Monday, November 24, 2008

Glamour Gift of the Year

Well. For those of you who have been following 100 Days to Christmas, you are well aware last week was Clean the House Week. While not nearly as involved as the Grand Plan crew would have you do, it was more than I could take--and not just because of my small boys and aversion to housecleaning.

We got a new sewer line last week. The gift that keeps on giving!

Understand something here. We've been in this house for about eight years now. Part of why we bought it was that it was in great shape--newish roof, sound appliances and systems, etc. There were things we wanted to do, but little we *had* to do.

Until the first baby was born.

And really, even before that. The summer I was pregnant with my first child, I was living in the only room with air conditioning--out bedroom. All The Time. I would make dinner and take it upstairs. I would really leave only for work and critical household maintenance (laundry, throwing dishes at the dishwasher, etc.). So, we got central air. That was good.

The next project was also baby-related; all the relatives came, which was great; but a sizable number are over 80 years old. At the time, our front lawn was covered in the horrible little spiky balls that fall from our tree, and had a few amateurishly placed flagstones as steps up to our front door. I was petrified watching everyone come in, thinking I'd need to call an ambulance because the geriatric set wanted to see my baby. It took lots of the joy out of the visits for me. So we hardscaped. We put in new steps, with lighting; a new landing at the base of the steps; a new retaining wall, and, soon after, a new driveway. These were all great quality of life improvements for us and all who visit.

A continuing problem, though, was our sewer line. Our powder room always seemed like an afterthought. The sewer line was built with no trap or access spout, so to clean out the sewer, the toilet had to be pulled from the floor. By the time we moved in, the wax seal wasn't even there anymore, and the top of the tank was mismatched, probably because the original crashed in one of the pulls.

The sewer line needed snaking about once or twice a year for the first few years. Then it was three times a year. Then quarterly. And something had to give.

We had several companies come by and give estimates; all included displacing some of the hardscaping, which gave me tremendous agita. But one--our plumber, of all people--said he knew a way to do it with minimal excavation. We crossed our fingers and took a chance.

Well. Thank goodness we did. The long story short is that a job that was supposed to take one hour one afternoon and part of the next day ballooned in to a three-day song and dance. It turned out our sewer line doesn't go straight from the house to the street. It meanders under our driveway and takes some odd turns until it spills out essentially under our next door neighbor's house. The usual depth of a sewer line is 7 feet. Ha! Try 11. They thought they'd need 40 feet of pipe. They used 78. Did I mention it snowed? (Fortunately not the fabu little 4-inch surprise, but heavy flurries that couldn't have been fun in a squishy 11 foot hole.) The cheery demeanor of the digging crew turned grim, and our usually chatty plumber made himself scarce. As it turned out, we had chunks of the sewer pipe that were completely enclosed by tree roots, none of which the camera had captured.

But, all was well that ended well. There were a few little snafus, but the end of the story is that we have a sewer line that actively drains water. I've never seen a utility sink drain this fast in a house where I live. It's kind of thrilling.

And, all in one post, that's what I'm getting for Christmas. It's also what my husband is getting for Christmas. And I thought it was my birthday gift, but then I got surprised with Madonna tickets! It was an awesome concert--she is unbelievable live.

So that's why I didn't clean up last week. I might have made an effort, but with the dirt and mud being tracked in, it didn't make much sense. On the plus side, I got food prep for the holiday done (things in the freezer, ready to go for that day), and only have one more thing to buy for the family presents. In looking for the boots and snowpants, I also got to see what holiday wear we have for the boys (critical point: none in size five or six, so off to a sale for me, to find something for PickyBoy that we can both live with). (And don't get me wrong, I admire him for sticking to his own fashion sense but it can make some things tricky.) And--finally--we got the Christmas card designed and ready to go, in time to use the coupon even!

So, I feel pretty well back on track, though there's lots of re-placing to do. (Bookshelves needed moving, etc.) Hope your holiday prep is on target and leaving you cheery about the upcoming times instead of stressed!

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