building our home

“Home is the nicest word

there is.”
– Laura Ingalls Wilder

raising the roof…and ready for windows…

Posted by on Apr 17, 2012 in building our Home | 0 comments

Even though I have been down for the count for the last few days, the workers have been working hard over at our house. Check out the progress…

...and there goes the roof!

visiting our digs...

we're starting to get electric!

arches up!

looking at the bigger picture...

all wrapped up...

wires...everywhere...

ready for bath time?

the windows are waiting!

Every time I visit, it seems more real, but I don’t think it has sunk in that we will be moving in about 120 days. I guess we better start thinking about purging out more of the junk we don’t want to move again!

Frame it, baby…

Posted by on Apr 11, 2012 in building our Home | 0 comments

We found out the Friday before spring break that they were planning to start framing on Monday. Right on schedule, they started to frame out the basement and start the corner of the garage. (I’m sure there is a reason for this wall being up first…just don’t ask me.)

Monday…

The kids were excited that we let them get out of the car and take a peek...

It was cool to see our "rooms" laid out in the basement.

Tuesday…

Basement framing...check!

Then, we left to visit my mom in Minnesota for a few days. We drove home on Saturday, and even before we went and picked up dinner at Wendy’s, we stopped at the house. It was worth the grumbling tummies…

Looking like a real house...

View from the family room into the kitchen...

We checked out the upstairs...

...and Parker practiced a show in the basement...

Monday again…

Ready for the roof...I love how the porch is turning out...

Wednesday…

I felt very conspicuous taking this picture while they were working...

It was fantastic to be able to walk through the rooms and feel the space out. Closet here…bathroom there…pantry in here…it was all there, translated from paper to reality in such a cool way. Almost made me wish I was an architect…almost. I think I’ll settle for seeing my own house built from someone else’s drawings and our inspiration.

They say that once this phase is done, things happen much more slowly and invisibly. But wow, we have thoroughly enjoyed the dramatic changes from a big dirt pile to our future residence.

Enjoyed it…with a capital E.

waterproofing, cement floors, and wood delivery…oh my!

Posted by on Mar 31, 2012 in building our Home | 0 comments

Last Sunday, my in-laws came up to Grand Rapids to check on our house progress. It was a beautiful day, warm and sunny, and it was fun to be able to show it off a little. When we tromped up to the edge and peeked over, we were pleasantly to see they had squeezed in some plumbing and waterproofing over the weekend.

I love Fiona’s get-up…winter boots, dress, and little bare legs…

Ben and his Dad were much braver than I as they checked things out. I stayed way back and squawked out warnings…”Don’t fall!” “Don’t do anything dangerous!” “Be careful!”  (I’m a barrel of laughs, I know…)

 

And then, we left, thinking that nothing would happen for at least a week. But then, I decided to stop by on Thursday, and we drove up in the middle of the basement floor being poured. It was amazing timing, especially for the kids to jump out and take a look. Parker was especially intrigued…

I was surprised at how different it all looked…again…now that the walls were all backfilled. It’s starting to look like a real house!

To top it all off, we stopped by Friday night, and we saw a glimpse of what is to come next week…

Can’t wait to see what next week has in store!

a shock & awe kind of week…

Posted by on Mar 24, 2012 in building our Home | 2 comments

What a difference a week can make! Last Friday, I was taking pictures of a flat chunk of dirt with a promise that they would be starting to dig the following Monday. This Friday, I drove up to our lot to see concrete walls poking out from the dirt, so I pulled on my boots and tromped around the perimeter to take a few pictures…

one of the garage openings...

underneath the front porch...

the view from the back...

more of the back...

It was the first time that I had made my way around the back, which was cool. It is starting to make sense to me…looking more like the blueprints we pored over and less like random bits and pieces. I could see where the egress window well is going to be, where the garage starts and ends, and where the exterior walls actually sit.

I just stood there for a second, taking it all in, before I ran back through the dirt to the street. A construction worker walking by hitched his thumb towards the lot and asked, “your house?” I nodded, and he said, “Big deal, isn’t it?” “Yep”, I answered, with a big grin on my face.

It’s been a “shock & awe” kind of week, the kind of week where it has started to sink in that we are truly going through with building a house. (In a good way, of course) Not all weeks will be this way…in fact, the next round of tasks will require less earth-moving…things like waterproofing, plumbing, inspections, and plenty more that I don’t even know about. Maybe I can even cut back on my drive-bys…but I probably won’t.

Here’s to week one…over and out!

an x-ray of the foundation…

Posted by on Mar 21, 2012 in building our Home | 0 comments

Today’s progress? Basement wall forms.

It was so strange to walk up to the lot and see the forms sticking up all over and pushing down into the ground. In fact, it was kind of like looking at an x-ray as I looked at the foundation that will soon be covered up with dirt, wood, shingles, and drywall.

Pretty cool.

a surprise over the edge…

Posted by on Mar 20, 2012 in building our Home | 0 comments

I slowly rumbled by the house again today, and almost didn’t stop. It looked like the same piles of dirt, the same hole, but I decided to jump out and hop over to see what was going on.

I was glad I did, because when I peeked over the edge, I saw steel and concrete pathways snaking around the perimeter of the hole. I yelped in surprise, and might have even jumped up and down. I didn’t have my camera with me, and my iPhone was completely out of batteries, so Ben went by later and took a few pictures…

I guess they are called footings, and I guess it means we could have basement walls very soon!

let the excavation commence…

Posted by on Mar 19, 2012 in building our Home | 0 comments

After I dropped Madi and Parker off at school this morning, I drove over to see if they had started working on our lot. I felt a little conspicuous, rolling down the gravel road in the big blue monster, but I tried to ignore it as I did the slow roll-by. There was one big scoop taken out of the dirt, but they were definitely working on it, so I decided to come back later.

I couldn’t believe how much had been done when I drove by three hours later…

…and then even more was done when I came back at 2:30 p.m.

Didn’t realize how difficult it would be to photograph a hole in the ground, but I tried…

Ben took Madi over later on, and got even better pics…

ready to start digging…

Posted by on Mar 19, 2012 in building our Home | 0 comments

We sat down with the construction manager last Tuesday to go through our house plans…one last time. I sat there, trying not to fidget as he walked us through door sizes, window openings, and bulkheads. I honestly thought there couldn’t possibly be anything else that we would need to add or change after going through the plans on our own, but of course, I was wrong. Over the next couple of hours, we added more outlets and switches, including a switch to the plug on our front porch for easy Christmas light displays (sweet, huh?), and even took out a couple random things.

But then, we signed off on the last page of plans, signed a few more documents, took our set of construction keys, and walked out into the sunshine with the promise of our hole being dug the following Monday.

I couldn’t stop smiling.

We stopped by the lot a couple times that week, just to check in.

Thursday…it was still just a rectangle of dirt.

heading into the dirt...

we're ready!

...and excited!

 

and so are the trucks!

We went back on Friday, and it had been staked out…

change is coming...

Monday…here we come!

Consider me “designed”…

Posted by on Mar 19, 2012 in building our Home | 0 comments

We have been thinking about building a house for a couple years, spending time strategizing about layout, talking about the speckled shag carpet we must have, and dreaming about having kitchen counter space and our own bathroom. But when it came down to specifics, I was kind of at a loss. In fact, just thinking about paint colors and kitchen cabinets made me more than a little panicky. Petrified is probably the better word.

We went through the selection process with our condo back in 2002, so we should be old pros. But it somehow seemed more weighty, more serious. What if we forgot something? What if we made horrible decisions? What if Ben and I didn’t agree on anything? t checked out piles of design books from the library, bought design magazines, visited tile and kitchen shops, and tried to meditate on places that made me happy and comfortable.

Our first “selections meeting” rolled around despite my worrying, and I walked in with butterflies in my stomach, a couple of pictures of the kids at Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes clutched in my hands, and a few paint sample ideas. They have a “Design Center” complete with bathroom and kitchen mock-ups, carpet and tile samples, walls of cabinet and faucet choices, an area with siding and roofing samples, and amazing designers. She immediately made us feel at ease, and we dove into our plans with gusto. Was it difficult? Certainly. But we survived admirably, without any marital strife, and walked away from the process feeling awesome about our house.

A couple surprises…

We walked into it thinking we wanted a contemporary casual design with a warm color palette, and walked away with a much more modern look with a cool color palette. And we ended up being thrilled with how it all came together.

We also went back and forth about having dark wood floors with dark kitchen cabinets, but in the end, we went with what we wanted. It was liberating.

Curious? Here’s a few pictures of our selections:

the big picture

bathroom tile, paint colors, etc...

cabinets

another view

Can’t wait to see how it all turns out!

on saying goodbye…

Posted by on Feb 1, 2012 in building our Home, perspective | 3 comments

I’m not very good with goodbyes. Never have been. Never will be. So this “saying goodbye” business to our house has been rather…difficult. It doesn’t help that very well-meaning people in my life keep asking me (in soothing tones) how I’m handling the move. I may say that I’m doing okay, but I’m not. Truth be told, it’s all I can do to choke back the tears so I’m not driving around town with big smears of snot running down my chin and permanent mascara rings around my eyes.

Plus, I don’t really feel like I have had time to process. Between the packing and the exhaustion and the distraction of kiddos, I just had not thought about it much. Until Sunday. I was in our bedroom, wiping down the filthy baseboards when I was almost physically knocked over by wave after wave of nostalgia. It seemed odd that I would have such a visceral reaction to an empty room, but as I ran my fingers along the walls that we painted (multiple times) and walked down the warm wood hallway for the umpteenth time, whispers of the last seven years swirled around in my mind.

Remember all the tea parties in Madi’s little playhouse…remember when Parker smeared all of that red lip stain all over his face…remember all the nights I snuggled up in Fiona’s toddler bed and stared at the flowers on her ceiling…remember when Ben and I would lay in bed at night taking bets on when the kids would wake up…remember when…remember when…

How do I say goodbye to a place where I spent so much time…lived so much life…grew so much as a person…became a mom…

But.

Maybe I can skip right over goodbye and say hello to the new owners instead. Maybe that will bring me some sort of twisted closure. So here goes…

to our dear new homeowners…

Welcome Home! I knew the moment we sat down at the closing that you were moving into the perfect place…as a young couple on the brink of parenthood and looking for a place to put down roots. It is that kind of house, the kind you walk through once and know it is where you want to be. That’s how it was for us when we were looking for a place to grow into a family, and I am so glad that you are starting your adventure at the “blue house” the exact same way. You won’t be disappointed.

I know we gave you some tips at the closing, but I had a few more that I wanted to tell you. I spent a lot of mornings eating pop tarts and putting together puzzles…spent a lot of afternoons playing hide and seek in the backyard…spent a lot of nights rocking babies back to sleep…I feel like an expert that is about to go extinct, so humor me…

Avoid sitting in the living room in the corner between the two windows…I’ll be honest, it can be a little drafty. I would invest in a warm blanket and when possible, get off the couch and snuggle with your kids instead.

Use the dining room…to eat. I have so many memories of time we spent together around the table talking about school, work, and just life. And honestly, the dark wooden floor hides a multitude of PB & J crumbs.

There is a “non-squeaky” path out of the nursery. I promise. It takes some precise leaps and twirls, but it is feasible. Don’t give up!

Try not to accidentally lock your kids in the downstairs bathroom. To get them out, you have to take the door off the hinges, and if you aren’t able to dislodge it before your husband dashes home from work, it will result in piles of tears for your kiddo…and you.

If you occasionally get a whiff of Elmer’s glue and tempera paint in the kitchen, it is leftover from the sky-high pile of art projects that were created in the breakfast nook…our craft area. Sometimes I felt like the smell was here to stay.

You may wish that we didn’t cut down the tree in the backyard. Try to stifle that feeling…not much good came from all those walnuts.

Every time you curse the stairway into the basement, just know that it really was…much worse. I promise.

No matter how dark the night is, there is always the streetlamp shedding a glimmer of light through the cracks in the blinds.

When you are up in the middle of the night with your baby, stop and listen. You might just hear the whispers of the moms who came before you…prayers, cries for help, whispers of “I love you”…listen and draw strength from it – we were there, and we made it too…

Dance. Crank up the music and dance whenever you can. The neighbors won’t care, and it makes everything better somehow.

And speaking of the neighbors, don’t take them for granted. I know we did, and now, I can’t even bring myself to go and say goodbye to the most supportive group of people who look out for each other, support each other, and occasionally crack a few jokes at your expense.

When you are cold in the winter…and hot in the summer…head to the basement room…it is the most well-insulated room in the house…

There will be days where you don’t like the house very much. Tripped circuit breakers and creaky floors and awkward corner cupboards. But even with all that, we always loved it, and I hope you do too.

It’s a special place. Please take care of it…

Love Rachel

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