Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Xander's Laboratory

Saturday Xander turned 5.  This is always a busy time of year for us, with multiple birthdays and anniversaries within a week.  But it has felt especially busy this year with the house build and preparation for my trip to NYC.

Nailing down a theme seems to get harder and harder with him.  At first he wanted a bicycle party, but then he decided that he already knows how to ride his bike, so why would he need a bicycle party?  We talked about a music party because he has recently started piano lessons, but we finally settled on a science party.

Xander is rather inquisitive and loves to learn about things like anatomy, space, and what makes something work.  Once a week my dad takes him to the library, where they both spend time hypothesizing and learning.  It's clear he gets this love from my dad (who has been a pharmacist, a doctor, and in retirement loves to study nuclear physics and calculus I definitely did not get that gene!).  This coupled with Xander's love of Dexter's Laboratory sealed the deal on a laboratory inspired party.

I tend to go big for parties, but this time I promised myself I wouldn't.  Not only was time an issue (we didn't pick a theme until a few weeks ago), but prep space and resources were issues.  I have one small basket in the cabin for craft supplies - 95% of my things are in storage - so I knew I didn't have a lot to work with, and I didn't want to buy much because we don't have any space to store it. Because of this, I kept the decor very minimal, mainly using borrowed or disposal things, and let the experiments be decorative as well.

Martha Stewart sent me this fringe cutter in the mail last week, so I took some tissue paper I had on hand and used it to make a little garland for the table at the last minute.  The cutter definitely made the project go much more quickly than scissors.

And I used my dad's board to do some chalk art.  The pad on the back was filled with his own notes: a perfect fit for the party.

My dad and sister.

It helps that my in-laws backyard is just really beautiful too.  Not much decor needed.

The one thing I did splurge on was Xander's lab coat.

I knew it would be something he would wear after the party, and anytime you can get something personalized, it makes it that much more adorable.

We kept food and drink really simple, with our favorite carry out pizza and the most tasty bottled drinks that you can pick up at World Market.  Remember, I don't love to cook.

The traditional birthday spankings get rather rowdy around here.

And the boys got crazy with their laser guns.

After we ate, we pulled out some green slime Xander and I had made that morning.

And it didn't take the boys long to figure out that you could make bodily noises with it.

We also made plenty of volcanos and elephant toothpaste.

It was unusually chilly, so we finished off with presents and brownies with ice cream inside.  It was hard for me to not put as much time into this party as I usually do, and prepping for it during the day had me second guessing myself often, but I found I was able to enjoy the actual party more.  There was less to manage, and that allowed me time to do the experiments with the kids and just enjoy the celebration.

Do you find yourself multi-tasking during your kids parties?   

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Neverending Nuisance: The Easement

The last bit of home building news I left you with wasn't great.  So many of you reached out with kind words, empathy, some of you even had alternate plans to share!  It feels amazing to have that kind of support throughout this process, so thank you.  

I apologize for the light blogging as of late, but instead of my time being filled with trips to the thrift store and bookshelf organizing, hours have been spent on hold with utility companies and afternoons of meetings with engineers, surveyors and the like.  I'll try my best to not go into every little detail (because it's just a lot and they aren't particularly interesting) but summarize the roller coaster we've been on the last few weeks, with some of the house plans peppered in.

Last time I mentioned we were looking at 10's of thousands of dollars just to move the utilities.  We found out that along with the storm sewer there is a primary power line and a primary phone line running through the easement.  Primary = very expensive to move.  We got to the point where we thought we might have to walk away from the whole thing.  Our last resort was to call the developer: the man who sold my parents this lot without telling them about the easement.

Needless to say, he was rather defensive and wasn't interested in taking any responsibility (easements are put in privately by developers, not by government), but he did have some good information for us.  The storm sewer has an inlet (drop-in that collects water) at the top of our lot that drains through the easement to the sewer at the end of the street.  He told us that it doesn't really collect much water because of the grade of the land and could probably be abandoned.  We could simply place an inlet at the front of our lot and pull out the rest of the sewer.  If the city approves this (which they said they likely would, we're just waiting on an engineer to draw it up) then the power line can stay put - the most expensive thing to move.

The phone line is primary, but from the looks of things, they had to work around some trees while burying it, and in the process they went outside of the easement.  We're still waiting to hear back, but the phone company will be responsible for moving anything outside the easement, and we're hopeful that they'll adjust the rest while they're at it for minimal to no charge.

If all of this works out, our house will fit!  We'll be able to meet the neighborhood square footage minimum and have a side entry, 3 car garage and a walkout basement: the things that my husband's dream home are made of.

Along with easement dealings and everyday life, we've been finishing up all of the bid work to turn into the bank on Monday.  We're attempting to push along like this is all going to work out.  With the bank taking 2 or 3 weeks to assess everything, we're praying we get going before the ground freezes - because you can't pour foundation once it freezes, and I can't imagine waiting until next year to get started.

In the meantime, I purchased the perfect light for a colonial foyer.  I'd been negotiating over this thing for months and picked it up last weekend.  Look at those curves, clearly it's a she. She's huge and solid and I can't wait for her to greet guests!

I'm positive you've learned more about easements than you'd ever care to know, but thanks again for the support through all of this.  I know we will come out on the other side with something great, having little recollection of these labor pains.


Monday, September 1, 2014

Sunrise Shooting

I'm not really a morning person.  My ideal wake up time is anywhere between 8:30 and 9am, but being a responsible grown up means getting up before my kids do.  Other than tending to my children, I only get up early on Sundays to lead worship at church.  But when my old friend Justin told me he was going to be in town and asked if I'd want to go on one of his sunrise shoots, I couldn't say no - especially when he offered to come all the way out to the country.  So I set my alarm for 5am on Sunday, got up after hitting snooze a few times, and threw on something I could go straight to church in.

I met Justin in college through my friend Garrett.  We were all a bunch of artsy kids with lots of side projects and helped each other out however we could.  They both taught me a lot about marketing and design and took pictures for my jewelry business, and in turn I would model for different projects they had going.

I'll spare you any of those images, as we've all come a long way (their photography has improved and I've lost my college 15), but it was fun to step back to what we used to do.

All those years ago, I never had any interest in photography.  I remember wondering why it took photographers so long to figure out light and what all of the fuss was about.  Now that I'm usually the one behind the camera, it was nice to be on the other side again with a new appreciation.

My in-laws and I try to go on a long walk down the backroads around here several times a week. There is a lot of beauty I've been wanting to capture, and I thought now would be the opportune time (when I'm not trying to exercise).  We started off getting some shots before the sun made it up over the horizon.  I knew Justin would want me in pictures, but I figured I could learn a thing or two along the way, and as someone who is self taught, I jump at any chance I can get to learn from professionals.

Justin also brought his friend Logan along (an amazing wedding photographer) and he gave me lots of tips as a fellow Canon user.

We headed to a new spot and waited for the sun to come up.

It's extremely popular to shoot at sunset (what's known as the golden hour), but shooting at sunup had never really crossed my mind.  It does make sense though.  You hear of photographers chasing light to get all of their shots in, but when the sun is coming up instead of going down, there's no chasing necessary.

I definitely needed a nap that afternoon, but it was an amazing experience that I would certainly be up for again.  Thanks again, Justin and Logan!  

Are you a morning person?  

Some photos by me.  Most photos by Justin Meyer or Logan Clement.