Chronicles of the Mole Family, Chapter 15

So the original intent of the post was to show you before and after photos of our driveway and front yard as the final items to have been renovated before winter set in.  Here they are:

"before" driveway

“before” driveway

"before" front yard

“before” front yard

"after" driveway

“after” driveway






"after" front yard

“after” front yard

The more entertaining photo, however, is of a tree that crashed into our backyard yesterday morning, after what was a fairly minor rainstorm.  Fortunately, no one was hurt.  (Evidently, our renovations are not yet at an end.  <sigh>)

aftermath of rainstorm

aftermath of rainstorm

I put up a photo of this on Facebook and a story thread began, with contributions from many people.  I may put the story (as it currently exists) up on the blog later (with the names of the contributors redacted, of course, in order to protect the guilty).

All is Well with the Mole Family

We are extremely fortunate in that Frankenstorm left us relatively unscathed and that we had plenty of warning that it was coming.  Much of the weekend was spent preparing for an extended time without power.  Jim, who was in Tokyo, changed his flight and got back Sunday night (instead of Monday afternoon).  We were all very excited to see him!  I spent most of yesterday doing laundry and getting ready for Frankenstorm’s arrival.

We lost power at about 9:00 pm last night, but our generator kicked in and all the vital functions of the house (heat, refrigerator, well pump (we’re on well water, so when we lose power, we lose water, too), television, etc.) continued to function.  We were in the middle of watching The Avengers when the power went out, and once the generator kicked in, finished watching the movie before going to bed.

Power came back on around noon today.  School was cancelled for a second straight day today but will resume tomorrow.  (Yay!) No major trees down on our property and no damage to our house.  We count ourselves blessed.

Our friends who live in New Jersey and New York have been much less fortunate, and our prayers are with them and the millions of others in the northeast as they start the clean up process.

Chronicles of the Mole Family, Chapter 14

Technically, I suppose we aren’t the Mole Family anymore, as we have moved above ground (shading our eyes from the vicious daylight).  But since this is a story of our continued renovations, I feel it justifies the heading.

Our driveway and front yard are now what’s being renovated (for the most part—there are still parts of the interior of the house being worked on).  The kids and I were having dinner out last night as the workers were working late in the kitchen installing a new piece of granite.  (That turned out beautifully as you can see.)

granite countertop

When we came back from dinner, the door from the garage into the kitchen was locked, as it should be.  We don’t have the keys yet for that door but there is a lockbox for that very purpose.  We opened up the lockbox only to discover that there was no key.

No problem, I think.  We’ve had this happen before.  We have keys to the basement door and will just get in that way.  So I dispatch handy-dandy son to make this happen (children aka slaves are so very useful).  Handy-dandy son returns after scampering down there to say he can’t unlock the door because it’s been boarded up.  Daughter then remembers and mentions that the same is true for the front door.

So, to recap:  the doors that we have keys for have been boarded up and are inaccessible.  The door that we do have access to we have no keys for.  I am beyond delighted at this turn of events.  You’ll be pleased to know that no profanity issued from my lips (which, in full disclosure, is not the same as no profanity crossing my mind).

So, I call our contractor’s son and tell him what our issue is.  He calls back a few minutes later to say that there are keys taped to a shelf for the garage door.  I find them and think, “Great!”  Only to discover that the keys don’t work.  I call back.

After about 40 minutes, the contractor’s other son arrives.  First thing he does is try the keys.  (I am mildly annoyed by this–while I am generally not handy, I am able to use keys–but then I realize that I would have done exactly the same thing if I had been him.)  The keys don’t work.  He doesn’t have a key to the garage door.  So, after mulling it over, he gets a drill from his car, squelches through the mud that was our front yard (did I mention that it has been pouring rain since we got home?), removes the plywood boarding up our front door, unlocks it, comes and unlocks the garage door, and then reinstalls the plywood.

It’s now been over an hour since we’ve gotten home, but at least, we’re inside the house, which is a vast improvement.  And working keys have been promised to us tomorrow.

It was a fitting end for a day that began with a bomb threat at the school, but that’s a story for another day.

(Almost) Completed Renovations

It’s been a while since I’ve done a house renovation update, and I wish I could say that no news is good news… We still aren’t done with the renovations <sigh>, but there is progress.  We have moved upstairs, as all of the bedrooms and bathrooms are about 99% finished.  Each bedroom now has its own bathroom, which makes our 13 year old VERY happy.  And, now with an actual bedroom, she can shut the door on her brother when he is annoying (which, evidently, is most of the time).

Here’s the 13 year old’s room:

peipei's roompeipei's bathroom

Here’s the 10 year old’s room:

weiwei's room


Here’s the master bedroom (with a sitting room and an exercise room) and bathroom:

sitting rooms

master bedroom

master bathroommaster bathroom

The main floor is still not done, as they are installing bookshelves in the new study and the kitchen still has some work to be done.

We’re very pleased with how the house has turned out, but a bit disappointed about how long it’s taken.  (I know, I know, it always takes longer than you think, but this has REALLY taken longer than we thought.)  Given that school starts in less than a month, and we don’t have any of our fall “stuff,” it would be helpful for the house to be finished soon and all of our things from storage returned.  If I sound cranky, it’s because I am a little (shocking, I know).  I had hoped that we would have the summer—a relatively slow period in our lives—to unpack and sift through our things.  Having to do it in the fall, when our lives our chaotically busy, is not ideal.  That being said, without an Einsteinian express or an ability to bend the rules of space and time, we are clearly going to be unpacking in the fall.  🙂

And, of course, since I’m mellow and easygoing by nature, you just know that the fall is going to be a fun time to be spending with me as I unpack!

Chronicles of the Mole Family, Chapter 13

There is flooring (and paint)!  So, lots of exciting things have been happening inside our house (lots of exciting things have been happening outside our house, too, but that’s not the subject of this blog post).  First, this is a photo of the master bedroom sitting room, and you will note that there is wood flooring laid down and paint color decided.

master br sitting room

Next is a picture of a sky tunnel.  For rooms with no external windows, our contractor decided to snake a large hose (kind of like the type that preschool kids crawl through for fun) from a hole in the roof to the internal room in question to provide natural lighting.  To our amazement, it really works!  This is from one of the kids’ bathrooms.

sky tunnel

This is the tiling in our laundry room, which will be upstairs on the bedroom floor.  We found the walk all the way downstairs with dirty laundry to be SO fatiguing!

laundry room

And, finally, the tiling for the master bathroom shower.

master bathroom shower

Currently, the hope is that we will be able to move into our bedrooms by the end of the month.  Fingers crossed!

Chronicles of the Mole Family, Chapter 12

The entertaining thing about the renovations (if living in the basement for 5 months and counting can be called entertaining) is that there are surprises every time we go upstairs and look at the progress.  Of course, this is primarily because we have no idea what any of the colors or tile or flooring is going to look like.  (Clearly, no one can ever accuse us of being micromanagers!)  So, on the latest exploration of the house, we discovered a few things:

First, the coffered ceiling in the master bedroom now looks like a ceiling as opposed to the assembly of sticks pictured in an earlier blog post:

coffered ceiling

Second, the shower in the 13 year old’s bathroom is tiled:

peipei's shower

So is the shower in the 10 year old’s bathroom:

weiwei's shower

But the master bathroom shower is not:

master bathroom

And the main floor is still a total disaster:


An end of June completion date?  We shall see.  And that concludes the update for today.

Chronicles of the Mole Family, Chapter 11

We have drywall on both floors!  We have paint on the upper floor!  I will post photos soon, but one dry-walled room looks very much like any other dry-walled room, so unless you have dry wall obsession, it’s not that interesting.

Most importantly, we have tentative move-back-in date(s)!!  It looks like we will be able to move back into the 2nd floor some time in late May.  Bedrooms (rooms with doors)!! Closets!!  Separate bedtimes!!  (In case you couldn’t tell, I am very excited.)

Kitchen cabinets (or, more accurately, the lack thereof) are holding up the main floor move-in date, but we are still hopeful that it will be some time in June, in keeping with our original internal date.

Happy dance of excitement may now commence!!

Chronicles of the Mole Family, Chapter 10

We have drywall!  Well, on the 2nd floor, we have drywall in all of the bedrooms.  (The main floor still looks like marauding hordes of Vikings have gone through it.)  I have been told by those who know these things that once drywalling starts, everything else falls into place very quickly (painting, flooring, etc.).  I certainly hope that’s true because the large spiders that have been invading our basement recently may be enough to drive me from the premises.  I am not fond of spiders to begin with (they give me serious heebie-jeebies), but I do think it is reasonable for anyone to dislike spiders that are 2-3 inches in diameter.  And the kids are no help whatsoever, although the 10 year old will assist in spider-killing.  (The 13 year old will just run in screeching terror from them.)  What good are having children if they won’t kill spiders for you?  I am seriously thinking of asking for a refund since neither child came with a spider-killing gene.

But I digress.  Here are some photos of the newly drywalled upper floor.  These 2 photos are of the master bedroom and sitting room:

master bedroommaster br sitting room

And here are the kids’ rooms:

kid bedroom #1kid bedroom #2


Chronicles of the Mole Family, Chapter 9

We were evicted from our basement in mid-March as Mr. Le needed to work on the HVAC and electrical systems and have them inspected.  (You know that you have sunk to a new low in home renovation when you can’t even stay in your own basement.)

The eviction was originally scheduled to be for 2 weeks.  We jiggled slightly with the schedule so that the 2nd week of the eviction was during our spring break.  Because our 7th grader was doing a community service project at Children’s National Medical Center, during the 1st week of our eviction, we stayed near Potomac so that we could carpool with the other family whose children were also doing their service project at Children’s.  We then left for Paris for spring break and had a marvelous time.  (See previous post.)

About halfway through our stay in Paris, we received an email from Mr. Le saying that our eviction would have to be extended by a week.  So we threw ourselves upon the mercy of some friends who live in Chevy Chase and who were about to go out of town on their spring break.  As they said, we replaced 2 adults, 1 girl, 1 boy, and 1 bullmastiff in their house with 2 adults, 1 girl, 1 boy, and 1 bullmastiff.  It was incredibly generous of our friends to let us stay at their house for the week.  And as much as I love our house, it was lovely to be 10 minutes away from the school and walking distance from downtown Bethesda.  We are very grateful to them for giving the homeless Mole Family a place to stay.

We finally moved back in after Easter.  Who knew you could miss living in a basement so much? But it was good to be back, even if it meant that there was no longer any excuse not to do the 10 loads of laundry that had accumulated during our wanderings.

The main floor and upper floor are still only framed as they finish up the wiring and other internal renovations.  They have started painting the exterior brick a very nice shade of taupe/gray.

painted brick

Barring a miracle, it is highly unlikely that we will be able to move back into the rest of the house at the end of April (as originally projected), but we are still hopeful that we can move in by the end of June (our internal projection).  We’d feel more optimistic if there weren’t so many gigantic holes in the house!

Chronicles of the Mole Family, Chapter 8

Brick for the new additions laid.  Siding for the new additions in progress.  New-fangled windows installed in the addition.  Replacement of old-fangled windows by the new-fangled windows almost complete.  The exterior is in good shape.

new brick

The work is mainly focused now on the interior, starting with the HVAC and electrical systems.  The geek in me makes me think that the HVAC tubes look like those worms from the Dune series.  (Not that I’ve read any of the series beyond the first one.  I realize that I am probably in a minority of one, but I was both bored and frustrated with the first Dune book and stopped after that, but I digress.)  I have no similar analogy for the wiring for the electrical system.  I guess I could say that the wiring reminds me of the antennae on the Andorians, but that would just identify me as a total geek.

Anyway, here is a photo of what the Dune worms and the Andorian antennae look like.

Dune worms & Andorian antennae