Monday, December 31, 2012

Goodbye 2012

It's almost midnight on the eve of the new year. I've never been so happy to see a year pass. Though our fire happened in the fall of 2011, 2012 will always be the year I remember as 'the year we were in fire recovery.'

Seriously, 2012 can suck it.

We're so close to the end of this year. We're so close to a clean slate, a fresh year, blah, blah, blah. Alas...two hours before this year could slide on by, my oldest daughter had to say goodbye to a dear friend.

Mr. Joy, Tuna's lions head rabbit, has spent his last holiday season with us. He was incredibly sick a few weeks ago and the vet had little hope for him, but he gave him some antibiotics and fluids and the little guy bounced back and seemed to be doing just fine. Yesterday he seemed fine. This afternoon he seemed fine. Then tonight, gone. Losing a pet is so hard and watching your child endure that hurt is terrible.

What an icky way to end the year. 


Other than that, we are spending the end of the year exactly the way we wanted. We are at home and we are together. It's snowing outside, but inside it's warm and cozy. The kids are eating chips and dip, drinking punch, arguing over Wii games, and waiting on the stroke of midnight. 

Next year, our son will be living in his own home and likely won't celebrate with us. Our oldest daughter will be in London, preparing to march in the New Year's parade. We will be snuggled up at home with our little ones worried sick over our big ones who aren't with us. So, this year...we're going to savor the moment for all it is worth. 

In a few minutes, I'm going to watch the ball drop. I'm going to watch the clock change to 12:01 and I'm going to welcome in 2013 with a deep, cleansing breath. 

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

95% Complete and Okay

This was my living room September 22, 2011.

The white areas are where the Big Guy hit the ceiling with a water hose trying to put out a fireball of super heated particulate matter. Bless his heart. He was trying to save our home, but it was too late and he needed a much bigger fire hose. 

This was my living room in May. 

The white areas in this photo are due to a coating of shellac, applied to seal the smoke into the wood so we wouldn't smell it once the home was rebuilt. The more natural wood color is new lumber, added either to bring the structure to current building codes, or to replace or reinforce heat damaged boards. 

This was our home in August. 

You could look right through the structure to the outside. This was about the time I began to cry and cuss things every time I visited the house. It was when I began to internalize that this whole mess wasn't coming to an end any time soon. It was when I knew that we weren't okay. I also knew that we weren't going to be okay for a long time to come. We were just putting one foot in front of the other, going through the motions. 

Fall brought this- walls and windows.

I was seeing possibilities again. 

Home, it was not. 

By November, we were living at home again but something was missing. 

The rest of the furniture. It was MIA. Held up in customs. BLARGH!, December 27, 2012...15 months after the fire...


How awesome is that? 

I have my living room back!

I can unpack things!

This room complete now. It needs base boards and a ceiling fan. It could use something to decorate the walls. But, it is homey again. It is a place I can sit and say "ah." 

Little Bean walked in, took one look at the new furniture and said with wonder "is this our old stuff?" I had to laugh, but there was a little twinge of pain. The new pieces are just a bit different than our old ones and there are things missing that will never come back again, but our house is a home again. We're back. And guess what? We're okay. The road home was just way longer (and far more scenic) than we ever could have imagined. 


Saturday, December 22, 2012

Is a Fairy Tale They Say

Every year we go visit Santa and buy candy and fudge and look at the downtown Christmas lights. Every year. As in, we ALWAYS do it.

This year, we couldn't seem to find time to fit it in. First, there was the 4th grade musical. Then, the 7th orchestra winter concert. Then winter guard practice. Scholarship volunteer hours. Anime club. Teen Advisory Board meeting at the library. Band concert. And on and on it went.

I was complaining that all of the kids' activities were starting to interfere with our Santa visiting time when it hit me like a mean brick- the kids? They grew up. They aren't little kids with open schedules and visions of Santa anymore. They are teens and tweens with extra curricular activities and visions of X-boxes and iPods under the tree. No need to ask Santa.

But wait a minute! I still want to see Santa! I'm not ready to give up this yearly tradition. Not yet. Our youngest child just turned eight and it can't be over yet. Not yet.

We finally managed to squeeze a visit in this week, but we couldn't convince the Boy to go with us. We did manage a quick shot of all of us with Santa and Little Bean told him that she really wanted a puppy this year. Oh poo. (Santa handled that really well. Thank you, Santa.)
Hey, I think I see a future Santa there on the left. 

So, we're barreling toward our first high school graduation and we probably just made our last visit to Santa. This year is really kicking my butt. 

This week kicked particularly hard. My sister was in a bad car wreck. The Big Guy picked a fight with black ice and the ice totally won. We had another less than enjoyable visit with a contractor. Our hardwood furniture is still held up in customs. The high school was put on lock down for a doomsday bomb threat and later evacuated (in mid-20s temperatures) for a potential gas leak. By mid-day Friday I was functioning in one-crisis-at-a-time mode. Some folks say life marches on, but I don't think that is really true. I feel more like life is coming at us like a steam roller and if we don't keep running, running, running...we'll get run over. 

Friday night was movie night with 4 extra kids in the house (because we don't have enough kids in the house) and Saturday night was cookie night with 5 extra kids in the house. The house has been a little bit insane and we are completely exhausted. Movie night with the younger kids sounded more like a stampede of buffalo and cookie night required a mad rush to the store and resulted in me burning my finger and teaching my 10 year old the new word "mofo" which I yelled out in my best outdoor voice. The stress of the week has taken it's toll and I had to wonder why we would commit to having all of these kids over to hang out at our house at this crazy time. 

Then I looked into the kitchen tonight and saw 7 teenagers laughing and decorating gingerbread men. They were eating pizza rolls and cutting out cookie dough and drizzling melted chocolate over peanut butter balls. They were all crowded around the new island in our newly remodeled kitchen sharing some fun down time after finals. What a great way to kick off winter break. And in that moment I thought "yeah...we're home...we're going to be ok." I knew, this is exactly what we were fighting for all those long months since the fire. We're home for the holidays and all of the crazy is a whole lot easier to cope with from the comfort of our home. 

We're carrying on our new tradition of the countdown socks. This whole week, according to the kids, the countdown socks contained crappy surprises. They are right. In all the rush and stress of the week we resorted mostly to candy. The night the Big Guy fought with the ice we didn't put anything at all in the sock. Tonight, we figured it was time for something fun. We set up a sort of scavenger hunt based on Frosty the Snowman. Each clue corresponded to a set of lyrics in the song. The clues were found on a can of corn (corncob pipe), a Cinderella DVD (a fairy tale they say), a broom (a broomstick in his hand), etc. They led to container of self-stick snowman parts for snowman building. 

We confiscated their cell phones so they couldn't look up the song lyrics but that was useless because Rough Stuff is a displaced elf and she knows the lyrics to every single Christmas song by heart. She sang the lines one by one and the teenagers landed the clues in nothing flat. Next time we play this game we'll have to confiscate her. 

Now that school is out and the performances and parties are all over, we're looking forward to a very calm, quiet Christmas. 


You hear that?

It's the universe laughing. Who are we kidding?     

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Twelve Days of a House Fire

I seem to be having a difficult time finding my Christmas spirit this year.  I’m not sure why. I’m back in my warm, cozy home. This whole house fire mess is behind me. It’s Christmas for heaven’s sake. Where is my spirit?  

I thought perhaps it had gotten packed into a moving box but I checked every box and I couldn’t find it anywhere. I bought some jingle bells for my purse because you know…every time a bell rings an angel gets its wings and all. That didn’t help.

Then I remembered what brings out Christmas spirit. It’s singing! I need to sing!

Come on! Sing with me! Ready? Here we go:

On the first day of Christmas the house fire gave to me:
A stair with no carpeting
On the  second day of Christmas the house fire gave to me:
2 belligerent contractors and
 A stair with no carpeting (One stair?)
On the third day of Christmas the house fire gave to me:
3 unfinished rooms
2 belligerent contractors  (Seriously?) and
A stair with no carpeting (What the??)
On the fourth day of Christmas the house fire gave to me:
4 useless insurance reps
3 unfinished rooms (The shower door didn’t come in?)
2 belligerent contractors (That behavior is totally inappropriate!) and
A stair with no carpeting (But…why?)
On the fifth day of Christmas the house fire gave to me:
5 cabinets not installed
4 useless insurance reps  (Why won’t they call us back?)
3 unfinished rooms (What do you mean we can’t install the toilet yet?)
2 belligerent contractors (You didn’t finish the job, dude!) and
A stair with no carpeting (ONE STAIR?)
On the sixth day of Christmas the house fire gave to me:
6 court cases pending
5 cabinets not installed (Where are the drawer pulls?)
4 useless insurance reps (That’s not even half the money!)
3 unfinished rooms (He didn’t bring the other cabinets, why?)
2 belligerent contractors (You don’t get paid for incomplete work!) and
A stair with no carpeting (You’ve got to be kidding me.)
On the seventh day of Christmas the house fire gave to me:
7 weeks waiting for an insurance check
6 court cases pending (You can’t withhold our deposit!)
5 cabinets not installed (Um…what about the office shelving?)
4 useless insurance reps (No water in the basement?)
3 unfinished rooms (Well…when will the caulking be done?)
2 belligerent contractors (I’m not paying your materials fee!) and
A stair with no carpeting (Was he drinking?)
On the eighth day of Christmas the house fire gave to me:
8 months of storage fees
7 weeks waiting for an insurance check (What do you mean you won’t do the inspection?)
6 court cases pending (No, you don’t get full pay for an incomplete job.)
5 cabinets not installed (No backsplashes? Didn’t we order backsplashes?)
4 useless insurance reps (How can a pumper truck of water not leak into the basement?)
3 unfinished rooms (Oh my gaawwd, the house will NEVER be finished.)
2 belligerent contractors (We already paid you $3,000, buddy!)  and
A stair with no carpeting (How do you not carpet one stair?)
On the ninth day of Christmas the house fire gave to me:
9 windows without curtains
8 months of storage fees (Unlimited free storage does not end in August!)
7 weeks waiting for an insurance check (Three weeks for another inspection date?)
6 court cases pending (That wouldn’t even pass inspection.)
5 cabinets not installed (They forgot to paint that!)
4 useless insurance reps  (What is taking them so long?)
3 unfinished rooms (I’m not looking at them anymore.)
2 belligerent contractors (You ran over the neighbor’s mailbox!) and
A stair with no carpeting (Oh my gaaawwwd. Why? WHY?)
On the tenth day of Christmas the house fire gave to me:
10 psychotic meltdowns
9 windows without curtains (The neighbors can see everything!)
8 months of storage fees (We’re storing crap that still smells like fire!)  
7 weeks waiting for an insurance check (But the check didn’t come on the Fed-X truck today.)
6 court cases pending (Unbelievable.)
5 cabinets not installed (You’ve got to be kidding me.)
4 useless insurance reps  (What do you mean heat doesn’t crack wood?)
3 unfinished rooms (Out of sight, out of mind.)
2 belligerent contractors (This is harassment!) and
A stair with no carpeting (It’s one freaking stair!)
On the eleventh day of Christmas the house fire gave to me:
11 temper tantrums
10 psychotic meltdowns (I just want to cry.)
9 windows without curtains (How did we run out of money before we bought curtains?)
8 months of storage fees (Our clothing multiplied!)
7 weeks waiting for an insurance check (You mailed it when?)
6 court cases pending  (You can’t charge your personal tools to our materials account!)
5 cabinets not installed (You will not get the final payment up front!)
4 useless insurance reps (A fabric care expert? With a Master’s degree? In what? Stink?)
3 unfinished rooms (Ugh!)
2 belligerent contractors(Get off our property!) and
A stair with no carpeting (Ow! There are carpet tacks exposed on that blasted stair!)
On the twelfth day of Christmas the house fire gave to me:
12 pages of contents inventory
11 temper tantrums (I just want this !@*! to be over already! Stupid freakin’ crock pot.)
10 psychotic meltdowns (Do not eff up my packing system! I will hurt you.)
9 windows without curtains (Who are those people and why are they slowing down to stare at us?)
8 months of storage fees (Surely, we did NOT own all that!)
7 weeks waiting for an insurance check (You mailed it where?)
6 court cases pending (I will be more than happy to file suit on you too lint licker!)
5 cabinets not installed (Dude, seriously. No more cash until the job is complete.)
4 useless insurance reps (Speak to our public adjuster!)
3 unfinished rooms (Damn contractors.)
2 belligerent contractors (Yes, we will see you in court!) and
A stair with no carpeting (Where is that carpet guy? I’m fixing to take a carpet tack strip to his hide.)

Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

It's Beginning to Look (a tiny bit) Like Christmas!

What's up with us this week?

Well...there's this:
"Rudolph! Quick! Santa's on fire!"

You can't say we don't have a sense of humor. 

We've been waiting on a check from our bank for a painfully long time. A check we desperately need to finish projects in the house and do other important things, like pay our contractors. Without the check (which thankfully arrived today, at the wrong address) we haven't been able to get the rest of our furniture delivered or put up curtains in the living room windows, which means we haven't put up the Christmas tree yet.

Seeing the first day of December pass without a Christmas tree in our home is MAKING ME BATCRAP CRAZY.

So, this morning afternoon I ventured into our new attic space (which by the way, is pretty stinking cool) and started digging for decorations I could put out right now.

I finally found what remained of my Grandma Nonnie's Christmas decorations. I plopped them (very, very gently) right into my favorite glass bowl.

Just seeing something of hers at Christmas time makes me immensely happy. 

Being the first of December, we also hung the countdown socks. This was a new tradition we started last year. Tuna made these and stitched them all by hand. We put something fun in the socks for each day of December and they have the added bonus of ending the question "how many days until Christmas?" That is a question Rough Stuff would ask at least 75 times in the month of December alone. 

We have warned the kids that the socks will not be quite as exciting now that we are not freshly post-fire. It was really easy to spoil them when they had nothing. They got candy and trinkets last year, but they also got some bigger gifts, cash for shopping, and even (gasp!) a treasure hunt on Christmas Eve that ended with them finding live animals, 4 guinea pigs and a lizard. There will be no such excitement this year. 

We are focusing instead on activities we can do as a family. 

We're kicking things off with cookie baking. 

We may not have a tree up yet, but we are going to Christmas it up 'round here.   

And for the 'CAUSE WHY NOT?' file:
Our Christmas tree has been recalled. Apparently it is a fire hazard. The foot pedal that controls the lights catches on fire. We have been warned to cut the cord off and return it for a full refund.  

Well of course it is. 'Cause why not?