Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Eco Friendly Wishlist

While we are on the topic of remodeling our house . . . I have a wishlist of things that are all eco friendly, or at the very least energy efficient.

When we first bought our house I knew I wanted to compost. After a little poking around online I discovered that the state of Massachusetts was given a grant to supply every town with compost bins at very cheap prices. I investigated the status of this in Maynard, and found out that I could get an Earth Machine compost bin (that is enormous) for a mere $32. That was one of the first things I did once we moved in - I picked up the compost bin. I did it just in time too, I think there were only 2 left by the time I got there.

We have also talked about getting a rain barrel, and found out that we could also buy this from the public works department in Maynard for a very discounted rate. We have yet to make this plunge because, honestly, I don't ever water anything in my lawn. Maybe next year?

We have bought all energy star appliances thus far: washer, dryer, and refrigerator. Next on deck will be the dish washer, air conditioner, and stove. I am holding out on the stove as long as possible because I would love to be able to get a gas stove (we currently have electric).

Which brings us to the biggest energy suck/earth polluter in our house: OIL. We have oil heat and hot water. I would love to be hooked up to city gas, but I am terrified about how much this will cost us. Not only would we have to hook up to gas, which I am guessing means digging up my lawn (not such a loss, really) and making a hole in my foundation, but we have to buy all new appliances. New boiler/furnace and a new hot water heater. I would love to have an on demand hot water heater, but that is something that would definitely have to wait for the gas switch over. Anywho, one thing begets another in this case.

Some other things that I would love to invest in (and I think they would be fairly inexpensive) is sun tubes.

These overhead lights are sun tubes (images from Watertite Skylights)

These are made by a bunch of companies, and look just like flush mount ceiling lights. However, they require no electricity - they are just like a tubular sky light. Genius. I really want these in the kitchen, as well as all of the bathrooms.

Again, the to-do list grows . . .

Monday, September 26, 2011

To Do List: Bathroom Renovation #1

We have 2 1/2 of the scariest bathrooms ever.

The one pictured below is off of the master bedroom. It is really too small for 2 people to use, so it's mostly Dave's bathroom at this point. Let me walk you through it really quick:

Our blue shower stall with the dinkiest bifold doors ever. It came with the flower-shaped grips when we bought the house. Lucky us. Also, the calico wallpaper. Ugh.

The world's smallest vanity, and the dumbest sink in history. As you can see the faucet is offset to the side of the triangular sink - it's impossible to wash your hands without hitting the inside of the sink. The top of the vanity is formica. It's pulled up at the corners and the previous owners fixed it with clear tape. Classy. Also, why doesn't the vanity go all the way to the wall? Do you know how much more space could be utilized?

The lights. Need I say more?

Complete with a blue toilet. It's a 6 galloner, meaning we waste absurd amounts of water.

We have a pretty long to-do list for the house, but the bathrooms are really wearing on me. They are just awful. I have been gathering inspiration for the new bathrooms, and I think we have come up with some good options.

When we first decided to buy our house a lot of home stores that we like were having seasonal sales on bathroom goods. We bought a few things knowing that we wouldn't get a better deal on them.
We got these lights from Restoration Hardware.

And we also bought this mirror from West Elm, but in white.

In the most recent issue of Martha Stewart Living there was this image of gingham tile for a kitchen backsplash. I love this idea, but wondered if it could work on a floor, perhaps on a slightly larger scale.

After much googling . . .
Ta-da! I would really love to do this on the floor of the bathroom, most likely in grey tones.

We have talked about doing white wainscot paneling, and then keeping the walls a neutral color - perhaps a bluish grey (our master bedroom is navy).

I would like for the shower stall to be all subway tiles, and for the vanity to be either white or natural wood with a stone/marble top. I would really love to make a vanity out of a reclaimed peice of furniture, but I fear that finding something to fit that awkward space may prove difficult.

I also really like this idea, just to create a little extra space and visual interest. Also from High Street Market.

We certainly don't have a lack of ideas when it comes to fixing the ugly bathrooms, it's more of a funding issue. I know the best way to do a remodel is to tear everything apart and start from scratch (thanks, Holmes on Homes). A lot of what we want to do would be fairly inexpensive, but I just want to make sure we have the right people helping us.

Some day this will happen . . . until then, the to-do list grows.

Friday, September 9, 2011

A Tribute to Wee Wee Davis-Wall

Wee Wee was given to me in 1999 right around Halloween. My boyfriend at the time lived in Indiana, and I was just starting school in Boston. He thought it was a good idea to bring me a cat. I remember thinking that was a terrible idea, but as soon as I met her that was it. She and I were meant to be together. She was my animal soul mate. From the very first night I had her she slept on my legs. It became our thing - we always cuddled in bed.

Wee Wee was 6 when she was given to me, and apparently her real name was Tiger. I'm not sure how she got the nickname Wee Wee, but I was more than content to call her that - I was not going to call my tiger-striped cat Tiger. Wee Wee would travel back and forth with me to Indiana for holidays, and for long stays over the summer. The longest we were ever apart was the summer that Dave and I traveled cross-country together for about a month.

Wee Wee was your typical cat, seemingly indifferent to a lot of people, and definitely shy. But anyone who really spent any quality time with her knows that she was the sweetest, most loving cat. She really liked being adored, and adoring her wasn't hard to do.

As Wee Wee got older her health issues started to pile up. First came some upper respiratory infections, and a few eye infections (most likely related). Those were no big deal, and easily treated. Then we started noticing that Wee Wee drooled. We didn't think much of it, but one day took her to a vet for a check up. We discovered Wee Wee had a tumor in her mouth that started in a tooth. It was a very rare cancer and we were told the outlook was not good. In fact, the vet told us that they may have to remove half her jaw. This was terrifying and ridiculous all at the same time. I told them I wanted a second opinion and asked for them to write us a referral to Angell, the MSPCA hospital.

At Angell we met Dr. Kearns, a young vet that saved Wee Wee's life. She assured us that she could treat Wee Wee by removing the tooth and tumor, but there may be complications. There was a possibility that Wee Wee may be on a feeding tube either temporarily, or even for the rest of her life. Well, Wee Wee woke up from surgery, they put food in front of her, and she started eating. That was my girl - she always beat the odds.

The years passed and Wee Wee was pretty healthy. Some things came up, like a knot on her back knee that occasionally became inflamed and caused her to limp. When we lived in Jersey City she started to develop some bad stomach problems. Sparing all of the details Wee Wee became prone to pancreatitis, which was difficult to treat. We chased a lot of problems in NY, none of which were ever properly diagnosed or resolved. When we moved back to Boston we returned to Dr. Kearns at Angell, and a laundry list of problems were diagnosed and treated. Wee Wee had a lot of G.I. sensitivity, high blood pressure, hypothyroidism, arthritis, kidney and liver problems, and some other small things that would pop up here and there.

After a lot of trial and error we were able to treat all of Wee Wee's miscellaneous health problems with a combination of medicine and acupuncture. Our acupuncturist, Dr. Moses, at Angell is amazing (she also does animal hospice). She made our old, sore cat happy again. After acupuncture visits Wee Wee was like a new kitten. She would hop around the house, she could jump better, she would eat well, and generally had a happy disposition.

About 6 months ago we woke up (I was pregnant), and I went and sat on the sofa with Wee Wee. I was petting her and as she started to purr she made this horrible noise - it was somewhere between a grumble and a wheeze. We took her to the emergency room at Angell, and after X-rays and examination, it was determined that Wee Wee had cancer in the back of her throat.

How, after all of the hard work, heartache, and money, did we end up back here again?

At this point Wee Wee was about 18. We talked to Dr. Moses and Dr. Kearns and determined that the best thing for Wee Wee would be the least-invasive thing possible. Instead of a risky surgery, and chemo or radiation, we opted to just manage the tumor by giving Wee Wee steroids. The steroids would help maintain the size of the tumor, and hopefully reduce any swelling that was making it hard for her to breathe. This was only a temporary solution . . .

Over the last few weeks Wee Wee's breathing was getting noticeably worse. She stopped sleeping with us (a big red flag), and she stayed in her bed all day and night. And then she stopped taking her treats - her beloved treats. Wee Wee would wake us up to get these in the morning, and follow us around until she got them at night. This was not good. Again, we consulted our vets. Dr. Moses said that this wasn't sounding good, and that she feared Wee Wee was heading towards an episode - of what nature she wasn't sure. But she was sure that whatever it was would be really bad. It was best to end things before they got catastrophic.

We made an appointment with Dr. Kearns and Courtney (Dr. Kearns' vet tech) to put Wee Wee to sleep. Scheduling this is awful. How do you sleep knowing that in the morning you won't have a cat anymore?

When we got to Angell they took us into the room that Wee Wee was given acupuncture in; a room she was familiar with. Courtney placed a catheter for the injections, and left us with Wee Wee to say our final goodbyes. As we hugged, petted, and kissed her she was wheezing for air. We knew it was for the best . . .

Dr. Kearns and Courtney came back in the room and told us what would happen, how peaceful it would be. I could tell Dr. Kearns had been crying. Then there was a knock on the door - it was Alejandro. Alejandro is the lead vet tech at Angell, and he watched lovingly over Wee Wee when we went to Indiana for Christmas this past year, and again when Elliott was born. In the end Wee Wee was with a room full of people who all loved her so much. There wasn't a dry eye in the room. When the injections were given she slowly lowered her head and fell asleep, it was fast. As one of our other doctors put it, we allowed her to pass with dignity.

I can say that I will never be able to love another pet the way I loved Wee Wee. She was with me for 12 years - I wish it could have been 20. I miss her all the time. It is so hard to walk in the house and not see my cat there. She always came to the door to great us. We were her people.

I have no doubt that Wee Wee's life would have been significantly shorter, and not nearly as happy, if it weren't for the staff at Angell. Dr. Kearns, Dr. Moses, Courtney, Alejandro, and Dr. Coster loved Wee Wee as if she were their own. If you have any spare money to throw around, and would like to make a donation to a good cause - check out Angell's memorial donation page. Feel free to make a donation in Wee Wee's memory, or in memory of one of your own pets.

Farewell, Wee Wee. You were the best cat I could ever have hoped to love. I will miss you every day.

Doing 3 of her favorite things: Sunbathing, sleeping on mom, and sniffing fresh air from an open window.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Let Me Tell You . . .

Because apparently no one else will.

Dave and I have recently befriended our neighbors, Brian and Tina. They have a baby, Colin, that is only 3 months older than Elliott - that alone made us pretty fast friends.

One thing that Tina and I have discussed on numerous occasions is that no one really tells you certain things about pregnancy, childbirth, and baby-having. I don't know if these things are supposed to be, like, women secrets. But as Tina so eloquently put it, "My friends are f***ed up." Amen, sister. Amen.

Here are the things that I wish I would have known:

1. No two pregnancies, child births, or babies are the same. No, really. People love to tell you their sob stories, their tales of horror (and I don't know why women insist upon doing this to one another) - but just because it happened to them doesn't mean it will happen to you. It's fun to swap delivery stories, it becomes a part of an exclusive club you've entered once you've had a child. But take it from me, people can tell you how to do some things until they are blue in the face, but what works for you is what works for you. Don't get me wrong, suggestions are nice - but they are just that. Suggestions. And they don't all work or help.

2. When you are close to going into labor, or when you are in labor - internal exams are so incredibly painful. Seriously, it was one of the worst parts of having a baby. If you decide to have an epidural, then you can't feel them anymore - which is wonderful. Also, when you are rounding 38 or 39 weeks your Dr. will offer to give you an internal to see if you have started dilating. Not only will this most likely tell you nothing (you could go into labor in 12 hours, or 12 days regardless of what they find), but it's going to suck.

3. You're going to tear during childbirth (sorry, dudes - earmuffs). Now, some of you may not (like if you have a C-section, duh), but chances are you will. Getting sewn back together hurts, and it hurts for weeks afterwards.

4. Speaking of "afterwards" - you aren't going to feel like yourself for a really long time. You still have to wear maternity clothes, your midsection will be all puffy and stretched, your breasts will get way bigger, you'll bleed, and there will be pain - and plenty of it. Walking will hurt like hell, but you'll get used to it, and slowly it will fade. Peeing will hurt a lot, too. In our child birth classes they told us some of this, and they said it might last for 2-3 weeks. Quite frankly, that's bullshit.

5. Don't buy baby clothes in advance. Elliott is just about to turn 4 months old and is wearing clothing for up to a 9 month old. You don't know how big your baby is going to be, so don't bother buying things for upcoming seasons (i.e. coats).

6. Drink lots of water. Through everything. Nothing good comes of being dehydrated when you are pregnant, in labor, or breast feeding. (I should practice what I preach.)

7. Once you lose the baby weight, and get back to your normal weight (and this time frame varies from person to person) - your body will rearrange itself. I am the same weight that I was B.E. (before Elliott), but I don't look the same. The weight is all in different places now. And I'm still waiting for this belly to finish shrinking down. Harrumph.

8. During pregnancy you don't lose a lot of hair. It's a weird hormonal thing. Un-pregnant people lose about 100 hairs a day, but this slows way down when you are preggers. Well, the pendulum swings the other way, I'm afraid. At almost 4 months postpartum I am losing hair by the handful. It's gross, and annoying, and is currently showing no signs of stopping. Enjoy your thick, pretty hair when you're pregnant - it won't last long.

I know that seems like a bunch of bitching and moaning, so let me finish with this:

9. You have no idea how instantaneously you will love something until it happens to you.

Dave and I were emotional before I had Elliott because it had just been us for 8 years. We loved our life together, and it was hard to think of something taking some of that love away from one another. However, as soon as Elliott was born, we couldn't imagine a world with him not in it. He immediately became our everything. You do not know love like this until you experience it.

My boys.