Making Garden Mountains out of Molehills

garden_after_3_0614My apologies for being AWOL lately. Actually, my physical presence has been right here as usual. It’s just my brain that’s been absent. As some of you might remember, I began this blog last September just as Biggie and Smalls were headed back to school. Now that we’re on summer break, this is the first time I’ve attempted to write with two children all up in my grill for most of the day. Let me tell you, it isn’t coming easily. Even when the girls are, miraculously, entertaining themselves and I have a moment to think, they interrupt me approximately every ten minutes for a snack or to referee some argument. Smalls is in a serious tattling phase so virtually nothing Biggie does or says goes unreported these days.

Sadly, we’ve also had a close family member pass away this week from pancreatic cancer after having been diagnosed only two months ago. The last few weeks have been an emotional roller coaster for people we love dearly and to say I’ve been distracted would be an understatement.

Since there’s been a short lull in “Operation Make the Downstairs Habitable Again,” I dove headfirst into a gardening project. In fact, my car is sitting outside at this very moment filled with bags of topsoil, mulch and manure. (Aaahhhhh…the bouquet!) Biggie and Smalls have been begging me to plant flowers in the yard for the last few years. Because I’m a terrible mother who cares more about the aesthetics of my house than making my children happy, I’ve attempted to get them excited about various grasses and other, more architectural, plants, but to no avail.

This year, the girls helped me plant some herbs and tomato plants, but were still intent on adding flowers to the mix. In a moment of weakness, I told them we would plant their own little flower garden by the mailbox. In hindsight, I’m sure they envisioned running to the garden store, grabbing some pansies, digging holes and sticking them in the ground. But, because I’ve recently been craving a creative project not requiring sidewalk chalk, glitter glue or Play-doh, I managed to turn a little flower garden into a big production. (Hence, the bag of hot cow shit in my car.)

I’ll add a photo gallery below as the project progresses. I’m hoping a good outcome with this little mailbox garden will give me the confidence to tackle other landscaping projects I’ve been putting off for the last seven years. Either that or I’ll do permanent damage to my back and go bankrupt paying my chiropractor, acupuncturist and gardener which will mean we can’t afford to send the girls to college, they won’t be able to support themselves and we’ll all end up out on the streets. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the former outcome.

Update: the mailbox garden was a success, but not without a few obstacles…lots of digging, some serious back pain and many trips to the garden store. Some schmuck–most likely the contractor who flipped our house before the owners preceding us bought it–dumped crap loads of pea gravel into numerous areas of the yard, the corner by the mailbox unfortunately being one of them. Biggie and Smalls helped me with small bits of the project like mixing up the soil and planting the mondo grass but, truthfully, they were far more excited about the annuals they bought and planted in a pot.

Someday, I’ll learn to allow small projects be small projects but for now, I’m really happy with the outcome of my mailbox garden. Even the mailman stopped to say how great it looked and, of course, I claimed I did it all for him. Tackling the landscaping the the front yard was actually on my list of things to do once the girls were both in school so I suppose now I need to move on to the rest of the weedy mess!

 

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Where’s That Damn Noah When You Need Him?

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Remember my “home office”?

I clearly cursed myself when I told you last week about all the awesome progress I’d made carving out a real, grown-up, home office space for myself in our downstairs living room. As you can see from this photo, I’ve had a bit of a setback. Well, OK…a major setback.

I walked downstairs Saturday morning with the intention of throwing in a load of laundry, spackling the former gallery wall in the “office,” and prepping the walls for painting. As I was descending the stairs, I said to Ad Man, “Wow…it smells really musty down here.” Ever the helpful husband, Ad Man told me to turn on the dehumidifier. I then stepped from the wood stair to the carpeted basement and thought, “Why does this rug feel moist?” (That was for you, D. I know how much you love the word MOIST.)

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Chunk ‘o ceiling.

The next step was more than just moist (I could do this all day). In fact, I felt a squish and looked down to see water oozing up from between my toes. I yelled, “Honey, we have a serious problem!” and continued down the soaked hallway to the utility/storage room where I discovered a gaping hole in the ceiling, wet plaster everywhere and water pouring from above.

Luckily for us, unluckily for them, we have a bunch of friends who have dealt with flooding from broken pipes and encroaching creeks in the last few years. So, I ran next door in my pajamas to get my friend B who sprung into action the moment I said, “We need your help!” B grabbed his 6 foot tall 13-year old (my adopted neighbor son C, also in his pajamas) and we headed to our house to figure out: a) why it was raining indoors, b) how to make the water stop falling from the ceiling, and c) just how many of our belongings stored in the storage room (naturally) were now floating.

A frenzy of activity followed. I fought through my social anxiety and called the insurance company to open a claim and ask a million questions. Ad Man searched for the valve to turn the water off to the house and B and C carried waterlogged boxes, artwork, clothing, toys and furniture out to the back deck. One fun twist to this whole debacle is that our house is in a flood plain so we’ve tried to be diligent about keeping things in the storage room up and off the floor. Little did we know that we should have been defending against an attack from above.

We quickly called a plumber and a water remediation company recommended by friends. Luckily, Ad Man was able to locate the correct valve and shut the water off because the plumber took his sweet time getting to us. I did have to give him a break though simply because the name of his company was “Hers & His Plumbing.” A little girl-power goes a long way in my book.

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Soggy playroom

A troop of strapping young men from the water remediation company arrived, in record time, tumbling out of a large truck and a van. They were a well-oiled machine and, for the first time all morning, I breathed a small sigh of relief. There’s nothing quite so calming as the arrival of a team of experts whose job it is to take over and manage your disaster. My feeling of relief was short-lived, however, when they started tearing up carpet, pulling off baseboards and punching holes in my walls so they could check to see if the insulation was wet.

Honestly though, the hardest thing for me to watch was the armies of people trudging in and out of the house turning even the dry parts of my floor into a filthy mess. I just kept saying to Ad Man, “I can’t believe I’ve kept that light beige carpet looking brand new for seven years and now this!” When you’re a stay-at-home mom, you sometimes derive a sense of pride and accomplishment from the most banal things. It’s fairly pathetic that I now get the same satisfaction from keeping a rug clean as I used to get from a well-written Motion for Summary Judgment.

Soggy guestroom

Soggy guestroom

As teams of people rushed around my house with tools and fans and huge silver boxes I was later informed were industrial strength dehumidifiers, I retreated upstairs and stood paralyzed with not the slightest clue what I should be doing. Eventually, I wandered off to make the kids’ beds and sweep the wood floors thinking that, if I was going to be living in half a house for a while, it had better be clean or I’d surely lose my damn mind.

The downstairs living room/office space was spared from the water because it is a step higher than the rest of the rooms, but it was not entirely unaffected. As the day wore on, more and more crap was deposited in my newly cleaned and organized office space. It took some serious mental strength to remain calm as I watched all my hard work being undone bit by bit. A friend who was following the drama from afar via Facebook even commented on my relative serenity in the face of all the chaos. Actually, it’s more likely I was just in denial. Zen MommyEnnui was long gone by the time I woke up the next morning and the adrenaline had worn off, however.

The day of the flood, I was thankful for all the things that were spared, like family photos dating back to my grandfather’s childhood. The following day, however, I was far more upset about all our belongings that got trashed, like the two limited edition, signed, Barack Obama posters we bought for the girls so they could have a little piece of history.

Now imagine 8 more of these.

Now imagine 8 more of these.

The incessant buzzing noise of a bunch of fans and dehumidifiers can quickly cause a person to become quite unhinged. I keep wanting to describe the sound as the equivalent of “Chinese water torture,” but I’m worried that that may be considered racist now. Should it be Asian water torture? Or should we refrain from blaming Asians altogether? In China, do they refer to “American Waterboarding”? Boy, am I good at wandering off topic or what? Remind me to add “skilled at digressing” to the list of strengths on my resume.

OK, where were we? Ah yes, Day 1, Post-Flood. Well, my day started sucking immediately upon waking. You see, two giant dehumidifiers draining every last bit of moisture from the air plus ten giant humming fans equals one gargantuan headache. I stumbled out into the living room where the girls had the TV on the highest possible volume in order to hear it over the fans. Then I was hit smack in the face by the stench of nasty-ass old motel wafting up from downstairs. IT WAS LIKE, SUDDENLY, MY ENTIRE LIFE WAS IN ALL CAPS!

If you think the sight of water pouring from one’s ceiling and water bubbling up from one’s carpet is disturbing, that’s nothing in comparison to viewing the aftermath. I walked downstairs to find a half crunchy, half soaked, all stained carpet. In the absence of baseboards, my walls no longer met the floor, instead ending in a jagged line that appeared to have been gnawed off by beavers and leaving a dark and mysterious gap around most of the room. Just getting around to assess the damage was a challenge what with having to hurdle over all the fans. Seriously, if I was looking to buy a house and this one was listed at a low, low price as a “fixer-upper,” I would have turned up my nose and sought shelter elsewhere.

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Oh, the irony.

And, sadly, that is where things remain today. A chorus of angels sang “Hallelujah!” when all the drying equipment was turned off and removed yesterday evening and the carpet is now all crunchy, but other than that, not much has changed. We’ve been diligently listing and figuring out the value of everything that was destroyed so we’ll eventually be able to replace that crap with more crap. An insurance adjuster will be arriving tomorrow to compute the cost of returning this smelly fixer-upper to its original state and, hopefully, write us a big fat check so we can begin the process of doing that.

Though it will undoubtedly take longer to complete, there’s a chance I’ll actually be able to hire professionals to prep and paint MommyEnnui headquarters. That may unfortunately be the only silver lining to this big, ugly storm cloud. Well, that and being able to entertain you all with the story of the Great Basement Flood of 2014. Always an adventure at MommyEnnui!

Help Design MommyEnnui Headquarters

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Can you spot my desk?

Please help! MommyEnnui HQ is in dire need of an upgrade. After almost seven years in our house, I’m actually going to be getting a real, organized, home office space. I’ve attached some “before” photos so you can feel better about the state of your house. As you can see, I do have a desk of sorts. As you can also see, my desk has been buried under a pile of unfiled paperwork, old bills, a printer that ran out of ink two years ago and a random collection of “kid krap” for as long as I can remember.

My lack of a workspace hasn’t been a big problem until recently. Ad Man handles the bills and there have always been plenty of other surfaces in the house on which to fold laundry, change diapers, iron clothes (Ha, ha! Just kidding…I don’t iron) and complete other stay-at-home mom tasks. Since starting this blog, I’ve either worked at the kitchen table, on the couch or at a coffee shop somewhere. I’ve also developed some pretty major wrist problems and need a more ergonomically correct set up or I’m going to end up requiring carpal tunnel surgery. No fun.

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View from living room area.

Moreover, I’ve started working on another, top secret, writing project for which I’ll be needing a workspace that accommodates both me and a writing partner. I’m super excited about the project, but I’m also somewhat superstitious and don’t want to jinx anything. As it progresses, and if it doesn’t end up sucking, I promise to tell you all about it.

I’ve actually made a bit of headway on the space in the past two weeks. All the bills and random papers have been either filed or shredded and I’ve decided on a paint color for the room. This quick choice of paint color is a huge accomplishment for me. Some of you may recall that Ad Man and I had paint swatches on our bedroom walls for about two years before settling on a color and finally repainting. So anyway, the downstairs living room/home office will be Benjamin Moore’s Revere Pewter. It’s the perfect warm gray and, while not the most inspiring color, it should make for a calm, cozy room. There are still, however, three bicycles and two skateboards in the room that will need to be relocated to the utility room whether Ad Man likes it or not.

As for organization, I’m totally open to suggestions. I’m thinking I’ll spackle (is that a verb now?) the hell out of the wall from which I just removed a gallery of family photos and add some floating shelving in its place. I won’t have too much of a need for paper storage since I write on my laptop and will be doing the other project on it as well. I’ll need a large-ish corkboard for story outlines with good, old fashioned index cards. Other than that, I’ll just need room for typical office supplies and my resource books.

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A girl can dream, can’t she?

I’d rather not spend a pile of money on this project, so I’ll likely be sticking with the existing ugly IKEA desk. After all I’m not exactly making a fortune blogging. As a matter of fact, you can count on me to make a huge announcement the first time I earn a dime from blogging or other writing. That will be a happy day, indeed, and we shall celebrate! I’m pretty sure the joyous event will call for a signature cocktail so you can start thinking about that beforehand if you’d like.

I’d love to hear your ideas and see photos of how you’ve managed to organize your own work space at home. I’ve started a ‘Home Office’ board on my Pinterest page on which I’ve started pinning photos of dreamy, functional and clutter-free home offices. Please feel free to send me pins you run across that you think I should add to the board. And as long as I’m already begging you for help, if you’re not following me on Pinterest, please do so I can justify the ridiculous amount of time I spend on the site. In the meantime, I’ll be patching, painting and perusing my favorite porno mag, the Container Store catalog, for inspiration.