A Summer of Adventure

It’s been a summer of firsts for our family. First official vacation, first time on an airplane with the kids, first time attending Vacation Bible School, and finally, real progress on the house (update coming soon)!

The Mendenhall Glacier

The Mendenhall Glacier

We traveled to Juneau, Alaska for a family reunion with most of the extended family from my mom’s side. It was a great time, and the kids did wonderfully with all the new experiences. Big Man and I went on an Alaskan cruise for our honeymoon nine years ago, so it was fun to be back there right around our anniversary. We enjoyed a little hiking, seeing the glacier, a fun waffle restaurant, and relaxing in a beautiful environment. The kids got to meet one of their second cousins (is that what the kids of first cousins are called?) and see bald eagles, a bear, float-planes, and more trees than they could count. My aunt and uncle shared a beautiful Thomas train set that they kept from their kids’ childhood, and Little Man and Little Lady enjoyed it so much. My parents watched the kids for us one afternoon so we could celebrate our anniversary. We got to ride in a float-plane and eat a salmon dinner at this cool historical lodge. Our vacation also included a couple very successful halibut-fishing endeavors and a fabulous fish fry. And the kids, Little Man especially, loved flying in the airplane. I was worried it would be rough, but they both behaved so well even on the trip back with a delayed flight. Ever since we got home, Little Man has been playing with his toy airplanes and flying them to different places in the house he has designated as “Alaska” and “Colorado.” It’s adorable.

Big Man and the kids in Alaska

Big Man and the kids in Alaska

It’s been non-stop since we got home from vacation. Big Man completed his second Bachelor’s Degree and has been enjoying the break from school work. He’s also completed his training for an exciting new position at work and it’s keeping him busy. Working on the house is of course time-consuming, and he’s also been experimenting in the kitchen. He made fried chicken for the first time (something I’m too scared to attempt) and it was a total success. I’ve been pushing myself for more diversity in my reading, so I’ve completed a couple non-fiction books, as well as some novels far outside my usual comfort zone. I’ve also has a couple successes in the kitchen, homemade English muffins and ice cream, as well as allowing myself to experiment outside the recipe for some things.

The kids are growing so fast! Little Man is still a big fan of trains, but he’s also added cars, airplanes, and construction vehicles to his playtime favorites. He’s started making up stories when he plays and it is so fun to overhear what is going on in his head. He’s also been on an art kick recently, and is a master at coloring inside the lines (something he largely taught himself) and completing connect-the-dots pages. We’ve made play dough together and he started trying to sculpt things, which is exciting to watch. Little Man enjoyed his time at VBS and there are a couple little boys he’s latched on to as friends. He and Little Lady also play together really well (most of the the time) and it is so sweet watching their friendship grow.

Little Lady is all about words and music. She’s teaching herself to read. Seriously, teaching herself. We make sure to help if she asks and provide a variety of books and reading games, but we haven’t done any official lessons. It’s like she decided she wanted to be able to read and has just thrown herself into it. She’s mastered at least 100 sight words and phonetically sounds out words new to her. It’s amazing to watch. Her other love is music. I have it on good authority she was the loudest singer in all of VBS, and she sings to herself constantly around the house. Her version of drifting off to sleep is laying in her bed signing at the top of her voice until suddenly all is quiet because she has fallen asleep.

It’s been a wonderful summer. The house project is moving in fits and starts, but there is progress and Big Man and I are working on being patient and not stressing about the timeline. The Alaska trip was a very relaxing break and it’s been nice to come home and settle into the routine again. I hope you’ve been enjoying your summer as well!

House Update # 10: The Doomed Operation

*I meant to post this a week ago, but it took me a while to get all the pictures organized.*

This was a rough week for the building process. We had a well-organized plan, but unfortunately almost nothing that happened resembled that plan.

The Plan

Sunday: Buy the railroad ties and bring them up to the site, have a mini-backhoe delivered

Tuesday: Have the gravel delivered, and spread it over the driveway with the mini-backhoe.

Wednesday: Have the forklift and crane delivered to help get the logs off the semi-truck. Have the semi back into the driveway and unload the logs, or, if the driver isn’t comfortable backing into the driveway, unload them onto the road and use the forklift to move them onto the driveway.

The Actuality

Sunday: The backhoe doesn’t show up during the scheduled time window. The company representative we call states that they don’t deliver on Sunday, even though we have an email confirmation of the scheduled delivery. Big Man and I leave the site to get the railroad ties, and half an hour later get a call from the delivery driver wondering why we aren’t there to accept the backhoe. (Seriously?)Fortunately, he listens when we tell him why we left and agrees to leave the backhoe on our site anyway. We were able to get the ties in place on the edges of the driveway.

Railroad Ties lining the Driveway

Railroad ties lining the driveway

Tuesday: Yet again, the delivery driver does not show up within the promised window. A call to the gravel company yields a lame excuse about how they “can’t read the order and aren’t sure what size gravel was requested.” Riiiight. And you weren’t going to call and verify the order with us? Big Man handles everything over the phone and gets a gravel truck on its way promptly, though we are now running over 2 hours later than planned, which is rough on Big Man and my parents who are there to help. Eventually the truck does arrive with the load of gravel and the driveway is made ready for the log delivery on Wednesday.

Wednesday: The day dawns cloudy and rainy and by late morning there are significant lightning storms in the area. The crane cannot work in such conditions, so Big Man reschedules the semi for early the next morning, even though that means he will have to work at the site all morning and then go straight to work for a full swing shift.

Thursday: Big Man heads up to the site early and meet up with the forklift delivery and the Crane Guy.

The crane on the driveway, ready to unload the logs

The crane on the driveway, ready to unload the logs

Semi Driver Dude shows up relatively on time and Big Man shows him the road and the driveway,  and offers him two options: 1) Back into the driveway so everything can be unloaded right onto the driveway pullout, or 2) If the back-in option seems too risky, park straight on the road and let everything be unloaded there. Semi Dude assures Big Man he is a competent driver (wrong) and it will be no problem to back in to the driveway (really wrong). Once Crane Guy and the forklift are in position Semi Dude drives up the road and starts going in reverse.

The beginning of a doomed operation

The beginning of a doomed operation

Big Man notices one of the back tires is flat, stops Semi Dude to point this out, and asks again if parking on the road would be the best option. Semi Dude insists the tire is fine (wrong) and he is capable of backing in (yet again, wrong). Really, the plan is doomed from the start because Semi Dude is a complete failure at his job. He starts backing into the drive and his angle is way off, so Big Man stops him again to suggest the easier option of the road. But no, Semi Dude is secure in his delusions of grandeur. He starts backing again and the flat back tire is not handling it well. Then a different back tire goes flat, and the operation is completely sunk. Semi Dude tries to pull forward and straighten out but it is too late. The truck is entirely stuck, blocking the road and the driveway, and is crooked enough that there is no way we can unload the logs without risk of damaging them.

And...the stuck truck

And…the stuck truck


Really, really stuck

Really, really stuck

In the end, a giant tow truck/wrecker is called to remove the semi (which has also run out of gas because Semi Dude didn’t think it was important to have more than a quarter-tank). Crane Guy has left for other jobs, so even when the truck gets unstuck, there is no way to unload the logs.

The tow truck

The tow truck

Fortunately, the owner of the trucking company is a great guy. He drives up to survey the damage and takes responsibility for Semi Dude’s many mistakes, meaning he covers the cost of the truck removal and the overage charges for the crane and forklift. He also has a plan to manage the log delivery. He will unload the logs at his trucking yard and then bring them up on a flatbed so we can unload them with a forklift and don’t need to hire the crane again. So it looks like we’ll be getting the logs delivered in a few weeks once the foundation is poured.

In the end, there isn’t much permanent damage to our building timeline. The biggest issue is that the front part of the driveway is damaged and needs to be patched up. And we don’t have the logs yet, but we have a plan to get them when we need them.  This endeavor could have ended much worse, with the logs being damaged or the trucking company not taking financial responsibility. It was an enormous amount of stress, especially for Big Man who was dealing first hand with everything, and we are disappointed that we don’t have the logs yet. But we’re trying to keep a positive attitude and focus on the the next step of the project.

Once the excavator repairs the driveway and finishes leveling the foundation area, the concrete company will come up to pour the foundation. Hopefully that will happen sometime in the next month. Thanks again for following along with our building adventure!

Code Name Verity

It takes me a while to catch up with most of the trends, including popular books. While I’d love to have the money and time to purchase and read many books as soon as they are released, I usually wait for them to arrive at the library and check them out when I feel I have the time in my schedule to finish them before the due date.  So while this book was the Big Thing quite a while ago, I only just finished reading my library copy.

Book: Code Name Verity

Author: Elizabeth Wein

More info: Amazon listing here*

Plot Overview:  I don’t want to include any spoilers here, so I can’t give a detailed summary. The story is set in World War II and centers around two women who are part of the British Resistance. The book begins with their plane crash-landing in Nazi-occupied France, and “Verity” being captured. She is convicted of being a spy and given a choice between confession or torture and execution. She chooses confession, and tells of her friendship with Maddie (the pilot of the plane) and their work for the resistance.

Pros: Code Name Verity is a well-written and engrossing story. I had a hard time putting the book down, and sped through the last third in one marathon session. I read quite a bit of historical fiction and most of the WWII stories I’ve read before center on American characters with American perspective. Reading a story about the British Resistance was a nice change and the Author’s Notes and Bibliography were great additions. Maddie and Verity are unique and well-developed, and I loved how their friendship is portrayed. There is a great diversity in the secondary characters as well, and I felt only a couple of them were “stock” characters. Many WWII books portray all the Allies as completely moral and upright, and the Nazis as purely evil. This story did a good job of including flawed heroes and a villain with the chance for redemption. There is a fairly surprising and exciting  plot twist that really drives the story toward the end. The book is clearly well-researched and I enjoyed learning about British aircraft and spy-craft. Though the subject matter is obviously very dark and depressing, I still felt the overarching themes of love and hope very clearly. It’s an emotional story and I cried my way through the ending, which is a rare thing for me.

Cons: The story hinges on one plot point that is rather far into “creative license” territory. In fact, the author acknowledges this in her post-script note and explains why she chose to write the story that way. Those who prefer their historical fiction to stay close to historical fact may not enjoy the book as much. I personally enjoy historical fiction even when it is far to the “fictional” side, so I didn’t find the plot problematic, especially once I read the author’s note.

I honestly don’t understand why this book is marketed as a Young Adult fiction. While the characters are young women, the story contains some very mature themes even aside from the obvious WWII setting. The book includes stark discussions of death, torture, deception, suicide, and loss. There is a fair amount of adult language, and while I feel it was used judiciously, it does make the book feel oppressive at times. It’s an exceptional story, but I personally would not label it “young adult fiction.” Some younger teens may enjoy it, but I know it would have been too much for me when I was 13. I think it would be an excellent book for parents and teens to read together as the story provides many mature topics worthy of discussion.

Summary: I highly recommend Code Name Verity to anyone mature enough to handle the variety of adult themes. The setting is dark and tragic, but the loving friendship of the girls is such a beautiful contrast, and it left me feeling hope rather than depression. The book was outstanding, rising far above the many mediocre offerings that populate the historical fiction genre.

*I am in no way affiliated with Amazon.com