That’s the shower tile as it stands today. Brian is coming back to finish the area down to the floor and around the bench, and then he’s going to grout the walls. Then he’ll lay the floor in and grout that. We have a rough quote on the glass door, which is not cheap, but it will highlight the interior of the shower perfectly as you walk in the door.
* * *
Jen and I spent another weekend almost completely consumed by grading student work. We did get out here and there but it wasn’t at all what I hoped we’d be doing, for the second week in a row. We’ve been trying to line up things for Finn to do while we’re busy but it’s hard to stay focused when there are kids running around—who inevitably come to us to help them find something to do.
I’m at the point where I’m doing twice as much work to teach than I did my first semester; as we’ve gotten more involved in refining the rubric and syllabus and have striven to offer constructive, helpful feedback (going so far as to add a third project into my syllabus to give students an earlier idea of how they’re doing) the workload has quadrupled. Jen and I are conscientious about how we grade our work, so we double-check each other’s grading and notes, which adds more time to the process. And Finn sits idly by, bored out of her mind. Saturday was a mixture of rain and sunshine, and even though it was cold and damp we should have been outside hiking somewhere, not stuck inside.
I turned to Jen Sunday night and told her I’m thinking about quitting teaching. Finn’s life is flashing past me, and I’m not spending enough time with her right now. It’s breaking my heart.
* * *
One thing we did do as a family is go to see a matinee of How to Train Your Dragon 3. The three of us have been hooked on the series since Finn was old enough to appreciate it, and it was one of the many things we shared with the Morrises (I can’t hear the phrase “DEPLOY THE YAK” and not think of Rob and Zachary). The final movie in the series was good. It hit all of the main plot points and character beats as a good movie should; there were callbacks to the original movie that old-school fans appreciated, it definitely hit us in the emotional core (my family is pretty heavily invested in these characters, after two movies and three TV series) and it wrapped things up in a solid way that felt right.
But it was lacking the careful pace of the first movie, which took time to slowly show us the wonder of the relationship between a boy and his dragon, and how that in turn affected his relationships, as an outsider, with his community and his father. The first movie (I rewatched a bit of it last night as I cleaned up my desk) moved slower, took time to develop the stakes, and also let us breathe. It showed us how wonderful the world it created was, asked us to notice the details, and gave us time to appreciate them. I felt like the new movie was following a producer’s note that simply read, “MORE DRAGONS”. There was so much going on in every frame that it felt hard to keep up with what was happening. The only time I really felt like it was slow enough to let me appreciate the story was at the very end, and if I hadn’t been so familiar with the characters from my previous experience I wouldn’t have cared half as much.
* * *
The IPWhatever is kegged and carbed, and I tapped it on Saturday afternoon. In terms of taste, it’s pretty nondescript. Even after I’d dry-hopped it for much longer than I’d intended, the flavor is still pretty bland. But it’s got a hell of a kick–I never did a final gravity reading on it (because, after I’d fucked it up, what’s the point?) but it definitely hits me when I finish a pint of it. And that’s good timing, too, because the grapefruit IPA is just about kicked.
* * *
Our neighbors on the right side, who have been in the house as long as we’ve lived here, recently moved to an assisted living community and put their house up on the market. We were in New York when they held the open house, so we didn’t get to walk through it, but we told a bunch of friends and our brother and sister to check it out. Having walked through the downstairs a few times I didn’t see any huge problems, but everybody we know said it was more work than they were willing to take on. As it turned out there was a bidding war on the first day and it’s going to settlement this Friday. Apparently the buyers have kids a little younger than Finley, and they’ve had several people come by to look at the place, who we can only guess are contractors. I hope they’re normal and we can get along with them.
So 12+ years after we first broke ground on the new bathroom, and 2 years after the actual cabinetry and countertops went in, we’ve got a mirror on the wall. The story of how it finally got here is long and winding, and there have been many detours and delays along the way, but it’s up and permanently affixed to the wall.
To fit the odd dimensions of our room, I had to custom order the mirror. We didn’t want to just stick a mirror on the wall, so I built a frame to fit the mirror—I actually built two frames, the first using a router, back in early December. The cuts on that didn’t come out clean enough, so then I cut the second one the way I should have from the start, with the table saw. There was some experimentation with how it would be joined securely (the mirror itself is something like 40 lbs.) but once I had that figured out it went together quickly. I then assembled the whole thing and hung it on the wall and then realized that we could see unpainted wood reflected in the mirror because I hadn’t painted the backside of the channel the mirror sat in.
So I took it apart, sprayed the inside, reassembled it, and hung it back on the wall. Screwed it to the wall, actually; I don’t trust simple hangers to hold it so I put six exterior screws through the wood into the 1/2″ sheathing behind the drywall and covered the holes with wood putty. The whole thing got taped off, sanded, and repainted. That fucker ain’t going anywhere.
Then I touched up the paint around the whole thing, hung a towel rack to the left, and glued and screwed both thresholds down for good. It’s really coming together! Now we need to settle on some lights for over the mirror.
On Wednesday of last week, I started cleaning up the full-size closet in the new bathroom in preparation for installing our closet system. As mentioned earlier, this involved fixing the crappy old outlet box hanging from the wall and painting the walls with two coats of eggshell white.
I started building the middle cabinet on Friday and got the whole thing assembled, in place, and leveled by dinnertime. I had to find a stud on the back wall to mount into, and then shimmed up the base. Then I started trimming and cutting wood for the baseboards when I knew the middle cabinet was in place.
On Saturday I hit the whole thing with a vengeance, finishing off the baseboard trim, cutting side supports for the clothes racks (I don’t know in what world they think 300 lbs. of clothes will hang on a couple of drywall anchors, but I ain’t buying it) and cutting the rods to fit. Everything got nailed into place, caulked, and painted. I cut two of the supplied shelves down to size, glued the moulding in place, and let everything dry overnight.
Sunday morning Jen and I had the pleasure of moving the contents of two overstuffed 1920’s closets into one adult-sized lighted walk-in.
When that was done and Jen was organizing her space, I moved our giant IKEA dresser out from in front of the back bathroom entrance and opened that door for the first time in (5? 6?) years. We’re reorganizing our bedroom space, and now that the closets are opened up that allows us to move other things around and make some changes. It’s going to be hard to reprogram my brain to look for certain clothes in certain places (when we moved the silverware drawer in the kitchen, it was a full two years before I mentally made the change) but I’m excited about our new space and the upgrade to our quality of life.
I spent some time on Saturday measuring out the bathroom wall for a mirror and looking over the closet situation based on the designs I’d built, and I think it’s time to order the former and go back to the drawing board for the latter. We’ve got a plan for the mirror which will involve some construction, so I’ve got to find someone who will cut one for us.
The closet is another story. Our current closets are 42″ wide, and we each have one—Jen in the blue room and mine in the back bedroom. They are barely 7′ tall, while the new closet is more than a foot higher (in many old houses around here the closets don’t share the same ceiling height). The doors on the current closets are only 24″ wide, so it feels like you’re reaching in to a cereal box. The new closet is 84″ wide, so we don’t gain any width, but with two large doors, 1′ more depth, and interior lighting, it’ll be a completely different experience.
All of the closet solutions I’ve found want to divide the space into three areas, and after talking to Jen about it, I’d like to split it in half. She wants a rack for long clothes and I want a short rack with shelves underneath. All of the online tools I used don’t offer this, so I’ve got to keep searching for something that will work the way we want.
* * *
Monday afternoon we grudgingly put real clothes on, packed the entire family in the car, and drove to the karate dojo for testing. They’ve been doing the best they can with Zoom karate but I know instructing kids remotely is a terrible substitute for in-person training. Finn has been reasonably good about keeping up with it, and when she was done she walked outside with a huge smile and her new blue belt: the next step up!
While we were waiting, Hazel started whining and crying at a plastic owl sitting on the picnic table outside the dojo. I walked out to spin it around so it wasn’t staring at her, and the sensei came out to say hi to us and explain that they’re going to have to go back to in-person training soon. We chatted about the realities of teaching during the pandemic, and I understand his predicament—I’m glad they’re still in business, they are a fantastic dojo.
As the weeks go by my attitude on in-person classes has changed. Finn needs to be around other kids, even if it’s highly compartmentalized. The last couple of months have been really hard for us all, but she’s suffering the most. She needs more formalized structure and to be in a different building interacting with different people, not just for her grades but for her sanity. We’ve started talking to her about it, and where we were dead set against it before, we’re trying to explain why we’ve changed our minds. She’s terrified she might get me sick and doesn’t want to be responsible for killing me (which I appreciate) but I think her mental health is worth the risk.
On the way home, to celebrate the belt, we stopped at a Starbucks to try something Jen had heard about: a pistachio latte (decaf, naturally). I was underwhelmed. Coffee changes flavor at different temperatures, so I understand it may have been the wrong temperature when I got mine, but it just never got better. It was a weak latte with some pistachio waved at the cup; hardly worth $4. Their PSL is unimpeachable but I’d rather save my cash for some ice cream instead.
And, an update: I reheated the second half of my latte and then proceeded to spill it all over my desk this morning. Swell.
* * *
The seedlings in our basement are already going nuts, which is fantastic, but they’ve already outgrown the trays I bought to hold them. Specifically, the clear domes that go over the soil are only 2″ tall, which is great for getting them started but now they’re all bent over looking for somewhere to continue growing. I bought a set of 7″ domes for the trays in the hope that they will provide more room, keep the heat and moisture inside, and keep curious cats out.
Also on the delivery list: a queen-sized mattress for our bedroom. We bought a Sleep Number bed ages ago, and while it was nice back in the day it’s pretty much used up now. We all tried the Sealy twin we got for Finley and deemed it acceptable, and the return policy from Wayfair is excellent, so I pulled the trigger this morning. It was relatively easy to get Finn’s bed up the stairs by myself because it came packed into a round plastic burrito, and this one will theoretically be packed the same way, so hopefully it won’t be difficult to move myself. And the price was great!
* * *
Our Valentine’s Day was quiet but fun; I made bacon egg & cheese for breakfast (one of the culinary foundations of our relationship) and we spent a peaceful afternoon around the house. For dinner, Jen organized a pair of giant delicious steaks, potatoes au gratin, and Brussels sprouts, followed by a fantastic molten chocolate tart with crème fraîche. While she was putting dinner together, a lovely bouquet of flowers arrived for her, and we enjoyed a candlelit dinner together at the table. I love you blondie!
Having done some more research, I’ve found four closet configuration tools with varying approaches to dividing up the space available in our still-empty master closet:
This solution looks like it might be the easiest of them all: it’s two stacking containers in the center of the closet, with a high/low clothing rack on the left side and a long rack on the right side. This would give Jen a ton of space for long clothes and a lot of space on the left side for shorter stuff. The downside to this one is that the center column is pretty narrow, meaning there isn’t much room for anything, but at least there’s a shelf across the top. No pricing given
This one has a lot of components, but seems to do a lot with the space that’s available. The drawers are wide, and there’s a good wide space on each of the short racks for the bulk of our hanging clothes. the middle rack is narrower and frankly doesn’t allow for much space for long dresses. Estimated pricing: $1355
The Swedes use two 23″ wide frames to contain the his and hers sections, leaving 38″ of space in between for a long hanging rack. I chose a set of five drawers for the bottom half and spent an extra $60 on four glass front drawers, but otherwise it’s pretty simple. I’d prefer a couple of taller deeper drawers down below but this is the only size they offer. This also doesn’t allow for a center rack install, but I’d just buy one separately and install it myself. Estimated Pricing: $670
The Container Store
This one doesn’t use any kind of frames or containers at all; it’s all set up as wire racks hanging off the back wall and separated into three odd-sized sections. They actually offer two product lines, but the more expensive line wastes 4″ of space on either side due to its prefabricated origins. Here I’ve got a rack up top, and the his and hers racks on the right side. One is narrower than the other for reasons I wasn’t able to alter in their tool, and they don’t offer drawers in any of the configurations so it’s all shelves. Estimated Pricing: $456
We haven’t made a decision yet, but these four approaches are much less expensive than I thought they might be.
I got thinking about closets while I was stuck in a long Zoom call Friday afternoon and started searching for an online closet builder. Within about 20 minutes I had this basic structure designed, and after I re-measured everything and showed it to Jen, this is what we came up with: his and hers built-ins with hanger bars above and storage below, and a center section for long dresses. This is the best usage of the space in there possible; I could add a second set of bars below or a set of shoe racks, but we both like the idea of shelves instead. Now to find someone who we can order the parts from…
But one thing I’m going to have to do before any cabinetry goes in is have my electrician come back in and move an outlet from its current location behind where the right-side cabinet would go to the center of the wall. I’ve been having problems with that outlet anyway—it’s a legacy circuit from the Doctor and it has no anchor so it’s been hanging out of the drywall since we enclosed everything. This will be a good excuse to get it moved properly and professionally.
Saturday morning I measured out some spare lumber from the workbench and the area in the basement and started constructing a new sorting table by the laundry area. The original table was a 5′ section of countertop resting on two of the old cabinets from the kitchen. This was functional but wobbly, and the counter overhang prevented the top drawers of the counters from opening. I put together an 8′ cantilevered table with a storage shelf, screwed both of the cabinets together, and tucked them under the near edge. The top is smooth MDF, and I beveled the edge with the router so there’s nothing to snag delicate fabric on. Now there’s room for six sorting baskets on the top and the whole thing is level and sturdy on the floor. The top will get painted when I can open the back door (MDF expands with water-based paint, so I’ll use some auto primer) and when the electrician comes we’ll have him upgrade the lighting down there as well.