Merry Christmas


2015 has been a big year for us.  Phil and Jen celebrated their 10 year anniversary with a trip to Paris and London in the spring.  Phil started a new job with Ebay, and our family moved back to Utah, locating farther south in Sandy.  We bought a house without even seeing it and then proceeded to tear it apart.  With the help of many friends and family we painted, put in new floors throughout the house, redid the powder bathroom and installed a whole new kitchen.  We couldn't be happier with how everything turned happy that we are already looking forward to redoing the rest of the bathrooms next year (well, at least Jen is).  

Wade is in second grade and making lots of new friends.  He took golf lessons this fall and can't wait until he gets good enough to drive a golf cart.  He loves math and is better at doing it in his head than his mom.  He is also a fantastic reader and we often catch him staying up late to finish a book.  He turns 8 next month and is excited to be getting baptized.  His favorite activity is hiking and scaring his mom by getting as close to the cliffs as he can.  

Sam is in preschool and loves it.  He is still our tender-hearted little boy and often tears up, making his mom and dad feel guilty for ever getting mad at him.  He is reading surprisingly well for his age and even gets most of the words right when we read from the scriptures.  His favorite thing to do is ride his bike and he is quite upset that we just got over a foot of snow preventing him from riding for a while.   

Luke is trying to make up for the first three years of his life.  He is so much happier now that he can somewhat communicate with us and showers us with smiles to let us know when he is happy.  He is adjusting well to his new preschool and we are so excited for all he will learn there with his new speech therapist.  Luke loves cars and helping his dad with any kind of outdoor chores.  He also loves to do anything with his big brothers.  

We love this time of year and the chance it gives us to reflect on our Savior. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."  John 3:16. He is truly the greatest gift we can receive this holiday season.  We wish you all the merriest of Christmases.  



 This little one turned three yesterday.  I am not gonna lie, there were days I wasn't sure we were going to make it this far.  This kid can throw a tantrum!  Most of his tantrums are due to his inability to communicate though.  And he is finally getting the help he needs.  Back when he turned two, I had Luke evaluated for a speech delay, and he barely didn't qualify.  After we moved to Utah, I had him evaluated again, and he definitely qualified (being in the 1% for his age).  He has had two months of speech therapy so far and it has made a world of difference.  Now that he is three, he qualifies for the preschool program which includes a speech therapist.  Today was his first day.  And when I dropped his off....he kicked and screamed....not really a shock.  But his teacher said he calmed right down after I left and played happily.  When I picked him up, he spent a good five minutes telling me about his snack and the colors he used today, something that was not even possible a few months ago.  It made my momma heart happy.

I am so thankful he qualifies for this program and that there are sweet teachers who are willing to be so patient with my little boy.  I love him, but it has been such a hard three years.  I am praying that as his communication skills get better, he will be happier.   

Sam is 5

Another year older!  We sure love our sweet Sam.  He is such a happy and loving little boy and we are so happy to watch him grow.  Since this little boy loves Thor, we had a little Avengers themed party.  

Everyone picked a team to be on.  And you know, sometimes Iron Man just has to pick his nose.IMG_0880_edited-1 
Their best superhero poses...IMG_0884_edited-1 
Some took their job more seriously than others.IMG_0899_edited-1 IMG_0950_edited-1 IMG_0920_edited-1 
We played Avengers games...IMG_0907_edited-1 
but the favorite was capturing the villain and tying him up (thanks for being such a good sport Grandpa!)IMG_0962_edited-1 
And of course we had Thor cupcakes.IMG_0873_edited-1
Thanks for turning 5 Sam and letting us celebrate you!


I opted not to do a theme this year, but to let the boys each pick their own costume.  Wade is really into space right now, and decided to be an astronaut.  He even helped me make his helmet.  Sam loves Thor...not exactly sure why.  All of the other Avengers are, well....they are just ok.  But Thor, he's the man.  And little Luke.  He had about 5 different costumes to pick from.  I tried to talk him into being cookie monster, but he insisted on wearing his ghost costume from last year, which is much too small, but he was cute all the same.  Phil and I even dressed up for our neighborhood block party.  (In case you can't tell, we are Flo and Mayhem).  We had a great night trick-or-treating with friends.IMG_0854_edited-1 IMG_0839_edited-1 IMG_0832_edited-1 IMG_0829_edited-1 IMG_0860_edited-1

Reconstruction: Part 1

One of the last trips I take from Houston I notice this car in the parking garage.  Notice the registration expired December of 2011.  I think the next season of the Serial podcast is investigating this one.

Memorial Day weekend I take off from my second job so I can move my family up from Houston into Jen's parents' basement.  We pack all our stuff into another Uhaul and get the picture of the boys standing on it again.  It's a long drive and we swear we'll never do it again.  Seems like we said that last time, too.


Back to work.  I clear out the laundry room/bathroom on the main floor.  I've done tiling before so I can get that done pretty easily.  I need to put down cement backer board and decide to use my circular saw to get it done in about 45 minutes.  Note: when doing the same thing for my bathroom in my house in Woods Cross, I used a knife to score it and break it off.  It took about 12 hours and 15 blades to get done.  I borrow my brother in law's man tile saw and he helps out doing most of the cutting.  I get that done while Jen's dad (GC) works on wiring.


I get a batt of insulation and stuff it up in the ceiling of the main floor to muffle the sounds from upstairs.  I wear long sleeves, gloves and facemask, but neglect to wear eye protection.  That stuff is brutal.  If you want to know what it feels like without having to buy the insulation, just crush up comes glass and use it instead of your contact lens solution.


At the end of most of my night shifts I open doors at both ends of the house and use my blower to create a wind tunnel and get as much of the dust as I can out of the house.  We get the wiring and insulation set for the kitchen walls so it's time for a contractor to put the drywall up and texture the ceiling.  "I'll do anything for remodels (but I won't do that)" my GC says.  He's got a guy in his ward that does it so we talk to him and he says he'll be out by the end of the week to take a look.  Never hear from the guy again.  So I go to to find somebody new (I'd done some work with them when I was consulting).  I spend about 5 hours on the phone and talk to about 5 different outfits and they were all booked for 3-4 months.  Jen talks to a friend of hers in the ward and has him come take a look.  I meet him at the house and he says maybe a total of four words, not including some grunts.  Three of the four words were, "Start on Monday".  Sold.  I have to take care of a joist that is hanging low, so I spend one of my shifts cutting it down while coming millimeters from the gas line we just put in.  Don't worry the gas wasn't flowing at that point.


We took the next weekend off to go down to Austin to see my family.  The cabinets we'd ordered were delivered about the time we got back, so Jen's dad and I got to work installing those (good thing we got the contractor out to put up the walls just before we left).  For some reason they didn't make the cabinets exactly square (either that or our fur out job wasn't exactly square, but I think we can safely assume where the problem was), so it took a fair amount of work to get them into place.


Next time: the exciting conclusion.

Phase 1: Demo


Jen shared her side of the story, summing most of the renovation up into one picture with 4 squares, so I thought I should share my side of the story for anyone considering a fixer upper.  This will be a few posts (because it was more work than just a picture with four squares in it).

Background:  Fall 2014 - My boss had quit and my company had joined our group of quant consultants (group of analytic data scientists who tell companies what they should do based on what they see in the data) into a business consulting group (the kind of consultants who tell companies what they should do based on what they've seen in the industry over the last 8 decades).  Our numbers started declining and so the new boss started blaming everything on the old one, and started pushing us to get out in front of the clients.  So, my 30-40% travel job turned into 95-100% travel job.  Fortunately, an old friend passed my name along to someone at eBay who was looking to fill out a team and I made the switch.

Winter 2015 - I start at eBay, having agreed to spend 50% of my time in Utah and 50% back in Houston with my family until we made the official move.  The plan was to find a house and get the family moved up around the time Wade finished 1st grade - because we didn't want him to miss any of such a critical time of his education.

We finally settle on a house in Sandy and close on it beginning of April.  I start on ripping stuff up. We decide to redo the kitchen and flooring on both the main floor and upstairs.  I start right away pulling out the old kitchen cabinets.  They come out pretty easy, other than the small cupboard above the fridge spot.  I unscrew all the screws I can find, get up on a step stool with my elbows inside the cupboard and try to jostle it loose.  I succeed and the cupboard comes tumbling down right on my face.  I have some toilet paper so I stop the nosebleed, but I just turned off the water to the house because of a leaky valve where the kitchen sink used to be.  I stumble out into the garage where a lady was just coming over to introduce herself.  She offers her sink and on the way over to her house introduces herself and says that her husband is the leader of the local congregation of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and says she's not sure what my religious affiliation is...  I can tell she's waiting for me to either say I'm a Mormon or I'm not, so I say, "I see" and let her wonder.
Back to the cupboards.  I list the lot of them on KSL for $250 and they sold right away.  Dang.  Listed them too low.
Next step, pull up the flooring.  Actually, call my general contractor (Jen's dad) and Jen to see if we were keeping the baseboards.  We're not.  OK, rip those out.  Didn't realize you're supposed to do it carefully to avoid destroying the finished drywall that the baseboards are attached to.  So that will require a few iterations of sanding and puttying.  On to the flooring.  Almost the entire house was this super cheap laminate.  Some rooms come up real easy, other rooms they had glued each individual piece together, then each joint to the floor.  Those rooms are real bears.  One room I pull up some floors and saw some dead bug carcasses in the corners.  Call my brother to see if he thinks they are termites.  Turns out they're not.  But overall the main floor comes up pretty quick.  On to the kitchen tile.  I start one day after leaving work at 5, work until 10 (note that this was my usual schedule while the house is under construction) and got maybe 3 solid tiles up.  Yikes.

Next day I come back with a power tool rented from home depot that was theoretically going to speed it up.  It doesn't.  Spend another 5-10 shift pulling up minor tile square footage.  Next night, the GC actually shows up for work.  We don't need the subfloor, so we end up breaking up tile along where we think the subfloor joints are and pull those up.  By the end of that night we have most of the kitchen tile removed.  I tell Ric (GC) good night and he heads out; I facetime Jen to report on the progress.  I show her the kitchen/dining area which is pretty well cleared out.  She sees the laundry room and says, "oh you didn't finish?"

We take out the rest of the tile that was in the laundry room/bathroom.  The subfloor under the bathroom vanity smells like urine - apparently their dog missed the toilet a few times?  After removing the subfloor and cleaning up the rest of the main floor and upstairs as best we can, we got some water sealant and applied it to all the plywood.
Next, the ceiling.  It was low, about 8 feet.  Our hunch was that there was no reason for it to be that low, but they had done it so they could raise it in a couple areas to make it look 'nice'.  So after poking some holes in the ceiling we decide to go for it.  I pull down most of the drywall on the ceiling before going back to Houston.

Jen comes up to Salt Lake one Thursday night and stayed through Sunday night.  She and her family pulls off most of the chair rail from around the house (it was everywhere).  They also make a bunch of decisions about colors, styles, etc for all the stuff around the house, get cabinets and flooring ordered.

I am in Houston for a couple weeks, because parents came home from their mission and then Jen and I went to Europe for a well deserved vacation.  While I was gone, Ric makes the executive decision to get a plumber to run a gas line from the stairwell to the side of the kitchen so we can have a gas range, upgrade the meter so our gas line could better service all the gas appliances/outlets, and fix a potential leak under the master bath.  ~$1650.  Not bad, but not great.

Next, I pull down the beams from the ceiling (non load bearing obviously), and remove the half wall that was in between the dining area and living room.  It was a solid wall but underneath there were spindles.  Interesting that somebody thought that looked good at some point.

We also decide to pull of the kitchen drywall.  Made it easier to put in wiring for the ovens, which would now be in a different spot, and we figure it would just be a little extra time/materials for the drywaller we would be bringing in.

IMG_1852I load up a flatbed trailer with all the junk from all the demo.  Over 3 trips I take over 5000 lbs.IMG_1857


Watching 4 year-olds play t-ball has to be the most fun way to spend your Saturday morning! Especially since they are learning as they go.  Sam hit that ball as hard as his little arms would let him.  And every time he got to a new base, he gave us the thumbs up.  He even managed to get a few grounders.  Love watching this sweet boy of our grow up!


I think I am doing something right with this one.  He is as sweet as they come.  He has been so excited to start school at a real school this year (even though I swear he's smart enough to be starting Kindergarten).  Here's to a great year, buddy!


Back in May, Phil and I were able to take a trip to Paris and London to celebrate our upcoming 10 year anniversary.  It was so great to take a trip with just the two of us in some of the greatest cities in the world.  Paris was a dream.  We loved the city, the food the art....everything.  We ate lunch on the Eiffel Tower, saw some of my favorite impressionist paintings, gawked over the Mona Lisa, stood in awe at Notre Dame, got lost at Versailles, and so much more.  

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