Thursday, September 28, 2006

Please excuse our mess. . .

Here is a before of what our upstairs looked like. We have a 1 1/2 story older home (1930's), the attic space ran the length of the house with a little dormer off the front. We just used it for storage and we did have a bed up there for visitors. You can see the stairway post from the main floor coming up.This was after a little tear down looking the other direction upstairs.Please excuse our mess over the last 2 years, we've been remodeling our house!!

This was originally written in December 2004 for a family magazine that we do with Matt's family at Christmas time. Matt's sister asked him to write an article about our remodeling. (But how could I not add my comments?) Enjoy. It's been a hard 2 years of work but it's finally coming together. Enjoy the old photos!!

Remodeling 101

part 1

By Matthew Mar, additional comments in italics/red added by Wendy (new comments are added in purple)

“The keys to winning are simple, but it’s not easy.” Marv Levy
Remodeling can follow that same axiom. What do you really need to remodel? Wood? Check. Nails? Check. Drywall? Check. Time. Let me get back to you on that one.

Earlier this year (2004) my wife and I set off on the adventure of remodeling. We had been planning remodeling since we bought the house 5 years ago. For 5 years all it had been was planning. And dreaming. Then we get the news that baby number 3 is on the way. And something had to give.
Here is a look at the side view of the house before the tear down of the back began.

Key #1 Planning

Planning should be easy. Meet with an architect, share some ideas and viola! You’ve got a nice set of blue prints in your hand to show off. Look at these fancy plans, doesn’t it look like we know what we’re doing? But then you look at the blue prints and think well, maybe we should move this wall here and that wall there. What if we put the toilet here and the bathtub there. Wait, we don’t have enough money for a tub so we’ll put the shower there. Then you decide ok, we do want a tub. Very smart thinking sweetie, a happy wife is a wife with a Jacuzzi tub. Ok, now we’re set. Let’s get an estimate. Now you take your nice set of blue prints which really aren’t blue, except for the way they make you feel when you realize how much this is all costing and take them to a lumber yard and drop them off for afree estimate. Then you take them to another lumbar yard and then another. And now you’ve got 3 estimates. Off to the city to get a building permit. Getting the building permit was a lot easier than anticipated. They review your plans, make some minor changes, stamp it with the red approved stamp and charge you an arm & a leg for the service. But you’re official and now it’s just figuring out when to get started. Putting the little yellow building permit sign in the window was a big moment for Matt, who knew a little yellow piece of cardstock could makeyou feel a foot taller? The sign still looks pretty new in that photo, now (2006) it's so sun-faded, it's pretty much white.

Key #2 Time Management

You’ve got your plans. The city has said you’re good to go. Now just how long should this project take? Hmmm. Here’s where it is important to get an expert opinion. I should note here that the expert person here is Matt’s dad. I agree he’s an expert, but Matt’s mom may be the real expert who said, after hearing what he thought, “It’ll take twice as much time, and twice as much money!" I suggest consulting with someone who has over 20 years experience in remodeling. Someone who has a keen sense of time and will help you set reasonable and realistic expectations. It is important to note that these experts concept of time is considerably different than you and me. If the expert says “it should take a couple of hours to tear the roof off.” What he’s really saying is “Your house is going to be exposed to the elements for at least 2 days.” It’s like those remodeling shows on TV where they just quickly do the drywall and mud and tape during the commercial, let’s get a “real” reality show, come on over and check out our upstairs!! P.S.bring a hammer and an extra coat and gloves, it’s December in Nebraska you know.

Key #3 Man Power

This is simple; you can never have enough hands. This includes your own children and your neighbors nine year old son. He actually did some great work!

During the demo we found some cool stuff, including this copy of the Chicago Journal of Commerce, the date is from 1937. We also found an old and falling apart quilting frame, and an old packaged cigar.Looks like loads of fun huh? What a mess. Compare to the first photo above, you can see the stairway there and the old closet.The more people you can con, I mean con. . .vince to help, the better.
Just imagine me coming home from work and seeing this. . ."Hon, are you SURE we want to do this??" Please, no rain, no rain, no rain. You can also consider getting some help from a temp service but, I’ve still got the numbers for the guys that came over here and you can hire them on "the side" like I did. I don’t know that this is such a great idea, after Matt took them home, the girls got in the car, and Molly said, “EWWW! It smells like someone took off their shoes in here!!” Well, you are well on your way to a successful remodeling project. I have yet to finish my project, so I think that it is only fitting that I leave this article at approximately 50% done like my project. Happy Hammering. We’ll see how” happy” that is when the baby’s here with now where to sleep. . .
Here's a look at what would be our future bathroom through that little doorway. The rooms finally take shape (our master bedroom, looking into Whitney's room through the french door space. Door to the hall is to the left.) In a nutshell, we tore off the back half of the roof, moved the wall out on the 2nd floor and re-framed and did a new back roof. We left the ceilings all vaulted to make it look bigger.
The outside is finally all protected here. Roof on and shingled, windows in, house insulated and wrapped. Only the inside to do, should be any time now right? RIGHT.
Coming soon, the new pictures of my upstairs completed! (Except the bathroom). I love it!!

Monday, September 18, 2006


Alrighty, we've almost perfected what we attempted last summer. . .remember this?? This time we decided to go it on our own and try to find some caterpillars ourselves. We have a little bike path that connects to the next street and there are plenty of plants along the way. We found tons of milkweed growing and Matt used his eagle eyes to even find eggs this year. The girls had a great time hunting for milkweed and were so excited and would run in the house telling me how many eggs and caterpillars they had found!!
See those miniscule white spots on the leaves? Yep, them are eggs! After a few days they grow a little blackhead on them (yep, that's how I'd describe it) and before you know it a tiny little caterpillar is climbing out.
It doesn't take long before they're growing like crazy!
Here's the classic "J". That means that it's ready to change into it's chrysalis. You can see we've got quite a few up there and some that have already come out. This year I actually managed to see a few change. It's still pretty creeping but kind of cool. They split their caterpillar skin and start to wiggle out of it, and within just a couple minutes they're all done.

I thought this picture looked a little alien like. . . ."It appears some strange species has implanted itself upon our planet. . ."
Here you can see a little better the actual butterfly wings inside the chrysalis. It's turns clear so you can see the butterfly colors really well, then within about 14 hours out comes the butterfly. I was amazed at how tiny their wings are when they come out. You can see the difference in size. The one in the middle was the last one to emerge. It doesn't take too long for their wings to be full size. After a few hours (their wings have to dry out) you can pick them up on your finger and take them out. They usually stay around for a few more hours before they take off.
This was the day we had 8 butterflies emerge! Crazy.
Here are the girls with our neighbors. We've, I mean THEY'VE, had a fun summer with the caterpillars.

Ok, after typing that out I realized that I know WAY too much about Monarchs. I think I should be all set for the middle-age science fair! Sweet!

Monday, September 11, 2006

A Memory

A year after the events of September 11th, our local newpaper asked it's readers to write a memory of that day and how they had changed.

August 21, 2002

It has taken me almost a year to record my thoughts about the happenings of September 11, 2001. I think maybe it has taken me that long to figure out what I would write in keeping a record of that day. Although I clearly remember the chain of events, my feelings are not as raw.

Matt took the girls to my sisters for the morning, and I didn’t have to be to work as an instructor at the dental college until about 9:30, so I relaxed and went downstairs to check my email. I had the TV on to “Good Morning America”, just for the background noise I seem to always need. They broke into the news with a picture of the World Trade Center Tower 1 on fire, and I began to get nervous. My brother has his office in that building in NYC. He and my father have an investment business together, with an office here in Lincoln, Nebraska, and the international office there in NYC. I was watching as the second plane hit the second tower, in total unbelief. I remember thinking to myself, “What is going on??” I remember vividly Charlie Gibson’s voice saying something like, “Now wait a minute, that was a plane deliberately flying into the towers, that was NOT an accident.” They did not know what had caused the first gaping hole in Tower 1, but now we knew it was a plane.

My father had been on a business trip to NYC and Washington D.C., and he said “I’ll be home Tuesday or Wednesday.” My mind immediately began to prepare for the worst, my brother is in that building, and Dad is on a plane. I ran upstairs frantically looking through my address box to find my brothers phone numbers there in New York. I couldn’t find them, so I ran back downstairs back to my email to search for one from him with his information on the bottom of it. I found it and called the cell phone but just got busy signals. I called my sister here in town and asked my brother in law if he knew what floor the office was on, he wasn’t sure but he thought his floor wasn’t that high up (in fact, their office was on the 78th floor and I’ve read that the first plane hit about only 10 floors above that). He handed the phone to my sister and I just said “Heidi!”, and she said “I know, I’m calling him right now.” She would let me know. Those next 2-3 minutes were the absolute worst. I really just sat and cried and just was astonished at what I was seeing. I called my sister again, and she said “He’s fine, I woke him up at his apartment.” Todd had not heard the news, I think she tried to explain what happened, but she just said “Turn your TV on.” Then there was just silence on his end, maybe he dropped the phone. When I asked about Dad, she said that Todd said “He flew home on a plane late last night, he’s home.” My sister called and woke him up too. So in about 1 minute I went from thinking I had just lost my only brother, and my father, to our family being ok.

Todd had worked late the night before at the office and was home sleeping. My mom later sent an email out saying how glad she was that Todd had received her night owl genes. I always remember him being up late and sleeping in. My father had changed his business plans and was in New York City that weekend before. He and my brother had dinner Friday night and ate outside in the plaza of the Twin Towers. My father remembers marveling at the Towers and the beauty and magnitude of them. Who would have ever thought that they would fall at the hands of human beings as terrorists?? My father then headed to Washington D.C. for a few meetings and ended up on a late plane home to Nebraska on September 10th. The other members of my brothers office were not in the building either. The man who usually arrived first at the office was at home dealing with some insurance companies since his wife had been in a fender bender the evening before. One of their interns had forgotten her security pass and had to wait until 9am to get a clearance pass to go up. They were not able to contact their other interns until later that day but they were found safe as well.

As I drove to work that morning I just felt sick inside. Knowing that something like this could and did happen. I did not yet know the full effect of the days events. At the dental college they had a small TV at the reception desk that many of us gathered around. I remember heading back to it in between checking patients for my students. When I came out and saw that the towers had fallen, the feeling I had inside began to worsen. How many people had just lost their lives, their loved ones lives changed forever. I did then, and still go from feeling very angry, to very happy that my brother and father were ok, to being very afraid for the future, to feeling so sad for the families that lost so much.

As a went to my sisters to see my children (two girls, 2 ½ , and 6months), I wondered what we would tell them. I was so glad that they were pretty oblivious to what was going on. I remember thinking I was so glad that they were small enough that I wouldn’t have to try to explain it, yet. I’m still not sure what to say to them. How do I tell them that they will be safe and that people are good and kind and that mommy and daddy will always be there? I was there when my nephew (6 years old), came home from school, with a note. They explained that they had briefly told the children that something bad had happened and that many people were hurt, but they tried as much as they could to keep the day as normal as possible. To each note they had attached a small American flag. As our family gathered all together that night, my dad arrived and handed each of us one of their business cards with the World Trade Center address in the lower corner. I still carry it in my billfold as a reminder. The shock was wearing off a little and it all was feeling very real. I received a copy of the email my brother sent to all of his clients that read “I am sorry to report that our Schwendiman Partners LLC office in NewYork has been destroyed in the World Trade Center Terrorist attack this morning. . . Please pray for all others that are affected by the tragedy that has befallen our country.” That made it far too close to home. Our whole family was very emotional. My father kept thinking, what if he had been there? He probably would’ve been getting Todd out of bed to get to the office. My sister who was in Boston, wrote an email of what her feelings were and wanted to make it an open forum for anyone who needed to share what they were feeling. Our thoughts all turned to the families that were aching.

I still tear up today thinking of the social workers that were meeting kids at schools and bus stops to say their parent(s) weren’t coming home. I think of the pregnant wives with so much life inside them, knowing their child would only hear stories of their dad instead of having stories read to them by their dad. And the fathers that now would need to be mothers too. I ache for the families of all of the service workers that ran to those buildings in an effort to serve. I think of parents who would have the awful task of laying their own children to rest. I put out our flag that night, and it still flies today.

I remember on that Friday, the national day of remembrance, driving to our church. I was brought to tears as I drove through our neighborhood and almost every single home had their flag flying proudly. Several streets were lined with small flags along the road. People changed. Small things didn’t matter. Smiles mattered, friendliness and kindness mattered. Love mattered. Love for our country and each other mattered. I hope we never forget our feelings that followed the events of September 11. I hope they stay in our hearts so we can teach our children. We can teach our children to love and listen and to fight and stand up for what’s right when you need to. My daughter, now 3 ½ , still points out each American Flag she sees. She often says,

“‘Cuz, we love America, right mom?”

“That’s right, sweetie.”

Monday, September 04, 2006

WWJD? According to a 5 year old. . .

Molly, age 5: Mom, does Jesus love everyone?

Me: Yes, honey.

M: Even people that smoke, or what about people that kill other people?

Me: Well, honey, Jesus loves everyone, even if they do something wrong. It makes him sad, and he doesn't want them to do that, but he still loves them.

M (perplexed): Really? Even if someone shoots somebody else and even if they smoke?

Me: Yes.

M: Well, what about if they dye their hair?

Apparently 5 year olds have a different understanding of "bad"--
#1--dye your hair