Thursday, May 28, 2009

Day 30 - We have walls!

We finally have walls! Friday, the contractors put in insulation. Then they took the holiday weekend off, and so did we. Tuesday was drywall installation day, and yesterday they finished that up with tape and float. Aside from a very hot return home on Tuesday night when they had inexplicably decided to turn off the A/C, everything has been pleasantly non-eventful on the construction front. Our adjuster “finished” our claim documents, and sent them our way, but he forgot to include the kitchen appliances that needed repair and the countertops that had to be torn out to replace the lower cabinets.

In other news, we had a great weekend escape to Galveston Island for Memorial Day weekend. Most of the island has been at least cleaned up, if not quite repaired, in the months since Hurricane Ike blasted through. There are things that are still damaged and things that are different, but the spirit of the people there is good. There are billboards that say things like, “Tough times don’t last, but tough Texans do!” I’m not sure who spent the money to put those up, but it has this feeling like the town is hella determined to pull itself up out of the muck my its bootstraps.

It was great to be in one place for 4 days straight and to cook my own food. These are the things I miss most. I hauled my commercial grade Belgian waffle maker down with us and made waffles for breakfast. We grilled and baked and napped and played Wii games – the little things we have not been able to do at home for several weeks. It was all very restorative. Our friends and family have been cooking for us and hosting us in their homes, and we have wanted for almost nothing through this time. Still, it felt awesome to be able to do some things for ourselves, even if they were “vacation versions” of real life.

It was also oddly cathartic to see the damage that was still hanging around and the evidence of how bad things really were after the storm. I’m not sure why – misery loves company, maybe? The whole weekend just felt like the beginning of a turn back to normal life.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Day 23

It doesn’t feel like it’s been 3 weeks, but I guess it has. Yesterday, the adjuster said he was actually going to start working on our claim today, so that is great news.
On Tuesday night, our neighbors all gathered at a homeowners’ association meeting. We established that everyone is really mad and agrees that the new retention pond is inadequate, but we aren’t sure what to do beyond letting the proper authorities understand how mad we are. We have gotten drawings of the drainage project from the developer. Basically, it revealed that they replaced the 54” lines that used to drain our subdivision into the creek with slightly smaller lines draining into the retention pond. The thing people are targeting is that the lines out of the pond into the creek are even smaller and have some baffles and grates for debris. Obviously, that means that less water can ultimately get from our neighborhood to the creek in a given time period. I think that’s why they call it a “retention” pond, though – it holds the water for a slow drain into the main arteries. The real issues, in my opinion, are twofold:
1 – The retention pond is ridiculously small for the way it actually rains in Houston. When it rains here, it pours. There is no slow accumulation. We left our house around dinner time the evening before the flood. There was no water standing in our street at that time, but the pond was completely full. Then we got 8 more inches of rain.
2 – Our neighborhood used to drain into the creek via a large, empty field. The field held some water as it slowly drained into the creek. The developers built a little office park on a small part of that field and dug the aforementioned retention pond. Then they used the material removed from the pond to compact and grade the field to drain into the retention pond as well. Now, instead of additional drainage area, the field is effectively a dirt parking lot sharing drainage space with our neighborhood and the office park.
Some people from the MUD district seem to agree, but they are dumping responsibility on the developer and the county (even though the MUD owns 50% of the retention pond.) They asked the county to re-investigate and report to them at their next meeting, which is in June. It is also in the middle of the day on a Thursday, about an hour’s drive from our homes in traffic. I guess they don’t like to have residents present.
On the construction front, we got a new back door installed yesterday. This is kind of cool because the old one had obviously been chewed by a dog some time in its history, and the new one is all pretty. We also got new, highly water resistant material to replace the gypsum board that was removed from between our stud framing and the brick outside. This is really cool because now bugs can’t fly into my house through the open weep holes.
All around, it’s been a good few days on the reconstruction front.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

itteh bitteh kitteh luvs

They didn't really do anything at my house today. We are waiting on replacement doors and a window that had to be ordered. Meanwhile, someone at icanhascheezburger has love for me and is looking out for my mental health.

funny pictures
moar funny pictures

Also, I must say that I know some of the most generous and caring people in the world.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Evolution

I've decided to blog this process of rebuilding my house.  There are two reasons for this:

#1 - This is something I want to remember.  When the time comes for us to move out of this place and I become sad and burdened with nostalgia, I want to be able to look back and know what I am escaping. 

#2 - I'm kind of tired of telling the story over and over.  I don't resent anyone for asking - I'm glad you all care - but it has become one of those things that I can't escape. 

 "Is your house back together yet?" 

 "How is the house coming along?"

It's like when someone close to you dies and everyone you meet feels awkward and asks "How are you doing?" and you have the choice of lying and saying "Fine!" or telling them more than they want to hear.  Of course, some people really want to know how you are doing, but when you are broken, playing the social games that sort all that out is downright insufferable.  

I get that no one died.   This is not a tragedy.  But I do find myself worn out by trying to figure out what to say.  It wears me out to see someone who expected to hear "Great!" get a look of shock when I say "Well, they are almost done with the demo.  We have no walls."  It bites at me to inventory the details over and over in my head - to hide my emotion when I get to the parts I don't want to share and they don't want to hear, like throwing away the foosball table that we got for a wedding gift from hubby's best friends.

So here's part 1:

It rained.  It rained on Monday night and almost came in our back door.  We went to bed with the forecasters saying the worst was passed.  Around 4 a.m., the storm woke up my husband.  He went downstairs and was back up in a flash saying "It's getting in."  

The water was coming in the front and back by then.  He worked really hard to save what he could.  I tried to help, but I was really pretty useless this time.  Isaac woke up screaming, and I went to comfort him.  We prayed.  I finally got him back to sleep, but by then, the water was up 6" inside.  We took some pictures, realized that there were electrical strips under the water, and went back to bed.  We had gotten around 10" of rain in 15 hours.

Around 6:00, the water had gone down enough that we could open the doors and start getting it out of our house.  We used brooms and shop vacs and towels to get things as dry as we could. By 10:00 or so, the street was passable and friends came to help us move out furniture and start cleaning what we could.  Almost everything was wet and went to the garage, which was also flooded.  I took the kids to daycare so they could have a more normal day.  The water damage guys (demo dudes) showed up around 3:00 and started opening up walls to dry out the insulation and framing.  Some friends had us over for dinner, but hubby had to stay home with the demo dudes.  They finished around 10:00 p.m.  We went to bed amidst the dull roar of fans, dehumidifiers, and HEPA filters at 10:30., and so ended Day One.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Even When the Rain Falls

Even when the rain falls,
Even when the flood starts rising,
Even when the storm comes...

I am washed by the water...or so the song goes. I really love that song. It's not really about a literal rain storm or flood, but for me the figurative flood is not so much a metaphor as just a whole lot of water. In my house. From rain.

It made my house (and my couch, my oven, my cabinets, etc.)really dirty, moldy, and gross. It made my kids sick with unending coughs and sneezes. It brought earthworms and mosquitos into my dining room.

There is a dumpster in my driveway, a refrigerator in my office, nothing whatsoever in my kitchen - not even the sink - and (oh yes!) a colony of carpenter bees making a new home in my garage.

The downstairs half of my house is stripped to its foundation - nothing remains but brick and studs. The whole house smells like a mixture of muggy outdoor air and the chemical treatment that is keeping the house's framing from growing mold.

So while washed may not be the exact right word to describe what is happening, I think cleansed definitely applies. It's not just my house. Watching the demolition crews tear out the beautiful new trimming from our walls and dumping precious thing after precious, now moldy thing into the trash has had a way of stripping me down to my foundation, too.

Somehow, I feel like I needed to be laid bare- to be cleansed that deep - to be reminded that my foundation is not my house or my stuff. The core of me is not this depression and anxiety that have been so huge in my life lately. It's not the nice, controlled daily routine that my kids and I have come to follow each day that requires, among other things now missing, a kitchen sink and table.

Take it away. I want to be the part of me that is flexible enough to deal with change. I want the part that is strong enough to move furniture - or mountains. I want the part that isn't tied up in couches and crown moulding our the daily routine. I want the me that is really alive.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Boys, Boys, Boys

My son is different from my daughter in every way imaginable. The two kids have exactly two things in common:

1 - Neither one has any idea what the word "shy" means or what purpose such an attribute might serve.

2 - They both obsess over shoes. I've discussed Natalie's fetishes before. Isaac is almost worse. The first thing he does in the morning is get his shoes and bring them to me, saying "toos! toos!" and trying to hold out a foot. Then he goes and finds a pair that belongs to someone else and tries to put them on, too. Once we ventured down a shoe isle at Wal-Mart, and the little guy was so excited there were tears.

The boy child never stops moving. He climbs on things only to jump off, and he goes down the stairs just to go back up them. He throws things just to make them hit the ground, and he takes things apart just to see the insides out. He loves his kitty ("ki-kee,") but somehow the kitty does not recognize all-out-mounting a show of affection.

The boy child falls asleep in the middle of the floor on his belly. He just keeps running at full speed until he crashes. He enjoys his bath until he realizes you want to wash him. He waves at every car that passes when we walk through a parking lot, but it is rare for him to wave at a person no matter how much that person waves at him.

The boy child does not speak in any language the average observer could understand - he is much too busy figuring out how everything else works to worry about his own body. It takes him exactly one time observing someone "working" something for him to figure out how to do it himself. This goes for making things vanish into the diaper champ, undoing various baby-proofing tools, and disassembling all manner of things that should not be disassembled by a baby.

The boy child gives his mama his best snot-nose kisses and wants nothing to do with daddy at bedtime. He is very careful to make sure mama is hand-fed several goldfish and some cheese each day. He always makes sure mama is wearing her best "toos" and always makes her melt when he points at her face and whispers "pitty" (pretty.)

Yes, I'm glad that this boy child has come into my life, although he has changed it so dramatically.

My daughter is also thankful for the boys in her life these days. Yesterday, walking out of the doctor's office:

Nat: Mama, there is a handsome boy behind us.

Mama: (gaping, speechless mouth)

Nat: Isaac's doctor is a little handsome, too.

Mama: uh-huh. (still kind of gapey)

Nat: Mama, when I am as old as a princess, I'm going to start looking for a husband.