What’s going on?

Not much, frankly.  Very little, in fact.  Not quite nothing, but close.

The only noticeable change to the house is a temporary power pole in the backyard that doesn’t have power yet.  And the Bermuda grass taking over the backyard because nothing is in the way.  And the basil keeps growing and reseeding.  I bet we have basil in the grass for years.  And the slowly drying up plants because there’s been no rain and the water to the lot is shut off and we don’t have power to run the sprinkler anyway.

Though the opening was a bit of a lie.  We went to Denton for a wedding, lounged at the lake house in Oklahoma, saw dear friends in Chicago, spent 10 days in Michigan working hard to do nothing, and celebrated a family wedding with cousins meeting and playing together.  Now I’m spending a week with some wonderful teachers doing writing, and I ended up on four different AERA proposals.  So there.

We also fired our first contractor, hired a second, reviewed estimates, moved into a condo, and got our dog back.  When I tell people that nothing’s been done on the house in six months, many of them ask “So, what’s the deal?  Why was your contractor not doing anything?”  My answer is: “I don’t know and I don’t care, I just know I don’t have a house yet.”  I came to that answer because through all of this, the serenity prayer really has been my mantra.

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

And, one thing I cannot change is what caused my first contractor to not do his job.  The wisdom is knowing it doesn’t matter and not dwelling on it and moving on.   I certainly found myself wanting to know what the deal was, but it doesn’t matter.  Whatever is happening with that company is something I cannot change, and it isn’t my place to change.  A more irreverent version might be “Not my circus, not my monkeys.”  So, we moved on.

The one story worth telling in all this is that our first contract said that we needed to replace all of our waste water plumbing.  For those unfamiliar with the world of slab construction, that would mean jackhammering the concrete slab foundation, pulling out the old cast iron pipe,  replacing it, then pouring new concrete back on top.  Now, we’ve got a solid foundation, which is a rarity–no cracks, now shifting.  And the waste water runs across the house, essentially bisecting the bedrooms, and then across the back of the house, joining the other drain outside the back door.  The idea of jackhammering through it made me nervous: “Will it crack now?”  “Can that new concrete really be as supportive?”  “What if there’s a problem with replacement?”  “How long will that take?”  And the $28,500 price tag was, to say the least, not happening.  So, we paid a different plumber to scope the pipes.  His assessment was that all is fine, and in really good shape for being 65 years old.  We hope to use that company for the replace on the house because they’ve been honest and efficient!  So, woo for not needing to replace the waste water plumbing and spend $28k we don’t have!

Three young children, boys, are seated on a bench swing facing away from the camera.  They are all looking across a small lake with the other side in the distance.

Lake swinging

As always, generally things are good.  Our new condo has a pool, which is great for August in San Antonio.  I bought long-sleeved rash guards for the boys knowing how much they’ll be in it.  It’s wonderful to have our sweet puppy back with us, though she her adoptive parents miss her.  And our time in Michigan was too short, though it was so wonderful to bookend our trip with the happy, wonderful joy of weddings.  Onward, always.

100 days and counting

May 31st.  That was our 100 days.  Since our house burned down my husband and I have both turned 40 and celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary.  While our family trip to the Frio River over Memorial Day weekend was wonderful, I had inklings of cooking up something really wonderful for us– Then our house burned down.

A picture of a bag of cotton rounds with 5 remaining.

Only 5 left.

What makes passage of time real is, as always, the little things.  I’m about out of the cotton rounds that I use for my face stuff.  The package held 100.  The toothpaste is getting down there too.  And the hand lotion.  Replacing these things is a signal of how long we’ve been gone.

We removed the 1970s era fridge from the kitchen when it started leaking rusty something down the back.  And in moving the fridge from the tiny house into this house, we also moved the grill.  That’s been wonderful as I use the grill as an oven through the summer.  Even frozen pizza is pretty wonderful dressed up with some toppings and cooked on a pizza stone on the grill.  Purchasing of the America’s Test Kitchen Cast Iron Skillet Cookbook has been a real boost for my grilling ego because German pancakes/Dutch babies, cheesy pizza dip, and shepherd’s pie.  So that’s been good.

And we’re probably moving again.  Mentally I’m imagining us not home by Christmas and we can’t stay in this house for another 6 months.  Something expensive is going to break and then I’d feel guilty.  So we’re house/apartment/condo hunting, but thankfully there’s a company that does that work for us.

As often happens, as I was walking a phrase came to mind that encapsulates where we’re at:

Housed, but homeless.

Yes, we have a roof over our head, plumbing that works surprisingly well for how old it is, a lovely little backyard with a great patio and trees– really, many things to be thankful for.  And, I’m deeply grateful for the generous neighbor who offered the house before she was ready to rent it, and an insurance company that shows up and writes checks.

But we’re not at home.  We’re not in the space we had worked hard to try and make our own.  We don’t have our things.  And the things I wish I had are things like the wall of my grandfather’s sketches that I saw every time I walked down the hall, or the just-right casserole dish to make apple crisp for breakfast (it’s delicious and you should totally try it), or the marimba which my husband or youngest would play while we got dinner on the table.  Or our dog, who has been spoiled to pieces at my cousins and is happy as all get-out, but isn’t with her family who misses her.

Three boys facing away from the camera, standing on the rocky bank of a river, looking at the river. Green trees are in the background across the river.

Frio River

But we go onward because that’s the choice before us, with the help of friends and family.  And the kids are totally pulling for an apartment with a pool when we move.  Or a house super-close to school.


If you measure progress by the house, there’s very little. 

We did pick some finishes. So there’s that. 

But there’s no timeline for actually building the walls that would hold said finishes. We’d be happy with power at this point so the backyard stuff could move forward. 

Spring, though, continues to do its thing, no matter what we humans at getting in about. 

These are all backyard plants, 3 volunteers. Tomato, sweet potatoes (those I planted last fall), squash, and basil. So at least we’ll have some veggies and herbs, no matter how long the house takes. 


A tiny house and other things

On one hand, we are now in possession of a not-so-tiny tiny house.  On the other, there’s been no movement on our house.  Because it’s an insurance settlement, we have to pick out everything–faucets, paint color, everything–before they start anything.  Because the cost of the stuff we pick has to add up to the money from the insurance settlement.   And we haven’t been able to meet with the contractor about everything because it is April and April is crazytime.  So, hopefully something in the next week, but I’m also not terribly hopeful.  We shall see.  And, unfortunately, what choice do we have?

Our plagues have moved onto the vertebrates.  Texas Blind Snake, who eats ants and termite larvae.  We’ve found 3 in the house over the last few days.  I’m hopeful that there aren’t termite larvae in the house and we’ve seen no evidence of said larvae.  It’s also an example of not-my-problem.  The boys have all enjoyed finding the snakes and E is willing to pick them up with his fingers.  I actually prefer vertebrates to invertebrates in the house, oddly.  Hate roaches–so big, so fast, crunch, hard to kill, just ewww.  But snakes, bats, mice, birds… no problem.  Will deal with those all day long.  Go figure.

It’s Fiesta time in San Antonio.  I was south of downtown and decided to find some Fiesta decorations, thinking I’d go to Market Square, even though that has tourist prices.  So I headed up  South Flores (the street that’s being gentrified) and apparently I found the just-right-place for Fiesta deco–Amol’s.  And, of course, it’s relocating somewhere where the rent is cheaper.  So now we have garland and flowers and other beautiful things.  Combine that with the kid art that we’ve put on every hook and nail in the walls, and the in-between house is looking pretty good.


IKEA boxes and the packaging. What fun for a three-year-old. There was a telescope and a roof on a pot. Then there was a bed and blanket. I thought to help out a little, recruiting another box, and made a house. Much fun was had taking off shoes, putting the telescope in the new box, taking a nap, getting up.

Every once and awhile, the wind would push on the box, ripple the flag, and E would ask “Will it fall down?” or something like that. Each time I reassured him that his house was sturdy and, if it did fall, we’d fix it together.

Putting things away.

Then, when there was little wind, he’d gathered his shoes and water bottled, crawled out of his house and told me in a very commanding tone of voice, “My house, it’s exploding, we have to go to Ms. V’s house!” And he began running across the lawn. I followed, of course. We turned to look at his house. “Oh, no, my house is on fire.”

Thank heavens for Mr. Rogers. As I kneeled in the wet lawn, looking back at his house (which hadn’t even fallen over), I said, “Look at all the helpers helping your house.”

“Oh, yeah, the helpers. Look at all the helpers!” [long pause] “Oh, the helpers, they fixed it. My house is all fixed.” And he gathers up his shoes and water bottle and heads back in, makes himself cozy, and says, “My house is all fixed.”

I think we’re going to be okay.

It’s my telescope, mama!