A bit of background regarding our current living arrangements. On December 6, 2006, at age seventy-six, my mother-in-law passed away fairly unexpectedly, the day before she and my father-in-law would have celebrated their 45th wedding anniversary. Almost exactly a month prior, she had had open heart surgery to repair a valve, and a double bypass. She recovered very well at first, but then her recovery sort of plateaued. She was complaining about feeling weak, so was being seen by her infectious disease doctor again, who ordered blood work and other tests. Sadly, the following day she collapsed in her home and died in the hospital later that day due to sepsis. She was survived by her husband and her only child--my husband.
My father-in-law was 81 years old at the time of his wife's death and had previously suffered a massive stroke in 2000 that left him fraile and with some permanent memory loss. In addition he has extremely poor vision that started when he was in his late teens and stepped on a land mine in the Philippines while hiding from the Japanese in the mountains with his family during World War II. Since then his vision has been deteriorating significantly over the years, leaving him legally blind throughout his adult life. Essentially, he cannot take care of himself without assistance on account of his deteriorated health as a result of the stroke, his lifetime of near blindness, and his general old age, so we decided to have him come live with us. I just could not, for the life of me, after living eighty-one years, put him in a nursing home to spend his remaining years. A nursing home just wouldn't be a good fit for him. He's a friendly person and is always upbeat, but he's not very social. I think that it's due in part to his poor vision and hearing that he has difficulty interacting with others and also in part to the fact that he just enjoys his own company. So we decided to welcome into our home. Into our small, three bedroom, one bathroom, one living room, one dining room, one non-eat-in kitchen 80+ year old home. I just realized our house is practically the same age as my father-in-law! :)
This is a photograph of my father-in-law on his 83rd birthday this past summer.
Our house is a great little starter house in a wonderful suburban community with great schools and lots of parks. Perfect for a young family, but the kids are growing up, getting bigger, needing more space and privacy, and when my father-in-law moved in, the house went from cute starter house to an ack!-this-is-so-cramped-help!-I-need-breathing-space house! On the second floor, we have three small bedrooms, each about 10 ft. x 10 ft. and one bathroom about 8 ft. x 10 ft. Thank goodness the bathroom is a decent size, so at least two people can easily be getting ready for bed or school at the same time. But yeah. One toilet. Not counting the new Johnny On The Spot, of course! :) My oldest gave up her room for her grandfather and the girls --ages 9 and 13-- have been sharing a small 10 ft. x 10 ft. room together for almost two years now. In their room is two twin beds with barely three feet between them, one nightstand, one armoire on a wall and one tall chest of drawers in the closet. They're so cramped, but they have been such great sports about it. Our bedroom is called the 'master' bedroom because I think it is closer to 10 ft. x 12 ft. Ha! We have a queen size bed, two small nightstands and one long dresser. I also have a narrow bookshelf behind the door --the best part after the bed. ;) There is about 18 inches clearance around one side and the foot of the bed and maybe four feet between the other side of the bed and our dresser. Very
So what are we doing to our house? Well, we currently have a total of 1170 sq. ft. of living space and we are adding a whopping 996 sq. ft. to that along with some renovations to our existing space. We are renovating our 1970s kitchen, rebuilding our garage, and off the back of the house, we are adding a family room, a bedroom for my father-in-law, and a full bathroom (handicap accessible... just thinking ahead). I think this will make a world of difference for us not just in terms of space, but in lifestyle as well. Since my father-in-law cannot go up or down the stairs alone or find/prepare/heat up his own food, our freedom to be spontaneous and or to be out of the house for long periods of time is extremely difficult. As it is now, during the day when my husband is at work and the girls are at school, I have these little windows of opportunity to go out on errands, to the gym or what not, when I know my father-in-law won't need to go up or down the stairs. Fortunately for me, he enjoys keeping a consistent daily schedule of naps, meals, walks outside, and reading at his electronic magnifier, so I've been able to predict when he'll need my help and I just go out when I know he'll stay put in one place or another. When he has his own room and bathroom on the first floor, the danger of the stairs will be non-existent, and I'm hoping we can leave a thermos of coffee and lunch on the table for him, and he'll be able to be on his own for longer periods of time during the day. Even if I need to hire someone to come in to take care of him now and then, I'll feel like there will space for the aid to do their thing without being right on top of me, too!
Originally we were only planning on doing this first floor expansion, but everyone kept telling us that we should consider expanding the second floor over this new space. We were afraid a second floor expansion would put us in over our heads financially, but apparently the biggest expense and effort is putting in the new foundation and first floor, and that adding another floor and three more walls above it before you put the roof on is more cost effective at that point. So we looked into it and decided to go for it. Of course, this was nine months ago, and I now wonder if we would still have decided this as confidently given the state of the economy today, but oh well. We'd lose money and sanity if we backtracked now. Thankfully, my father-in-law is generously funding a significant portion of this project with his retirement money, so I think we'll be okay. Better he invest his money into the equity of his son's home than paying for nursing home care, right?
On the second floor, the existing bathroom will be made about a foot or so narrower, which still leaves it a generous 7 ft. x 10 ft., and the extra foot along with two feet or so from our existing master bedroom will be made into a hallway leading to the second floor addition which will be all master bedroom! The remaining space in the existing master bedroom will be made into a narrower bedroom that will gain a bit of length --maybe 2 ft.-- into the new space. The new master bathroom will be an amazing space for me and my husband. We'll have our own bathroom and a big walk in closet with a window in it! That seems so surreal to me after having had a bedroom only a bit bigger than that for the last 12 years. The room will be about 25 ft. x 12 ft. and it will also have an additional 4 ft. x 6 ft. nook that will be a perfect reading corner. I'm already thinking about what kind of bookshelves to get and the chaise lounge I want to put next to the window there. I feel a little guilty about having such a decadent master bedroom like this, but at the same time, I think my husband and I really need it. Taking care of an elderly parent full time is very demanding and challenging, that I think having this little oasis will give us the respite we need to recharge and rejuvenate ourselves, and in turn allow us to be better care givers.
The design phase took a while, as did waiting for the township to approve of our application for the addition and renovation, but now things are finally taking off around here, which is both exciting and scary. I'm so excited I think I decided on the siding, trim, and roofing colors today. Three decisions down, five thousand eight hundred twenty-seven to go!
The project is anticipated to take six or seven months to complete, and for the majority of that time, my husband and I won't have a bedroom (we'll be roughing it in the living room), and I think if my estimations are correct, we won't have a kitchen for Thanksgiving or Christmas!? omgwtf! Think of me as I'll be grilling turkey tenderloins for Thanksgiving and baking Christmas cookies in an EasyBake Oven.
Ready for some pictures? I started a separate blog to document the progress of the construction in pictures, but decided to do it using a different profile than I use for this blog because the purpose of the construction blog is to share our project with a few close friends and my husband's relatives who don't live close by and if I used my happily ever after blog for it, (a) some of them are so NOT computer savvy and they'd just get lost trying to find the actual construction posts here, and (b) I'd have no place to complain about them! LOL! Just kidding! I'll probably post the link to my construction blog here soon as well, but in order to protect the innocent, I first need to photoshop a few of the photographs I posted to blur license plate numbers, our house number, the contractor's name and number, etc. I'll try to do that soon, but in the meantime, I have a few pictures I can share here.
Note: You can click on the photos to view them enlarged.
Before shots of the back of the house, taken in August 2008:
I let my vegetable garden become a haven for beneficial insects this year. In this picture you can see how the goldenrod pretty much took over. There are also three different kinds of mint, lemon balm, lamb's ears and alpine strawberries in there somewhere. It was pretty, but I'm looking forward to growing vegetables again next summer.
This is after the demolition, when the foundation is being built:
This is after the demolition, when the foundation is being built:
The cement is being poured into the crawl space foundation. We opted to save ten grand by NOT digging out a full basement:
The new garage is on the left and the living space is on the right where the floor joists are shown. This picture was just taken today.
And that's it so far. On Monday, I think they are laying the plywood for the rough floor and I'm going to do a little walk through with my contractor and the plans to make any last minute adjustments on door and window placement. We're also getting one of those on site Pod storage things delivered on Monday, because we need to empty our attic and basement this week, and probably the master bedroom and kitchen soon, too. So much work, but I'm so very lucky to be able to be doing this addition in the first place, and it's going to be so, so, so worth it in the end. :)