Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A preview of August 2011!

Beth had her 20-week ultrasound this past Friday, and we were delighted to learn that we are having a GIRL! We took Will along for the visit, so that he could be part of the process. He was concerned at first that the doctor was his doctor, but we reassured him that this doctor was for mommy. He seems to understand now that there's a baby inside Mommy, and it helped that he got to see the pictures of her on the computer screen during the ultrasound.

These are just two of the scans from the ultrasound. The top one shows her profile, and in this one you can see her little fingers. Knowing that she's... well, a she... makes the whole thing seem that much more real. It's exciting to think how our family will grow and change with the new addition!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Meet Dekker #4!

In case you missed the Facebook announcement (which means it's official), we're excited to share the news of the newest addition Dekker to the clan in late August!

Beth and Baby D2 are doing well. We've been able to hear a heartbeat already, and see these great images on the ultrasound. We've tried communicating it to Will, but we don't think he quite gets it yet. Once Beth starts showing some more, we think it'll set in.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

The Christmas of Trains

This has been the Christmas of trains for us. Toy Story and Curious George were big players, too, but trains dominated our thinking these past holidays. Shortly before we left town for Christmas, we watched the train setup at the Columbus Metropolitan Library. And then we played, and played, and played with trains all through the break. Pictured above are Will and his cousins Jake and Clara; Will and Jake were glued to the train set.

At Beth's parents, Will's first Christmas gift were some trains. He immediately disappeared, running the four cars all through the living room, dining room, and kitchen.

I love this picture of Will and Jake. Boys and their trains. We later took the kids to see the big train setup at Breton Village.

Of course, it wasn't just the little boys who played with trains. My brothers and I hauled out some of our dad's and grandpa's old train set. My dad and his siblings played with these as kids, and we had a turn with them years ago. We were elated once we got that engine running. The sound of the wheels, that old metallic, electrical smell, the feel of all the cars... those brought back a lot of memories. These trains are the old-school O-gauge Lionel trains, well over 50 years old.

We started with a small oval. A single engine and a few cars...

...but then we decided to branch out a bit.

It didn't take us long to start figuring out the nuances of powering an old engine on such a long track. We polished the track for better electrical connections, cleaned the wheels of the cars, and my brother Greg even rewired an old engine that we had never seen in use.

We tried building a long straightaway to see how fast we could get the engine going.

It was really great to re-discover these trains as grown-ups. I feel like we had a better understanding and interest in how they worked, and Dad, our Uncle Dan, Aunt Beth, and our grandmother shared some more stories and tips about the trains. It'll be a fun tradition to start tinkering with and hopefully fixing up these trains over the years.

Friday, December 24, 2010

O Holy Night

"A thrill of hope
The weary world rejoices"

I love Christmas music. All of it: the classic carols, the jazzy versions, the modern remakes, everything (except for that dang Paul McCartney song). And I especially love the old hymns that we get to sing in church every Advent season. O Come, All Ye Faithful. Hark, the Herald Angels Sing. It Came Upon a Midnight Clear. Silent Night. Joy to the World. And one of the most thrilling Christmas hymns, in my opinion: O Holy Night.

It's easy to let all the familiar lyrics wash over you. We've sung these songs so many times, or heard so many versions on the radio, that we often don't hear or sometimes understand what we're saying. But one line out of O Holy Night catches my ear more and more with each passing year: "A thrill of hope / The weary world rejoices."

I love movies and television and music and books; in essence, I love stories. And I gladly buy into the big epic fantasies and fictions (nerd alert!): Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Narnia, Harry Potter, Firefly, Battlestar Galactica, The Matrix, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Lost, you name it. And there's one thing about these stories that I always love - one moment, in fact. This moment is a key part of traditional storytelling. It's that moment when your protagonist is at their worst. When they're about to give up. When all hope is lost. When evil seems to have won. But then something changes. A new resource is discovered. Someone finds one last shred of luck or cleverness. Or most often: someone decides to sacrifice themselves for the good of others. And with a big, cosmic sigh of relief, things change - permanently - for the better. Frodo thinks Gollum has taken the ring, but he drops it into the mountain. Luke Skywalker is almost zapped to death by lightning, but Darth Vader rediscovers his shred of goodness and tosses the Emperor off the bridge. Harry Potter... well, that still seems too fresh, so I won't spoil that ending. But you get the picture. It's that moment of no return, when hope is rekindled for the protagonist.

This is a very classic element in storytelling, one that humans have been using for ages. And I think we still love these moments because it rings true for our overall experience and place in the universe. There are times when we are at our end: we're out of energy, out of money, out of resources, out of patience. We can't go further. We don't know how to put it all together. We don't know how we'll get along or how we'll survive. And really, at the end of our lives, we all lose. We will all die.

And that's where we come back to the song. The birth of Christ, however small it really was - in a dirty barn, with a bunch of rag-tag shepherds and some wandering foreign kings - signified the cosmic turning point for the story of our world. Some people recognized it. They had read the Scriptures closely. They had been visited by angels or visions. Or they just knew that this little baby would live and die in a way that symbolized our God's whole feeling for His world. With a resounding crack he would bring hope and change the direction of our ailing lives.

Whenever we sing or hear O Holy Night, in particular those lines, "A thrill of hope / The weary world rejoices," I think of all those moments in books and movies when I see those characters at their end, ready to give up or die, when they are surprised by the turn of events, and suddenly they see that evil is defeated. Suddenly they know that they will survive and that their struggles were not in vain. Suddenly they know that they are victorious. Whenever I see those moments, I try to capture that feeling to understand even a shred of the hope we should be feeling this season. Our weary world, burdened by so many problems. Our weary lives, beaten down by frustration, exhaustion, and confusion. We will have that moment - maybe today, maybe twenty years from now, maybe when we die - when we will get the feel that thrill of hope. And we'll see yonder, where that new and glorious morn is dawning. Just knowing that it's coming brings tears to my eyes.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Basement addendum: how we love the door

Woah! I just found this blog post waiting to be finished. This follows on our two posts about re-doing our basement over the summer. We just loved the door we installed in the west wall, so we had to show it's progression. Up top: the wall as it existed. Big gaping holes into the crawl space, left from previous owners' renovation of the kitchen.

Using a $6 bag of mortar and bricks we found in the basement and garage, Beth bricked the wall.

Then, using lumber we found around the house, we built a frame, anchored it, and built a door. Used spray foam to fill in small gaps.

Painted and finished door!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Basement Project: After

We know you've all been waiting with bated breath since seeing all of our work on our basement this summer. So now... the stunning results...

SURPRISE! Yes, here are the finished product of the Summer of the Basement. This is the view after just coming down the stairs. Begin to notice: charcoal gray ceiling, clean white walls, colorful rugs covering the floor, and beautiful recessed can lighting all around.

With the washer and dryer moved further back into the room, we put the chest freezer in their place.

Taking a step further into the room... the laundry area, including the hot water heater, is now all behind some charcoal gray curtains. Now guests to our basement don't have to pass through piles of dirty laundry to get into the room.

The main area has turned into a play room for Will. You will notice Beth's amazing finds of chairs, all different colors and very complementary of the rug. The shelves you see in the background have been ours since we first moved to Columbus. We built them out of not-going-anywhere MDF, and been used in many different ways and places. Now they have been reborn yet again as gray toy shelves.

We were also given a small TV and a DVD player. Add the N64 to that, and baby, you've got an entertainment center on!

Anyone notice that amazing door into the crawl space? We just sit and stare at it now, it's so beautiful.

Nick's drums have returned to the basement, much to Will's delight.

The curtains behind the drums enclose a storage area, much reduced in size (yay!) and organized on shelves given to us by Beth's parents. Also out of the way: most of the furnace and the ugly sump pump pipes.

Now, looking into the secluded laundry area...

The washer, dryer, utility sinks, and shelves are out of the way.

Looking back out into the basement from the laundry area.

And finally, the fruit cellar. At last, it feels like a nice, clean place to store foodstuffs. We picked up some cheap metal shelving from Costco, so now our canning efforts have a good home.

So, thanks for joining us on our journey. It feels like we've added a whole new room to our house. We're especially thankful that Will loves to play down there, and that many of his toys are no longer strewn about the first floor.

Most of all, though, we want to say a HUGE thank you to all of our friends and family who donated their time, talent, and resources to make this happen! We certainly couldn't have done it alone.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Basement Project: Pre & During

This summer, the Summer of 2010, will stand as the Summer of the Basement for the Dekker family. After three years in our home, we decided to reclaim our dusty, bumpy-floored, paint-peeling, slightly-leaky, 92-year-old basement. We knew we couldn't completely remake the room without $8000 and a contractor willing to jackhammer the floor, but we decided to do everything we could to make it work for us.

This first set of pictures are all the before pics. Notice the fading yellow paint, the piles of stuff...

...the giant hole in the wall (leading into the crawl space under our kitchen)...

...more stuff and faded paint...

...bare lightbulbs with pull strings, the old lead sink, unnecessary furniture.

And then there was the ceiling. Originally the ceiling was covered with the old lathe and plaster - standard for the time period. But over the years, as subsequent owners added duct work, electricity, and the like, everyone hacked and tore out pieces of it.

This left a tangled web of wires, duct work, and unused gas pipes.

Plus the miscellaneous cold air return duct here and there.

Step 1: demolition. A group of friends joined us with hammers, screwdrivers, and reciprocating saws. We didn't get enough pictures to really capture the filthy mess we created. Mostly because we were so covered in dust and grime that we didn't want to touch the camera.

As we pulled down the old ceiling, we found decades of a grimy dust piled up. This is presumably left from years of gas heating and lamps.

This picture of our brother-in-law Chip captures the mess. The dust just coated us.

As we pulled the ceiling down, we got to see the beautiful floor joists. The room felt bigger just opening the ceiling up. Other things we did (not pictured): pulled out old wooden shelves from the fruit cellar, yanked out unused nails and screws from the wall, removed disconnected gas lines, pulled out an old set of phone lines and connections, and took out unnecessary cold air return ducts.

And then, slowly, the rebuild process started.

First steps included hauling loads and loads of rubble out of the basement. (In the meantime, everything that normally resided in basement was stacked in the garage.)

We scrubbed the walls and floors with trisodium phosphate. We secured ductwork, tied back cords, vacuumed and wiped down the floor joists.

We pulled lots of unnecessary wires, pipes, and ducts.

One of our biggest mini-projects (and proudest successes) was the hole in the wall.

Beth armed herself with mortar and a stack of bricks we found around the basement and in the garage, and set to work.

And voila! In addition to fixing the wall, she filled in missing bricks underneath many of the windows.

And then, using lumber we found in the garage, plus a couple finicky masonry drill bits, we framed out the hole, built a door, hung it, and spray foamed the gaps. It was a beautiful, beautiful thing.

Meanwhile, we started out painting. A friend loaned us a paint sprayer, which turned out to be an absolute God-send. It was the only way to successfully paint a ceiling full of wires and bumpy brick walls, and it really saved us untold time and stress. We painted the ceiling a charcoal gray - we found the paint randomly in the boneyard of a nearby Lowe's. The price: $30. And the color was perfect.

There aren't any pictures of the wall painting in progress, unfortunately. We discovered that, after hitting the front wall with the TSP, we were getting some bigger leaks with the heavy rains. Nick patched up the big holes with hydraulic cement, and then positively coated the lower walls (beneath ground level) with Drylock. It's a paint mixed with cement, so that it forms a sealing coat on the wall. All of the walls were painted a whitish-beige, concocted out of the 5+ gallons of miscellaneous white-ish paint we found in the basement.

In the final stages, our friend Ben - a professional plumber - generously donated his talents in moving some water lines, installing a new utility sink (see above - $35 on Craigslist!), and extending the water lines so that we could move the washer and dryer. Ben did everything with commercial grade quality and materials.

Once Ben was done, Beth and our friend Karl went through and installed can lighting. This eliminated most of our exposed bulbs and recessed the lights up in the floor joists.

One of our last problems was the old lead sink. When Ben moved it to install the new sink, we found that its frame was nearly rusted away (see below):

This is very dangerous, considering that the sink weighed almost 500 pounds. We couldn't give it away on Craigslist, the city probably wouldn't haul it, and we just didn't have the manpower to move it safely. Fortunately...

...our sledgehammer offered a simpler solution. The sink crumbled pretty easily, and we carried it out in buckets.

And that's the journey so far! Tune in soon for the stunning completion of our basement!