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Category Archives: Jade House

Welcome to Hell

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According to our neighbor, Hell is the house on the corner.

You know the one. It has green shutters and dried ivy sneaking up the chimney.

It is a blasted wasteland of exposed dirt. A place where dandelions roam freely in the backyard and trees grow out from the middle of other trees. [GASP! Oh the horror.]

Even without the fresh fertilizer that I just spread this afternoon, our yard is a hellhole.

Or at least, that’s what I’m told.

Among my many other faults as a co-homeowner I am:

  • self-absorbed … you know. Like you do when you’re a millennial who works 40 hours a week for the public school system and yet manages to volunteer with two separate organizations.
  • a liar … because we are not actually putting in a rock garden which I so flippantly suggested last fall.
  • and that being 7-months pregnant is just another excuse for not actually doing anything in my yard.

Today, I learned much about residing in the underworld.

Writing on the sidewalk is an attention-getting pastime.

Asking our lovely German neighbor from across the street to weigh in on the state of our yard is juvenile.

Being repeatedly told that our yard is shitty is apparently not, however, sustaining verbal abuse. Huh. Could have fooled me after a 15 minute tirade without any provocation.

Since my mister and I are living in a fantasy world, where we believe that planting things in our yard is a way to magically make things better, I’ve been trying to figure out who exactly that makes Mr. Pirate and I.

We’re not high-ranking enough, I’m sure to consider ourselves Lucifer and Lilith. Probably not Hades and Persephone for that matter. Ellie is clearly our Hell-spawn and her play structure in the backyard is evidently the Devil’s playground.

I wonder if this means that we should get a dog and name it Cerberus?

Tomorrow, I might process the truly eerie photos that I took of our yard, the portal to the underworld, and our adorable little spawn.

For now though, I will contemplate cross stitch — one hobby I have not yet managed to undertake — and leave you with this delightful homage to the Bayeux tapestry.

Crafty credit to stephXstitch.

Crafty credit to stephXstitch on Etsy.



…And Gilder To Frame For It

Whenever I talk to my aunt she always asks, “What projects are you working on?”

I know that she’s just making conversation but I always feel like Prince Humperdink when I respond that we don’t have any projects going on right now. We’ve been busy.

It’s not as though I’m planning anything as grand as he is, it’s just Mr. Pirate and I have found our time strangely occupied since Elle came along. She really has changed everything. Our weekends revolve around nap time. Our menu planning is determined by whether or not it’s something that can be gummed by a little person with only two teeth.

Neither of us regrets this change in our perspective but it certainly has altered our short-term planning for the Jade House.

We bought this house because of its proximity to the elementary school (it’s at the end of our block) so the goal always has been to hunker down and stay here for a bit. And with that comes our expectation that things will take some time.

The house has come a long way even if we’re not making regular progress. We now have two fully functional bathrooms plus the sole original one that’s located in our creepy basement. Mr. Pirate refinished the hardwood in Elle’s room which was more important to us than fixing the peeling linoleum-whatever floor in the living room and dining room.

We’re working on saving and budgeting for new windows. All of the appliances in our kitchen work, even if the layout leaves something to be desired. It has possibly stopped snowing (for now) so maybe we can start laying down the groundwork for a raised vegetable garden out back and just do some general curb appeal.

At times I envy the family two doors down who had the opportunity to gut their formerly bank-owned home. Like ours, it was in need of some restorative TLC and they were able to set up a Dumpster out front and just give the house a 4-month long makeover before they moved in. It would have been nice to do that.

Instead, we’re just living with poking along and doing one intermittent project at a time. At least this way we’ll never be bored.


Suburban Warfare

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Little by little we have begun to wage war on our weed-choked yard.

Daily, Elle and I go out to the front lines and I pull weeds while she supervises from her picnic blanket. On weekends, Mr. Pirate and I both tackle one part or another of our unsightly little postage stamp.

Like the house, our yard basically has good bones. At some point, one of our home’s two previous owners cared about our curb appeal. There are wild hedges out front and evidence of a couple of flower beds in the back. Given the amount of overgrowth though, the last time anyone bothered weeding was probably sometime in the early 90s.

The weeds that make up our lawn have thick and twisted roots systems like something out of Lovecraft. There are roses in the backyard, but as a friend pointed out even a rose is a weed if it’s growing somewhere you don’t want it to.

We’ve had allies in our struggle to reclaim our yard.

Up until last summer, stringy elms clustered up against the back of the house threatening the foundation and blocking the natural light from the east-facing windows. Then Mr. Pirate’s parents visited and hacked them all down.

Last month my folks came out to see Elle and my dad helped me reclaim the clothesline from the monstrous villain that is our grapevine. It yields sweet Concord grapes, but the years of growing out of control had left it a grapevine rampant.

Since we moved in I’ve just taken the attitude that at least the weeds are green. However, having a new little person in our lives is something of a game changer in all things.

We’d both like for Elle to have a good place to play. Good place for me means grass appropriate for our arid climate so that she can develop a love of walking around barefoot. For Mr. Pirate that means excellent climbing trees.

She is not yet mobile so I figure we have at least the rest of this summer and fall to truly become weekend warriors. We aren’t yet on first-name basis with the folks at the garden center. But we’ll get there.


The Unexpected Benefit of Outdated Windows

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We brought our new little Elle home a week ago from the hospital with a bit of jaundice and a healthy holler. Since she started life with a bit of fluid in her lungs, the latter is a good thing while the former has left me reeling just a bit.

The logical part of my brain understands that jaundice isn’t a big deal. Plenty of kids have just a touch of jaundice at birth and once it gets cleared up, everything is fine.

The emotional part of my brain, however, has had a great deal of difficulty with it. I have long equated the word jaundice with my cousin Sara’s death. I know now that jaundice did not cause her death. Sara had other health problems. But the word itself that describes the yellowing of the skin has always come with the weight of a grief that I was too young to fully experience but that has spiraled around me ever since like pinwheels in the breeze.

The upshot of all of this baggage is that I had a valid reason to verify an old wives’ tale about jaundice. I had always heard that putting a baby in the sunlight can help improve a jaundice complexion. I asked one of Elle’s nurses about that and she said, well. Yes and No.

  • Yes, in that in instances where a Bili light is unavailable for use in phototherapy, that sun exposure is the next best thing.
  • No, in that most modern homes with energy-efficient windows that block and/or absorb sunlight do not allow enough light to come in to do much good.

Score one more for the Jade House.

The Jade House still house its original aluminum frame, single pane windows. Some rooms have storm windows on them. Fewer still have screens. It’s pretty pathetic, actually.

Whenever window solicitors come through our neighborhood, we are always hit up for the pitch of updating our windows. We know that we need to. We’ve even sought out quotes from reputable sources and window replacement is in our budget for later this fall or even early winter.

But for now, depending on the time of day, our old windows make for mighty fine Bili lights in every room.



Playing House

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I remember playing house a lot when I was little. Not so much with my friends, but when I played alone.

We had this little miniature cardboard kitchen with a red sink and a window that looked out onto a backyard with a tree. I would prepare brightly-colored plastic meals for my Cabbage Patch kids and would talk to them as if we were a family. I folded and refolded their clothes  — infant onesies leftover from when my sister and I were tiny — and mimicked chores my mom did around the house.

I never imagined what this house actually looked like. Everything revolved around the kitchen though. The doll bunk beds were in the kitchen. We drove to the store in the kitchen. The kitchen was basically the only room in that world of pretend.

Maybe my earliest imaginings about a home are why Mr. Pirate and I do not have a deadline for fixing up the Jade House. Perhaps, I am still not yet sure what this house looks like either.

That’s why I drool a little bit when I read articles in the newspaper like this one about a family who built their dream home with repurposed materials. Their home seems so funky and thought out. They knew what they wanted and they made it happen with hard work and dedication.

Here at the Jade House, we have moments of inspired progress. This winter we worked on the baby’s room in large part because with three weeks left, the baby’s room just needed to happen. The walls are still a little bare, but all the furniture is in place. Or at least, in place until we figure out how this space is going to be used and we end up rearranging to make it better.

There are even fewer rules with your own house than there are with the pretend house of my childhood games. I feel embarrassed at times by the clutter and overall state of work-in-progress-affairs. And then my cousin just randomly stops by and we stand around in the kitchen and talk about books and life in general and it’s all good.

There’s no stress about making our home neat and tidy in that moment. Just laughter and an overall moment of peace.

When you get right down to it, I think that’s the home that I want the Jade House to be. That’s the house I want this little person to grow up in.



Things That Go Bump In The Night (Also In The Morning)

On the weekends I enjoy just tuning off the humidifier and relishing the silence of the house before our day begins.

But wait.


There. If you don’t sneeze you can hear the pitter-patter of little feet.

Not kidlet feet. At 26 weeks it’s still chilling in my belly.

It’s not little cat feet either. Harley is on my lap and I can see Antigone curled up on the couch in the front room.

There’s a scuttling in the ceiling above our dining room and I am pretty confident at this point that we have a bit of a rodent problem.

We have not spotted any signs of droppings and there are no visible holes in the walls (minus the gappy floorboard vent in the upstairs hallway and the hole in the kitchen ceiling). But we did find two dead mice when we moved in and there were mouse traps in the garage.

Maybe this is the third blind mouse?

Maybe it’s like the corrupted toys from “Toy Story,” like the Erector Set spider baby which then makes me think of Jonathan Coulton’s song “Creepy Doll.”

At this point though, we suspect that the sound is coming from the floor joists, between the second and first floors, where the bees had their hive over the summer. It is possible that whatever residue is leftover is sustaining the skittery critter.

And it needs to die.

I usually don’t feel that violent toward small creatures. Cockroaches, yes. But not fuzzy things. However, with April just a few months away, I don’t feel as though we have time to coax the little furball out from our floors. Listen, Jade House, we have other things that need to get done.

Monday or Tuesday someone is coming and they will fix this problem. We looked on Angie’s List and contacted a few pest removal outfits. Only one has returned our request … which is a problem I have found with Angie’s List that I find somewhat frustrating. There are only two major problems with this whole scenario.

  1. If it not a mouse or rat, they don’t have the certifications to deal with anything bigger (like a squirrel).
  2. It’s in the freaking floor boards.

I guess this is what we get for living in a neighborhood that prior to 1969 really was just farmland. The ecosystem really doesn’t care that we’re trying to build a life here and that we have two cats who should be perfectly capable of handling mouse-shaped noms. They certainly take care of all of the spiders in Ravenholm for us.

We’re laying down baseboards in the kidlet’s room this weekend and maybe we’ll also excavate the library and just verify that there aren’t any obvious signs of rodent habitation. You know, just in case there is a creepy doll hiding up there or something.


Let’s Do This 2013

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Hello New Year!

My apologies for not staying up to greet you at o’dark thirty in the morning. I don’t have to work today so sleeping in past my usual alarm at 3:30 is my own way of celebrating 2013. That and rubbing my pregnant belly for good luck.

Owen also has today off so we’re tackling the problem of the floors in the baby’s future room being the worst in the house. I had forgotten how bad they were until after we moved out my craft desk and baby’s mini library shelf. Am still not entirely sure how they managed to imprint a 2-foot in diameter circle into the hardwood floors, but there you go.

Even if our attempts at home-ownership and remodeling are slow, I still firmly believe that the Jade House is better off with us.

So, we are off to the hardware store today to rent a floor sander and pick up some polyurethane. We have approximately four months to make that room livable. Ready? Go!

But first! A video tribute to pretty much all that was awesome of YouTube last year.

People will ask me if I’ve seen one show or the other, and if it happened in the last couple of years, my usual answer is no. Now the Internet on the other hand, yeah. Probably.

It’s not that I have a moral stance against television, it’s just that in the four years since we moved out here, we have only had the Internet as our home entertainment. We have a TV, it just exists for the PlayStation. Our house is less pop cultural vacuum, and more nerd culture safe house I think.