Vacation Week

Last week was Vacation Week here in Maine. If you are picturing me lounging in the sun, fruity drink in hand, keep dreaming.  The only downtime I got was Sunday, between the hours of 12:30 and 2pm.  I didn’t see a single fruity drink the whole week, unless you count the orange juice I had to wipe off the windows when the kids missed the sink.  The one highlight? My husband also took the week off. Normally this would have rocked beyond belief.  But since we are LIVING THE DREAM of 250 year old home ownership, Vacation Week was Hell.

Highlights of Hell included:

Cleaning out the basement.  Normally I wouldn’t complain, a little tidying here & there, but our basement was so congested we had to rent a jumbo sized construction dumpster.  It arrived Friday afternoon.

Let the Vacation begin!  Our super duper olde house had some super duper olde wood in the basement.  As you can see here:

All the construction debris from upstairs had to be stowed somewhere.  Unfortunately, the recent rains which flooded our basement also waterlogged much of the discarded material.  Causing it to mold as well as rendering it ungodly heavy.  The rodent excrement peppering much of it was just a bonus.

It took us four days to haul everything outside to the dumpster.  And if the backbreaking labor wasn’t memorable enough, its aftermath was truly unforgettable.  Likely b/c of something I breathed in/touched/otherwise ingested while hauling all that crap, I spent two nights splayed across the bathroom floor, longing for death.  There is something about a severe GI upset that scars a person.  Twice in 3 days is enough to induce psychosis.

In between the wood hauling, full body chills & bathroom trips, we enjoyed nature.  And we didn’t even have to leave the house!  When you are Living the Dream like we are, you discover all sorts of things you never knew you had.  Like red squirrels!

OOOooOOOh!  Yes he (or she) IS VERY CUTE.  My older daughter was beside herself with worry and desire, both to save and KEEP the squirrel.  I am wild about animals. but frankly, I draw the line at eyedropper feeding an infant squirrel ten times a day for the next who knows how long.  After 2 days of trying unsuccessfully to reunite baby w/momma, we took him (her) to the nature refuge.

So, where was that squirrel hiding?!  Remember all that wood in the photo above?  Well, it’s reeeeaaallly hard to see, but there in the back you can faintly make out some wood paneling/shelves.  These walls/shelves were put up by the former owner, who had hoped to use the basement as a workshop – before realizing how high the water table is.  Back before we bought the house, our home inspector urged us to remove as much of this stuff as possible.  50 years of flooding hasn’t been good to this wood.  These walls/units were serving no other purpose than to 1) hold water, 2) mold, 3) conceal stuff.  Stuff like the squirrels who’d been living behind them.  As well as a lot of chewed up batting, poop, and potential structural issues – which, thankfully, we’ll now be able to see before they wreak havoc.  Here is the space with the beautiful brick archway exposed.

But the nature discovery didn’t end there.  Oh, no.  With all that work we’d been doing INSIDE, we hadn’t noticed just what a beating the outside had been taking.

When we moved in 8 months ago, we had a green lawn. Over the winter, the green naturally turned brown. As spring has sprung, much of the grass – mostly out back – has regained its verdant look. But the lawn out front?  About a month ago, these strange brown patches started appearing. Subtle at first, now downright ugly. Initially the dead grass fit the pattern of being urine burned. Along the edge the sidewalk, where dogs do their business. Or, as one neighbor suggested, it could have been salt burn from the snow plowing. Initially this made sense, until these brown patches began to grow, moving up from the sidewalk to the upper part of the front yard. My husband and I wondered whether it could still be dogs? But our neighbors are courteous, and we had such a mild winter. Surely, neither explanation could account for this, and no other yards seemed touched. The dead zones kept spreading and our concern grew.

I went out late last week to investigate. I brought along a heavy metal rake, and began first by poking, then by scraping the surface of the grass. The brown dead areas came off effortlessly, and just below the surface, to my horror, I found:

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!  WHITE GRUBS. Dozens and dozens of them. I spent some time removing the dead zones, which of course just so happen to be DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF OUR HOUSE. Facing the street. Where everyone can gaze upon them.

Ughhh.  Yes, it is UGLY.  Having had a mere postage stamp of a yard in Philly, we had no freaking clue.  How could we have possible hedged against a nemesis we didn’t even know existed?!  And so, we got to work.  Once again.  We spent time researching online, investigating natural and chemical pesticides, trying to determine the best course of action.  I wish I could tell you we did it the happy holding hands way, but this time – it was us or the grubs.  We decided to take the dirty route and poison them using Grub-Ex.  I did not want to do it, but dammit, we have invested everything we have & more in this house and I will not let some white grotty grubs take my beautiful lawn away.  OH NO.  Our next door neighbor lent us her spreader and we put that Grub-Ex down on every inch.  2 days of work and the lawn’s still ugly as sin.  But hopefully it’s on its way to health.  Time will tell.

The icing on the cake came at the least expected time.  I went to relieve myself and was greeted with this.

No droppings in the (lived in portion of) the house, no sign of them at all – then BAM! a dead one in the TOILET?!  When the mice are jumping ship, is that a sign?  Sigh..

The collector.

I joke about being a pack rat. But this morning, after googling “pack rat” for pictures, I can safely say I AM NOT A PACK RAT. Dear Lord. If you can no longer see your floor for the mountain of clothing and debris, you need help. And quick! Before you are swallowed WHOLE.

SO. Instead of saying I am a pack rat – which I AM NOT – I will call myself a selective hoarder. Not quite the same level of commitment. Being a selective hoarder is sort of like being a secret drinker, but as I am open about my drinking, I favor STUFF instead of liquor. I stash it about the house, here and there. Tucked into little crevices, so neat and tidy you’d never suspect it’s lurking there behind that cupboard door. HAHAHAHAH!

Fortunately this hoarding compulsion really only translates to a few things. My kids, for instance. The walls of my office are lined with their drawings. I save school papers, scrawled messages, mementos. Birthday cards, locks of hair, teeth. I even have their umbilical stumps, like two dried-up raisins – why? Because. Boxes of old shoes and clothing line the walls of the attic. Even though I’ve given away a ton of it all, the collection still grows. We want more children!
I will NEED that stained, holey Purple Pony t-shirt some day. For this same reason I still have boxes of baby toys, 2 changing tables, cribs and an enormous plastic racing car bed. I am not sure how many more kids we’ll have, but it’s safe to say they’ll all have somewhere to sleep.

In addition, I retain paperwork. If we bought a small appliance 10 years ago, you can bet I have the manual sitting in a drawer somewhere. I have boxes of notebooks from high school, college, graduate school. Old report cards from junior high, paper awards from Highland Elementary. I have birthday cards I got when I was 15. Really. I’ve saved every letter, postcard, and greeting card I’ve been given the past 20 years. Our closets overflow w/ correspondence. I tell you, if I am ever famous I will be an archivist’s dream.

Against my will, I also collect plastic containers. I do not want to. But they only take #1 or 2 plastic in the recycling, and I feel guilty about tossing the others. On average, I eat two cups of yogurt a day. Our dog Max loves his Beneful meals, which (of course) come in these cute little lidded containers. I cook at home almost every day. Sour cream, cream cheese containers, foam packaging, all non-recyclable. I know the news is blathering on about the price of oil, BUT WHAT THE HELL are these manufacturers doing??! Putting all of this stuff in #5, 6, 7 plastic?? Wake UP AMERICA! This food isn’t coming from overseas. This is our shame, and all this trash is going back into the ground! What a waste. So much garbage. I HATE chucking these plastic things, but dammit my cabinets can only hold so much. I already have closets full of paper, where the hell can I stuff 35 jumbo yogurt tubs a month?? I will be buried in a mountain of plastic Stonyfield Farm containers when I die.

Now that The Daily Dish is on hold, I am spending time organizing my home. It is liberating being able to open up a closet and not have stuff fall down on top of me. And it is fun looking through old pictures. At this rate, my house will be so clean I’ll hardly believe it’s mine. But I know I not the only Collector out there. Tell me your secrets.