“Dad, I need to Pop!”

He took one look at her shoes and asked, “Are you really going to wear those?” And Jen said, “Daaaaad, I need to Pop!” — AND SHE DID!

JenShoesWe just arrived to attend the First Year Engineering Conference*and met her before her presentation. It was a lively day with more than 500 professional looking Freshman presenting at their allotted time.  A combination of interested parents, smiling upperclassmen hosts, eager presenters, and posters that hung on the walls created the energetic atmosphere. We

  • saw Jen’s winning “best in group” poster,
  • learned that Graphene and Carbon Nanotubes are the topics of interest to many students, across engineering disciplines.
  • ate a plentiful and YUMMY Lunch!
  • enjoyed Jen’s presentation skills
  • watched the roommates’ visually interesting presentation.
  • met the friend group parents and enjoyed a dinner for 12 at Lidia’s Pittsburgh.

The day was one of those days you feel blessed to have!  Can’t wait for another event.

*Each year the entire First-Year Engineering class at the University of Pittsburgh participates in a professional-style conference. Each student and a partner prepare a conference research paper and poster then present their paper to their peers, alumni, family and faculty. This paper is the completion of a year-long writing project.




The Dustpan

By mistake I threw the dustpan away, oops. 
It happened the day I cleaned the concrete pad outside the walkout basement.
It was the favorite dustpan.
We ventured to Home Depot on a Saturday.
It was a popular dustpan shopping day, and the aisle was jammed with customers.
After a short wait, we retrieved the dustpan we wanted, the same as we had before.
Who knew dustpan shopping was so popular on Saturdays.
The joy of owning a new dustpan carried into Sunday and beyond.

Fireplaces and TVs, Oh My!

Russ and I agreed that I would be in charge of the fireplace. It didn’t take long and this rabbit hole went deep fast. Now we have a file about 3 inches thick of information, drawings, pictures, etc. Plus we are watching TV at our current home with our TV on top of a stool on top of the TV cabinet.  Craziness.


It all started with a visit to the Fireplace store, the local one our builder likes to use. After viewing several natural gas fireplaces in the store, I casually mentioned we plan to put a TV above the fireplace as low to the ground as possible, so the fireplace would start at the floor. Then, he said, “you will be surprised how high the TV will end up.”   I wasn’t completely paying attention but I asked why.  He talked real fast about fireplace heat, codes, and TV installation rules and I glazed over.

We walked out and I wondered, HOW HIGH and what defines that height?  Then I started obsessing about it. I printed installation manuals from the fireplace companies websites and read stuff.  The funny thing – I had no idea what they were saying. Then I found mantel height information, 13 – 19 inches above fireplace top, depending on the brand.  I got distracted by questions and answers and chats online about the trend of TV over fireplace.

Russ finally engaged, for his own sanity sake, in the conversation with me; maybe I was a little consumed. The wall we plan to put TV and Fireplace in some combination (stacked or next to each other) is 20 ft, but 4 ft is window – that leaves 16 ft.

The next weekend, we visited 2 more stores, talked with sales people and put our TV up on a stool. I learned the mantel height info was for “combustible” mantels and we will put up a NON-combustible mantel. We made the assumption that the NON-combustible mantel could go a few inches above the framing height for the fireplace. Of course, most installation manuals don’t really address non-combustible mantels related to framing height, we have more work to do.

I’m calmer now because I made a chart:) That always helps me, and now I’m free to concentrate on other important details for building the house. My current favorite is the Regency P36 with louvers (the P33CE is a few inches shorter but the fireplace is pretty small). That decision happens a little later, thank goodness.

Fireplace Framing Heights

The Scare

What would you do if you if a text from your adult son, who lives 600+ miles away, woke you up at 6 am asking for his social security number? 

IMG_5566 (2)

We asked him to call. And then I called him — no answer.

For 30 minutes I gathered information – I reviewed our shared bank account information, got on facebook and instagram to look for posts and looked to see if I had any phone numbers or passwords for accounts. I was 95% certain he lost his phone and maybe his wallet too.

I started praying for his safety.

After an hour I got a call from his phone. The music was so loud I couldn’t hear well, the person on the phone kept saying, “Mom.” I told him to call when he found a quiet place.Here’s what I thought to do (as my panic grew):

  1. FIND HIS PHONE: I tried to locate the phone with the FIND MY PHONE app. It found the phone for about 30 seconds and it was 3 hours away where he lives. Then, the locator shut off and, then, his itunes password changed, at that very moment.
  2. FREEZE HIS DEBIT CARD: Since I am on his bank account I could do this.
  3. MESSAGE FACEBOOK FRIENDS: I didn’t know who to call, he has been living on his own for 2 years and just changed living arrangements. I messaged 8 of the most recent people that he had posted, focusing on names I had heard him mention.
  4. SUSPEND HIS PHONE and called Verizon to put phone on LOST/STOLEN list, both reversible, in case I was a crazy mom.
  5. EMAIL HIM (this was a mistake): I thought he might have a computer with him and told him all my steps so far,  I still had no idea where he was. I got an email back about an hour later….this email came from his phone.
    IMG_5567 (2)
  6. SET HIS PHONE TO WIPE when it re-connected to the internet, after that email from the phone, I knew that he was definitely separated from his phone.
  7. CHANGE PASSWORDS on the passwords I could access- itunes, bank account.
  8. GUESS his gmail password and got in and changed it — there I learned that his Credit Card company was suspicious of gas and Wal-Mart charges. That email had been read. – I tried to respond to say those were not Chris charges…but I didn’t know his CC user name and password.
  9. CANCELLED Debit card and then credit card once I got his log in info.
  10. RE-MESSAGE FACEBOOK FRIENDS : Once I knew he was safe,  I contacted all 8 people to let them know he was found.

4 1/2 hours after the 6 am text I got a phone call from my son – he had been robbed, he was ok.  We got his credit card log in information and cancelled the credit card too.

We learned a lot here and will soon post a list of things I want to be ready to do in an emergency.




The Interior Door Picking Contest

Door Vote

#winning, that’s what Jen said when she and Russ picked 2 of the top doors in our INTERIOR DOOR PICKING CONTEST.

We got a WOODPORT DOORS mini catalog during our trip to Eden,  looking for interior wood doors.  Well, we decided to have a door picking contest.

RUSS picked 3T-RV, 3C, 4C and 4T
LINDA picked 4C, 5T-H, 2T
CASEY picked 3T-RV, 3T, 4T
JEN picked 4C, 4T, 3C, 3T

So, of course, Jen and Russ picked the top two doors – 4T and 4C and she said, #winning.  

We decided to get Chris’ vote.  We’ll check back after he votes.  Things could change:)  




Wood Feel or Splinters Feel?

We did River House stuff with Casey as she visited on her way back from a Spring Break in Big Sky, Montana.  She said that she would be happy to spend the day with us doing house stuff…….Oooookayyyyyy.  She did get off easy,  as Jenny spent her entire Spring break week listening and looking at River House stuff.

We visited the kitchen place, looked at potential floor options, talked to our builder, and visited  Eden, the interior door and trim supplier/finisher showroom. It was an all day adventure, driving in countryside and on roads we’ve never been on before.

Mom ; “…Oh. Oh, wrong turn, you just added 10 minutes to the drive time,”  Dad; “ What?  I’ve only been driving for 30 seconds…..maybe I can turn around?”

We asked her thoughts on interior colors and textures and she said,  “I’m going to take the long way around to answer that question.” –15 minutes later,  Dad; “….did you ever answer the question?”  Casey: “ Oh Dad.”  —- Casey,  we Love YOU!

Once boiled down, her thoughts were really helpful.  She asked a question about the “feel” we are looking for;  Do you want a home with a warm wood feel or a place that has splinters?   Said differently, an elegant look or a rustic cabin look. The description made me laugh and fits perfectly.

She also suggested that whatever is stained or looks darkest will be what is eye catching — we are thinking about Hickory kitchen cabinets, knotty Pine ceiling, clear Pine interior doors and trim, and likely a vinyl tile floor.

File Mar 19, 2 03 14 PM

Getting Closer to a Final Sketch

A flurry of activity that doesn’t really show movement yet.  Work is happening in a combination of Activity and Stillness.

Our goal — get a final sketch to be officially drawn.  .

February 19 – A home meeting over dinner. Angie came to us and we worked on her version 4, some priorities are becoming clearer to us as we talk.

Then, some initial engineering for the beam along the river, trusses and floor joists. We want open space with a wall of windows, among other things. Should it surprise us that the beam might need to be 24″?  The recommended approach just looks complicated.  Intuitively we feel we need to simplify, so Russ drew a new floor plan minus the bonus room as an option. It feels better to me. We will talk this week about the truss, joist and beam costs from version 4 to spur more conversation and a decision about which option to pursue..

March 4 and 5 – A visit to the Pittsburgh Home Show. The joy was time with Jenny, she started Spring Break. Two nights at the Courtyard, two partial days looking at doors, skylights, kitchens, floors, etc. We got a little clearer on what we want for the house and ate good food downtown.

March 10 – A visit to the Kitchen Designer was fun and informative. The best part was I learned there were samples of the flooring we are starting to get serious about.

This week we’ll meet again with Angie and Darwin, can’t wait.  I imagine myself sitting in the finished house, enjoying the river view.