Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Basement Update

We used to have a finished basement. It wasn't glamorous, but we liked it. :) We had parties, house guests, and lots of playtime with Feven down there. Zac and I even began the "Harder Coffeehouse" in our basement - a space for us to sit down, drink some good beverages, and read or chat during Feven's weekend nap times when she was younger. So many good memories.

This is what our basement living room looked like. Wouldn't you like to sit down,
put your feet up, and have a cup of coffee there?
(And yes, there were 5 lamps in that room at the time of the photo. I don't know why. We've since downsized.)

And here was our basement bedroom. Isn't that beautiful?
It was "home" to many friends and family over the years.

Well, from time to time there would be a little water in the basement when severely heavy rains fell. Just a wet spot or two in the unfinished part of the basement. In 2011 when a major storm with torrential rains (and even a tornado!) hit Minneapolis, we had to pull up the carpet to dry it out. Throughout all of that, the basement remained finished.

This is what we had to deal with in 2011 when we returned from our vacation to Hawaii. :(

However, this past April, we came home from vacation (again! Why do we ever go on vacation when that seems to be what triggers these heavy, flooding rains?!) to find very wet carpet and standing water in some spots of the basement. A dear friend came over at 9pm the evening we discovered the water and hauled load after load up out of the basement until it was bare.

In the days that followed, my little helper Feven and I tried to suck up the water in the basement, but it was seeping up through cracks in the floor so fast that just when we'd get a spot dry, the water would cover the ground again. We believe this happened because the winter was so long and cold that even by the end of April, the ground was not completely thawed and so the water didn't know where to go except up into our basement.

And the interesting thing is, we live on the top of a hill...I don't know what our neighbors at the bottom of the hill had to deal with.

Here's my faithful helper. Bless her heart.

After much conversation, we decided to gut the basement. It quickly became evident that this was the right decision after we began demo and pulled off walls to uncover sopping wet insulation and some spots of mold. I remember the day well, as friends and family descended on our home and started ripping out the old. I nearly cried when I saw how much progress was made in just a few short hours. That day was tough emotionally to see our basement go away, but when I think back on that day, what stands out to me is the love and loyalty of all our friends and family who showed up and worked so hard for us.

Here is a picture of the demolition in the basement living room,
with the stud walls of the bedroom in the background.

 Here's the former bathroom, or what I will refer to henceforth as the "Scary Corner." Ew!

Two months after we had the water destroy our basement, we began getting quotes from drain tile companies. We didn't want to finish the basement without doing some "guts work" on the house first, so we got quotes from a few different companies and we began saving money...

Yesterday the truck pulled into my driveway and friends - it was nearly as exciting as Christmas! It meant so much to see them come to our home because it marked the end of demolition and the beginning of restoration. 

It also marked the end of living on one level of our house. You see, for the last 7 months, ALL of our belongings have been in disarray. Everything that was in the basement and in storage in the basement got displaced all over the house and garage. My closets were packed with my amazing Tetris skills and I think if you pull one item out, it may all come crashing down on you. I don't feel like I know where things are, and it feels like we will be moving into our house all over again. 

Did I mention that there has been a queen mattress and box spring leaning up against the wall in our bedroom, as well as a small storage shelf and large storage shelf full of things in our bedroom...in addition to our Queen bed, 2 night stands, and dresser??? Ugh, I feel like I should be on hoarders with the way our house looks.

Here is the truck that pulled up with 3 angels who repaired our basement over the course of 2 days.

Here are some of the tools used to cut the concrete.
Just an FYI, it's really loud upstairs when people are using jackhammers downstairs! At one point I found Feven in
our bed with two stuffed animals and the covers pulled up over all their heads!

Here is the Scary Corner before the repair work. Ew! Do you see why I call it the Scary Corner?
Apparently the black stuff on the wall is not mold, but still. Ew.

Here is the Scary Corner mid-project. Already looking better!

And drumroll....here is the Scary Corner after! Feven and I approve.

Here is the South Wall before the work was done. This is a picture taken standing in what used to be the living room and looking toward the utility/laundry area.

Here is the South Wall afterward. This almost looks like new construction!

Here is the laundry area before the work was done. We had to move all our belongings away from the walls so they could cut around the entire perimeter of our basement.

Here is a lateral line running to whisk water away from the center of the house and to the pump.

And here is the pump. The TripleSafe pump, to be exact.
It should take all the water from under the foundation before it ever even thinks about coming up through the cracks, and remove it at least 15' from the house. And yes, that black box is a
battery back-up that can keep the pump going 2 days without electricity.
We're praying that we NEVER see water in our basement again!

Here is the center of our basement mid-project.

 And here is the center after!

Now comes the fun part, the rebuilding. We're going to take it slow and save up for each part of the project before moving ahead. It isn't as much fun as it would be to walk into the bank, take out a loan, and have the basement of our dreams in 5 weeks. :) But we're trying to be financially responsible and pay off our school and car loans, and avoid taking out new loans.

It has been quite the journey! Some days have been really hard as we've been living in such disarray. The stress can feel so heavy at times. But the blessings definitely outweigh the stresses. Here are some of the blessings we've seen:

  1. I led a Lose a Ton group and I ended up getting rid of 500 pounds of things my family didn't need - and some furniture too - BEFORE the basement flooded. That purging served us well when we had to remove so much from the basement (we had 500 pounds less to carry!) and the furniture gone was less we needed to accommodate elsewhere in the house.
  2. We got to witness the love of friends and family as we were on the receiving end of kindness and generosity.
  3. We have so much space in our home. Our main floor has 3 bedrooms, a bathroom, a kitchen and TWO living rooms! While we've been "roughing it" without a basement, we are still living in incredible comfort.
  4. We had the opportunity to evaluate in a very real way "How much is enough?" Through the Lose a Ton Challenge I grew in my discernment of how much I need, but this pushed me even farther. When I'm at the store, I no longer think if I want/need the item, but I also think, "Where am I going to put this?" If I don't have a place in mind, I don't want to buy it.
  5. Feven has learned so many new terms and concepts. She frequently spends her time drawing "basement plans" and is very inquisitive how this new system will work. She suggests things to the contractors who have come through and feels a sense of ownership in the repair and remodel process. She's had some good ideas!
There are more, but it is getting late and this post is getting loooooong. Thanks for reading and for supporting our family in the ways you have as we navigated this challenging experience.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Our Family is Growing!

Our family is growing, and I thought you might have a few questions about that. So here's a blog to address some of what might be going on in your head.

1.) Q: What do you mean your family is growing?
     A: I'm pregnant!

2.) Q: I'm sorry, what?!?
     A: Yep.

3.) Q: Weren't you in the adoption process?
     A: Yes, and we still are. We can still pursue our adoption even though we are pregnant; we just can't welcome a child into our home until our biological child is 6 months old.

4.) Q: Are you so excited to have a child of your own?
     A: Hold it right there, honey. I already have a child of my own. Her name is Feven and she's so awesome. I think what you mean is, "Are you excited to have a biological child?" and the answer is yes. I'm excited to see what a Zamber looks like. :)

5.) Q: When are you due?
     A: The beginning of March.

6.) Q: Do you know gender?
     A: Yep, we are having a boy. Feven already gives "Baby Brother" lots of love by talking and singing to him.

7.) Q: Was this a planned thing or a surprise? (AKA did you just become one of those statistics about people who are in the adoption process getting pregnant?).
     A: Not a surprise - this was a "planned" thing (as much as God allows us to 'plan') as well as a hoped-for thing.

8.) Q: So, not to be weird about it, but I donated to some fundraisers you did for your adoption...is that money going to be used to give your bio kid a nursery that looks like this?

     A: No way, silly! We have all of our adoption money in a separate account from our other finances. We track it carefully and will not use that money for anything but adoption. If for some reason we are not able to complete our second adoption, we will give those funds to another family we know who is in the adoption process and in need of financial assistance.

9.) Q: How have you seen God show up in this pregnancy?
     A: Oh, so many ways! I have another blog post coming about that...it's quite the story...stay tuned!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

God in the Race Forecast

God doesn't always have to show up in big ways to show up.  While praying regularly this fall, He showed up in a small way to let me know He was listening...and that He had a sense of humor.

A dear friend of mine had been training for many, many months for her first-ever half marathon.  I desperately wanted to be there to cheer her on, so I planned to attend the race and told her as much.  As the race day approached, the forecast was cold and gloomy.  One day she called to tell me I shouldn't come watch her because it would be a yucky way to spend a Saturday, etc. etc.

I can be pretty stubborn, so I told her I was still planning to come and I was going to start praying for sunshine and 60-degree weather.

On the morning of her race, I looked up the hourly forecast.  The race started at 9am, and she expected to be running until noon.  This is what I saw in picture icons for the hourly forecast:

6am - cloudy
7am - cloudy
8am - cloudy
9am - partly sunny
10am - sunny
11am - sunny
12pm - cloudy

I wish I had scanned a copy of that forecast!  What are the chances?!?!

Now, in full disclosure, the words underneath the sunny icons from 9-12 said "windy" and the temperatures never got as high as 60 degrees, but the pictures for those 3 hours she was running were enough to let me know God was listening to my prayers.

And in case you're wondering, my friend did GREAT!  I was so proud of her.  The hilly course was a challenge for the most experienced of runners, and she completed the whole thing as her first ever half marathon.  What an incredible woman!