assure them I in fact want absolutely no information.  "Just look at their account, don't say a word, and see if they can physically get cable; if they can, great! Schedule the appointment for us; but if they can't, wouldn't it save us all the trouble?"  "I'm sorry, sir, but I can't give information out on anyone else's account."  AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA.   So Comcast is coming out on Monday, but the smart money's on us not having cable on Tuesday.

So that's the update for now.  Again, due to that whole not-having-cable thing, I can't upload pictures.  So I promise a buttload of pictures once everything's hooked up.  In the meantime, I've gotta run home and pack for my three-day Buffalo adventure that starts tomorrow and will hopefully include Duff's chicken wings, Anderson's lemon ice, and Alex Trebek. :)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

First Post Post-Move

It's been a week since I last posted, but don't be too mad, because I have an excuse: we don't have Internet access at home.  Yet.  

Didja get that?  Home.  Yet.  Yep: we've moved in.  HALLE-FREAKIN'-LUJAH!

Late last week we said it was time to cut the cord, so we pulled up stakes from our DC house and moved almost all the rest of our stuff into the new place.  By Saturday evening a very good chunk of our belongings had made the six-mile trip north across the state line in three car trips, and by Sunday evening there were only a few things left.  (Actually, just as we've been living in the state of perpetual "just another few weeks" since last summer, it seems as if this week has been a state of perpetual "just another carload or two.")  By today, though, we officially have one carload left, which we'll pick up tomorrow: our tv and the aquarium.  And that's it.  We'll be moved.

What that doesn't mean is that we're living in something that would resemble a normal living situation.  We've got boxes everywhere, piled strategically so as not to block access to things the contractors will still need to get around.  And believe me, there are still a lot of things, which I'll enumerate at the end of this post.  But I want to focus on the positive, because, at least as concerns the house, this has been a great week.

So where to begin?  I'll go room by room and give updates.  In the kitchen, the countertop has been completed, including adding the extra hole at the sink for my beloved hot-water tap.  The sink is in, too, but no plumbing has been hooked up.  I believe that's the last step before livability, but since we have water in the bathrooms, we're making do.  (This very much resembles the "fancy camping" we lived through for such a long time with the old house, only this will not last nearly as long.)  The fridge is turned on and mostly stocked.  The missing cabinets still haven't been delivered, and Home Depot is going to let us know when they are.  We have a few extra cabinets that were mismade, and they keep calling to have them picked up and returned to the store.  But the timing on this is getting out of hand, and I'm going to insist to them that they put us out and we deserve to keep at least some of the misfits-- especially since a couple of them will fit really well elsewhere in the house.  The range is in but not on; the range hood is not in, but the hole for it has been cut; the microwave is in but not framed, and Isaac inaugurated it by reheating leftover pasta.  The dishwasher looks too small for the hole it's supposed to fit in, but we're going to wait until the cabinet guys come back for the final install because, who knows, maybe it will magically fit in.  I think, though, that we might have to get a new dishwasher and do something with this one... although I can't imagine what.  And all the lights are in, including the two pretty ones with the incredibly wasteful Edison bulbs.  Abby always turns those on, and I turn them off, because they cost a fortune to light.

Our bedroom is the room that's probably the most complete.  The closet had already been installed, and over the course of a few nights almost all the shelves and hangers and drawers were filled up with clothes.  I had to reinvent how I folded my tee shirts, because the old way was only filling the front half of each shelf; by folding shirts in thirds, I now get 50% more shirt per shelf.  I bought one of those tie hangers that holds like 40 ties, but it's hard to use and only gets about two-thirds of my collection onto it; similarly, I bought four of those five-pants hangers from IKEA and I don't like the work it takes to take a pair off without disturbing the others.  Both save space, but I'm going back to my regular tie rack and one-pair-per-hanger style.  Abby put the new bed together-- which is the same as our old bed, except a new frame, since West Elm gave it to us for free.  The bed fits right up to the windows, with both side tables in the room, with only a few inches to spare-- perfect fit.  The first couple nights in there, we switched sides of the bed to see which would work: on night one, I was on the closet side and she was on the window side; on night two, we switched.  Night two was incredibly awkward for both of us-- it's so weird, but after two nights, I believe we have decided what side of the bed we'll be sleeping on for the next couple of decades. (And it's neither the same as we had it in the old house or the way I had expected it to be, since Abby's usually freaked out being next to windows.)

The windows do freak us out a bit, but I think we'll survive!  We ordered custom-made cellular blinds, which arrived at the house on Saturday; just waiting for them to be installed.  Once installed, they'll not only help with shielding from onlookers, which seem to be everywhere, since the house is located pretty much in a giant fish bowl, but will also help with efficiency.  They're made to be pulled up from the bottom, so we'll be able to block off the bottom half or two-thirds of the window, but still let in natural light from the top part.  It'll be nice to be able to change my clothes in my own room, or to sleep without knowing everyone can watch me from the street.  This morning, for instance, I had my pants on but decided to change shirts, so I was standing there looking into my closet when a neighbor walked by.  I'm sure it looked like I was standing there naked, but, well, I wasn't, so there.  Next week at this time, hopefully the blinds will shield the neighbors from the less-than-flattering exhibitionist that is my pasty self.

The great room is pretty much the same, since it had been painted way back.  The up-lighting along the sides looks great, and even the workers agree-- I think they thought Abby was a bit weird for her choices in there.  Instead of spot lights or track lighting, she chose these little linked LED lights that were plug-ins, and had them hard-wired in so each light lighted the area between two of the rafters.  It looks really cool-- the only problem being that they were wired in a weird way, so if we want all of them to be on we have to flip four different switches, one in each corner of the room.  We put Anyu's dining-room table together and have actually been eating at an honest-to-goodness table, rather than on a trunk disguised as a coffee table in front of the TV in the basement with the kids sitting on the floor.  We don't have chairs yet, but since they're going to be a major purchase, we're going to wait with them until the construction is done-- don't want them to get scratched right away if we can help it.  Oh, and the fireplace is in and turned on.  Actually, it was so turned on that when we got back from Florida it was about 80 degrees inside, even though it was in the 50s outside.  We still have to learn how to make it work, because it's a little trickier than we had hoped, but I think we'll get it.

The front door has the wrong hardware on it, but other than that it's the same.  And the front foyer has been painted really nicely in the same gray color we used in the downstairs bathroom.  And what do you know: our wedding lily made it through our vacation and is still alive, so I rewarded it with a good dusting and a move into the bay window.

Downstairs, the kids' rooms are both moving along.  Their beds are semi-set-up, in that they're sleeping in them but the frames are not done altogether.  My sister came by this weekend and helped put together some of their furniture, so now they each have a desk and a book case.  Once all my clothes made it out of my old dresser, Isaac inherited it, we stuck it in his closet, and his clothes are also all put away; only Lola's remain sorted in a laundry basket and suitcase.  Both sets of closet doors have been delivered, but aren't up yet.  Abby even helped Isaac decorate his ceiling with a solar system set he got for Christmas (or was it Valentine's Day?  I don't know... Abby gets them presents for everything, which is a point of contention...)  Anyhow, it's coming along great, and more importantly they love their rooms.  There have already been more than a handful of times when they've disappeared into their respective rooms to play.  Alone.  Quietly.  (I know!)  However, one of those times?  Yeah, not so good.  I got back from picking a load up from the old house on Saturday and Abby was fuming, and Lola was pouting.  I guess the kids found their spin-art toy that takes paint and splatters it all around on a piece of paper that spins around... and started playing with it on their own-- and more importantly, on the new floor.  They had paint all over their hands, and got it all over Lola's floor, and we hadn't even slept there one night.  Abby was furious, and the toy has been banished.  Luckily, the mess cleaned up because it was caught early enough.  Phew!

The family room actually has a seating arrangement, and once the TV arrives tomorrow (we need to bring it when there are no kids in the car but two adults handy, since it's heavy and requires the seats to be dropped down) it'll go in.  We won't have cable yet, but that's only days away.  Last week I called Comcast again, and they again insisted they don't cover our house.  9610 and 9615 and 9620 Dewitt Drive?  Sure.  But 9618?  Yeah, no.  I insisted they were wrong, and implored them to come out to check.  36 hours later I get a call: "Mr. Wahl, we'd actually be happy to charge you $200 a month to watch ten channels and check your Facebook status."  Actually, that's not exactly what they said, but it's what they meant.  They're coming by on Tuesday to install cable, Internet, and potentially a security system.  We don't know yet whether we'll do that, since it's such a good neighborhood.  But Abby's freaked out by the windows-- understandably-- and the fact that the kids are on the ground floor, so my money's on us having it installed.

The laundry room?  Well, apart from being able to move the washer and dryer back from where they were perched so close to the door, nothing looks different.  But it's so incredibly nice to have in-house laundry back.  Those nearly five months of begging others to allow us to wash in their place, or going to a laundromat even though we own two washers and two dryers, was definitely wearing on our patience.  I have a load of laundry going as I type this, and no one's paying attention to it, and that's how it should be.  It's nice and quiet, too, and plays a silly little electronic song when it's done, just like my parents' does.  On the other side of the floor, though, things are not so quiet.

That's where the water heater is.  What, you didn't hear me?  I said, "THAT'S WHERE THE WATER HEATER IS!!!"  Yeah, this thing is crazy loud, and I'm not happy about it.  I'm wondering if it's the difference between having a gas water heater and an electric one-- our electric one in DC never made a peep, but this one sounds like an espresso machine gone berserk.  We don't have it enclosed-- yet-- but believe me you, that will happen.

The bathroom is great, and taking a shower down there (since we don't have a shower door upstairs yet) is really nice.  The water heater is directly behind the shower, so it's instantly hot.  The window fogs over in about 30 seconds, so there's no putting on a show.  (We're going to frost the window, so sorry potential peepers.)  And I managed to cajole Abby into letting me put fluorescent bulbs into a couple of the fixtures.  The toilets flush beautifully, and ridiculously fast.  And the door locks.  Did you hear that?  For the first time, we have locking interior doors.  It's magical, really.

So that's where we stand. In the morning, I've been getting up ten minutes earlier than in DC, and getting to work right on time.  The way home I can't judge yet, because this week I've had to stay later than usual, and the Metro at 5:00 is way different than it will be at 4:30.  One day I got home in under an hour, and the next it took me nearly 80 minutes because of a delay on the Blue Line.  (I couldn't get mad, though, because the delay would've affected my old commute as well.)  I'm definitely gonna get a bike to park at Forest Glen station on nice days, but for now, especially since I've got room on my SmarTrip card, I've been taking the Ride On bus to and from Silver Spring station, since its schedule lines up perfectly with mine, especially in the mornings.

Once we get settled, I'll be able to write with more frequency again, and will post pictures.  But for now, I leave you with an email we sent to Mark this evening, of things we need to discuss tomorrow.  (My more frequent readers will see the tone has changed a lot since the last letter of demands... for the better, that is.)  It seems like the closer we are to the finish line, the more things there are to do.  But we're moved in, and that's all that matters.  At least this week :)

Mark: here are the current issues with the house. We would like to discuss them with you on Friday, but wanted you to be aware of them as soon as possible. Thanks, and talk to you soon. -G

1.      Flooring issues: There’s a really weak spot in the great room just in front of the kitchen doorway.  Every time you walk by, your heel depresses the spot a lot; also, in the same spot ther's a nail sticking up.   Also, in our bedroom, just at the entrance on the right, one of the boards is split lengthwise, and will catch on your socks as you walk by,  Definitely just waiting to pull right up and out.‬

2.  After the inspection, your guys can come in and cut down that backsplash, which is still ridiculously high.  The electrician installed the outlets vertically on the backsplash, even though we requested (and he said he could do) horizontal.  The height of the backsplash is unacceptable as is.‬

3.      We’ve purchased a chandelier for the dining room and are waiting for delivery.

4.      We need to switch a couple pieces of the door hardware that were installed in the incorrect place.  We need the knob currently on the back door switched to the front door.  (I labeled all of the knob  boxes… don’t know why this one was put in where it was.)  Also, the deadbolt in the back door was installed improperly; it locks from the inside, but there’s no way to lock or unlock it from the outside—the knob doesn’t catch for some reason.‬

5.      I bought the lighting timer that I wanted to have installed for the switch beside the front door, to use for the front porch lights.  It requires a neutral wire, which is why I called you from Home Depot on Sunday.  Let me know if this is not possible, because then I’ll exchange it for the one one step down, which does not require a neutral wire… I just like this one better.‬

6.      We have an old-fashioned doorbell that we’d like to have installed on the front door.  It’s sitting on a box on the piano (which itself can be moved downstairs if you guys can do it) and the directions and hardware are all in the box.  Abby can show the guys where it goes; it actually gets mounted right to the door, I believe.‬

7.      Also, Abby will show the guys where we’d like the address numbers to go.  Apparently, not having them up is very confusing to a lot of people (FedEx, mailmen, etc.) so putting them up would be a good idea.  We’ve given up on finding the mailbox, so we’re just going to buy a new one to have mounted on the wall.  Both the mailbox and the address numbers will go on the wall to the right of the front door, as you look at it from outside.‬

8.    The water heater is crazy loud!  We will definitely want to have it encased once all is said and done.  I have never heard our water heater in DC make the noises this one makes—we can hear it in the kitchen! 
9. You can hear everything between the kids’ bedrooms. Abby installed her secret passageway and discovered there was no insulation in the wall. I'm very disappointed with this, since we paid more than $1000 to have this done throughout the house.
10. The light fixture in the mudroom is too low and needs to be raised.
11. The spigot outside is dripping.
12. The issue with the front door opening outward has not been resolved.
13. The paint on the stair risers still needs to be scraped.
14. The doors for the bathroom and upstairs closet can be installed.
15. What is going on with the PVC pipe looping out of the left side of the roof (as you look at the house)? Also, there's a pipe of some sort sticking out of the ground by the back door.
16. One of the great room ceiling lights (the one all the way to the left above the kitchen door) keeps going out.
17. What is the switch on the countertop for? There will be no garbage disposal, and the hot-water heater stays on all the time with a plug.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Video Entry

We've been away for a week and a half, and have plenty to report, but before I do, I figured I'd post the most recent video update.  Got home from Florida by 7, kids were in bed by 8, and I was in the house by 8:30 recording this.  Abby was definitely jealous that I got to see everything first, but she gets to go there today-- when it's light out-- and I have to wait for that until at least Thursday.  So, without further ado...