Friday, August 22, 2014

Gimme Some Office Space...

I'm in the midst of a quite a few projects right now, but I wanted to get the first part of this one up.  Thanks to our laptop burning in our spontaneous minivan fire, we were lacking in any sort of computer set up for blogging for a while... which, despite wanting to backpost a bit, brings me to this post.

I doubt I have any good pictures of the area before, but you can see the gross office space we had going to the side here in a picture taken a bunch of months ago.  We didn't actually have any computer set up yet for the picture, but you can sort of see what we're working with.

Edit:  I did find a picture that I took with a little more detail in the office area after it's been lived in a bit.  

The shelf the right is where we keep the homeschool books, papers, science, fine art (crafts are elsewhere) and math supplies.  The bookshelves are crammed with books and papers and I wish I had a more space, and fewer college books.  

The papers on the floor are the recent 'we need to file or sort' papers.  The boxes are about 70% filled with Eve's artwork we need to sort.  Not kidding.  We've 'laid down the law' and now she needs to ask before she get paper, and date what she wants to keep and after a few days, recycle the rest herself.  It seems to be going okay, except recycling is usually inconsistent.

The blue bin on the floor is electronics.  Behind the chair is a beat up filing cabinet, that I've had since I was 12.  Even then I wanted to hide it's scratched top, so I kept gray foam over it.  On top of the filing cabinet is our 'office storage' and it holds pens, calculators, envelopes, highlighter, protractors, etc.  It's a mess and the drawers stick.

And the computer desk holds everything else, but not well. Note the purple computer on the bottom. It's not actually hooked up.  Being programmers, we'd love to have dual monitors at some point... but this little desk can't handle more than one.

Here's a closeup of the old computer stand, taken a few days ago (hoping to give it away soon). My Mom bought it at Ames when I was about... 10.  That makes it almost 20 years old.  And it's made it through at least 15 moves.  Honestly, it's held up super well for being made of particleboard and something not thicker than contact paper on top of it.  Crazy.  The blue thing on the side is a folded piece of paper to hold our SD cards.  Best idea ever.

Anyway, it's ugly.  And it didn't suit our needs anymore.  We really really really need more desk space and storage.
Which is funny to say we need more space, because the computer we kept there (in this house) is super tiny.  It's an older used Mac Mini that we bought recently for app development. (You can see the little white box next to the monitor in the new pic above.)  We had it here for when we needed it for app stuff, but it hadn't been much competition for our [burned] laptop.  Because of the OS we had to load to develop apps, it runs really slow.   So while it worked okay for facebook and gmail, it was a pain to do much else on it.  (Like blogging)

I digress...  Again. After our car fire, we were able to successfully pull the hard-drive from the laptop, buy using our old desktop.  To step back, about 2 years ago we stopped using the desktop because the monitor barely worked, and the computer shut down randomly with no warning.  After trying a few things we were stumped as to what it was, and we sort of left it sitting there unfixed for a while. Like two years.

But, to get the laptop hard drive hooked up, I disconnected every extra thing in there (mostly hard-drives) to give the computer the best change of staying alive long enough to get our data off.   Not only had it stayed on the whole time getting our data off, we found it wasn't shutting off at all.  Must have been something with the old harddrives.  Mystery solved!  So that leaves us here.  No laptop, not much money to upgrade, and not much room for our existing stuff.  So our computer sat here next to the TV for a bit. It doesn't have a wireless card and was too far from the router where it sat, so we didn't have web access on it either.

So I focused my efforts back on the computer stand, which honestly, most of the plywood has been cut for a long time.  Long long time.  I actually cut most of the pieces while I cut the boys lego shelves and table (to be posted about soon).  The lego storage (and a bunch of other things) jumped the gun though and I finished those first.

Anyway, I finally got the first part kicked out about two weeks ago.  I'm so happy even with this little change.  The tabletop is maple plywood, edged with routered maple.  I'll get better pictures eventually.  I'm so glad I went with a hardwood for the table. I can already tell it will hold up well to the abusive keyboard and office chairs deliver.  The cabinet is birch plywood with poplar trim, painted white. A little cheaper and easier to work with than maple.  Once we have floors, I'm planning making it built-in with molding wrapping the bottom.

But that's not all!  About a week ago, I got the first part of the storage tower done. 

And just tonight, I got more of the storage tower up!  It's really coming to together now! I still have sanding, painting (outside), staining (inside), and a few more trim pieces to buy.... but I can see it now!


Added bonus, you can see one of the other projects I've been working on.  Our friends are taking a year long boat trip, and I've been making cushions for their bunks.  These are the last two, so I'm hoping to get some on-boat photos taken and posted soon.


Monday, August 18, 2014

A Slightly Better Deck?

Hard to call these improvements, because we know that our deck is going to need a complete overhaul one of these years, and this didn't even touch what we'll have do to it.  Still, these are changes that should help with our pool use for now.... although the weather has been unseasonably cold :(  I hope we'll still have some time in it this year.

Here's a refresher to our deck layout, taken just after we moved in.  Take note of the plastic storage box and pool ladder.

First up, we had a rotted hole in our deck.  It used to be under a plastic storage box with our pool chemicals and pet hornets in it.  But since we moved the storage box to the ground to try to free up some space, we were left with a rotted hole for kids to fall through.  Long story short, a little bit of destruction and I got that rotted board out.

Yay, no more hole.  You can barely see but I actually replaced the stair tread that aligned with this board earlier this spring.  At first I couldn't think of a connection, but I realized when the retractable awning is fully extended it would drip right there.  Mystery solved.  We keep it closed most of the time, unless it's sunny out.  No point in risking it taking up kite status in a thunderstorm (it's almost happened once, even while Jon was actively it trying to roll it up... in a storm).

Next up... a really ugly gate. Money's tight, so I'm just glad this ugly thing was made completely out of scraps.  I had the gate hardware already, so all I needed to by was some supporting braces.

As you may remember from some of our other house pictures, we had an unmobile 'gate' the previous owners had put in.  I decided a 4' foot wide opening to a pool with a two year old in the house was a bad idea.   We decided that it would be best to just detach the rusted broken gate hardware, and turn it back into deck railing.  Insurance required some barrier, so it was win-win.  Kind of.

It meant, of course, to get in the pool you need to... climb the railing.  Everyone.  Us. Grandparents.  Guests.  Guest's Parents.  In bathing suits no less. Everyone.  It made us slightly more hesitant to invite anyone over into the pool.

But, time for a change!  With some kid helpers, we cut the old 'gate' in half...

 attached the gate hardware...
 and installed a new post.
I figured this was a short term solution, so the post isn't at all secured in a long lasting way (ie, up to code).  I bought a post support and screwed it down.  That's pretty much it.  I also decided to reinforce the other post with some L braces, since it had gotten a little wobbly from everyone else climbing on it.  Seems to have done the trick for now.

The last 'fix' we made was to the pool ladder.  While planning the gate, we decided the pool side deck would flow better if we moved it.  Plus, the ladder was unnecessarily taking up the widest place on the deck, which was the only place that  gave us enough room to put in a pair of lounge chairs on that side. So moving it seemed ideal!

I kinda stunk at taking pictures, but it was there....

And now it's here!

So that's it for our recent 'deck' improvements.  Now hopefully the weather warms up enough to use them!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Can you feel my energy?

 It's such an awesome song.  I even stream it at work sometimes. 

We were able to do our first few electrical upgrades in our house recently.  Basically, we accidentally got submerged in lighting isle of Lowes, haha.  We installed a programmable thermostat for the upstairs... but I won't bore you with pictures of that. We hadn't bothered buying one last year when we did the downstairs because we weren't using the upstairs yet.. it was sticking at 60.  This year, we'll be living up there.

We also upgraded the basement smoke detector.  We noticed that it would set off the others, but wouldn't make any noise itself.  We're still planning to do the others at some point, as they're clearly over the 10 year replacement range.  Again, boring, no pictures.

I also swapped out the very yellow light switch in the boys room, since it very clearly clashed with the nice white trim we painted in there.  Wasn't too bad, but agian, I won't bore you with that either.

I'll bore you with this!  Light fixtures!  Everyone cheer!

These ugly energy-wasters had bugged me since we moved in.  The previous paint jobs were bad so I did just as bad a job when I painted the bathroom.  I was sooo happy to finally swap these things out.

Okay, pain in the butt #1.  I didn't know what circuit it was on, and killed the power to the whole house.  Meh, better safe then sorry, right?  I'll come back to that.

I had to google how to take this thing down.  Unscrew the bulbs and then just pull those metal things off.   I felt a little dumb with the simplicity of it.

That left us with the light strip.  that was pretty easy, you just unscrew.  So far so good.

And take it off the wall.  Piece of cake.  Real electricians might have spotted the problem by now.

Blissfully unaware, I went downstairs and repeated, leaving me with another lightness void.... still no notice of the problem.

We're losing daylight, so I go right to the new light fixtures instructions, and it says to just simply screw the new fixture to the existing light fixture box.  Piece of cake, done before sundown.  You might have guessed it by now... but I go back to the bathroom and exclaim "Oh crap! There's no light fixture box!"

Yep.  Both of them with no box.  What makes matters worse, it that there is a stud on one side and the water pipes on the other.  No nice round fixture box is going to fit there at all.

So this meant two things.  One, I shut off the power to the whole house originally and now it's dark out.  I don't even know what circuits this is on to allow me to turn on the rest of the house.  So our house is very dark and our kids need to get ready for bed.

Two, I have about 10 minutes of shopping time at the local home depot if I leave right away.

So I bolt out the door, and go and buy every fixture box I could find.  While I was out, Jon guessed as to which circuits he knew the bathroom wasn't on, and was able to get a few rooms working again.  It helps to know how to use a multi-meter I guess :)

With some finagling, I was able to get an outlet type box up there, and get the plate to fit on it. 

It wasn't easy, and I had to drill an extra hole in the box for the adjustment screw, but we got it.

So, once that drama was out of the way, I was able to get the downstairs bathroom light on the wall and working.  We're going to paint.... someday.... so I didn't bother making it look nice.

The upstairs bathroom I actually decided to wait until the next day to install it.  I thought it would be better to paint it before the install.  This is an really awful picture, but trust me, it looks 10x better. 

It puts people in great light too.  See how cut and attractive Eli looks here?  Hahahahahaha....

Really.  I should go take another picture soon.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Legos! Storage! Complete Bliss!

Legos are quite the big deal in our house.    They were a huge part of my and my husband's childhood, and since we were both the youngest we got to keep our childhood Legos.    Might even have contributed to my desire to be a ::gasp:: female engineer too.  Fun fact, Jon and I even went to Legoland California on our honeymoon.  We were the oldest people there without kids, that's for sure.  Didn't mind a bit.

Now they're a pretty big deal to my kids, which is awesome.

 I love the different creations they've come up with and the open ended, cross gender play.  (Note, We have Lego Friends and we love those too.  I think people are nuts for bashing them.  All of our kids like the additional human feel they bring to our other legos.  Plus it's really funny seeing ironman wearing a lego friends wig)

 However, there are two things I didn't like when I was a kid, and three things I don't like about them now.
  1. I hated stepping on them before, and I hate stepping on them now.
  2. I tried really hard to keep them sorted as a kid, in plastic bags that kept ripping or were too hard to see through.  Never was fully satisfied.
  3. And now as a grown-up, I don't like having to pick up 1000's of tiny toys mixed in with 100's of other toys in our playroom.  Especially when young babies are coming over.  Yuck.
So when planning a trip to Ikea last spring, we decided it was time to give up the giant tub holding all of our  Legos and finally organize them.  Eli started off super excited, and starting sorting them on his own.  Like a champ, he decided he wanted them sorted by type and not color.  We also thought it would be best to go in the boys room.   We figured it would be easier to clean play, and protect their creations from guests in their own room.

It was one of the first nice days out after the winter in April, so we all went out and started sorting them outside.  Have I mentioned this project took a while?  Yeah. Well, it did.

We actually were picking up the wood for a new computer stand, and I realized that if I planned right, I could get both the Lego storage and the computer kicked out together and have fewer waste.  And since their room is the most finished room in the house, I felt inspired to try to get it the most settled.  So we moved the Legos to their room...and after stepping on them a bunch of times in the dark, I decided the Legos were more pressing than the computer stand and swapped priorities.

I borrowed my mom's router to make the grooves.  You can see I did the first one wrong.  It was too deep (whoops!) but I was able to fill it in with some scrap, sand it nice and flush spin the direction and continue on.

I made two routered sets - one with grooves back to back, and one with with just one side of grooves. Then cut them to the right width after, so the heights would stay consistent.

I sort of wish I had gotten super thick plywood, so I could cut the grooves deeper and wouldn't have had to make supports... but I was being cheap and we were pressed for time picking out the plywood.  After the boards were cut, I ripped a 1x4 in little strips (with a circular saw, not fun), and glue those down.  Saved a ton of money over buying little strips.

 Then I worked on the top and bottom.  I decided to use the router to notch out the location for the shelves.  It makes the assembly easier, and the positioning 10x more accurate.  On a simple project like this which requires a lot of side to side accuracy, it was a no brainer...

Speaking of no brains, here's a another whoopsie.  (No not Isaac, hahaha...)  I accidentally cut the board too short. Thankfully exactly 1 1/2" too short, and I was able to fix it will some pocket screws and plugs.  Can't even tell now that it's done.

Between Eli and Isaac, I often had a kiddo with me working on it.  I really love when they hang around when I work.  They're typically well behaved and attentive, so that's an added bonus.

I knew I'd never get it painted if I didn't do it just after construction, so I got to it right away.  It seemed to take FOREVER.  I kinda wish I had just used some spray paint, all those peaks and valleys really made it a time consuming paint job.

Once it was finally done, I couldn't resist and brought it up while the boys were sleeping.

Boy, did their room need it. This is how it was for...  let me check the dates...  a month and a half.  Yeah, that was long enough. Here's the real life picture - You can see that the enthusiasm for sorting was short lived.  (You can see Isaac sleeping in the pic below.  Once they're out, they're out. I can flip on the lights and be move Legos all over and they don't notice a thing)

Once I got the bins all stacked together, the room, despite still being a bit messy, was now walkable.  Yay!

Once thing you may have noticed was multitude of supports across the back.  That's because I made it to hang on the wall.  I figued if kitchen cabinent could hand on the wall filled with dishes, these should be fine too.  It took another two months after making it, but we did get it hung up eventually.  It took so long because I was waiting for...

...the new play table! So now the rule is, no Legos on the floor at bed time.  They can make whatever mess they want to on the table, but they need to keep those toys away from the soles of my feet.

Eli was pretty happy to take it for a test drive, of course.

The table was a fairy straightforward build.  It's about 32" wide ( I think) and 48" long.  Just one cut with the circular saw.  I edged it with poplar, skipped the stain (as I often do) and used polycrylic.  Compaired to the lego cupboard it was super fast.  I knew it would get scratched and dinged so I didn't go overboard in making it look nice. The one little detail I did add is a little recess on the edge wall, so we can scoop off the Legos into a bucket as needed.

So, after a whopping three months of planning, Ikea shopping and woodworking, that thing right there fulfills my childhood dream of sorting my Legos.  Ahhhhhhhhhhh......  Feels good.

 And you thought this was me being all nice to my kids.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Come on Baby, Light my Fire...

Well, our summer plans are not going as expected.  This isn't going to be a very exciting story, and has nothing to do with DIY,  but it's my blog.  Suck it up, buttercup.

My Great Grandma, who lived a long life, passed away peacefully the end of June.  While this post, regrettably, is not about her life, I do feel I owe her homage to start with her story.  She was 102, had been the valedictorian of her class, and I don't think she wore a pair of pants once in her life.  She was still quite the thinker to the end and always very polite. I'm glad I was able to visit her this past fall.  She had nine great-great grandchildren, three of them my kids :)

This is were the story takes a turn.  Friday, June 27th, we were heading from New Hampshire to New York for her funeral.  We prefer traveling on rural road through southern Vermont to driving on highways in Massachusetts.   We don't have A/C in our car, so cool shady Vermont is much preferred to hot traffic jams.  Because it still gets quite hot, I've actually learned to keep a cooler with a few bags of ice open in the car to cool off the car a bit.  We keep soda cans in there to pass around the car to cool us off (and sometimes drink).  I'm getting way over detailed here....  back to the point.

We had a car inspection the next Monday, but we still looked over the engine and checked the oil level before we left.  I packed the typical stuff for a weekend trip.  Some of our nicer day clothes, funeral clothes, nap mats, pillows, diaper bag, kindle, laptop, etc.  I actually packed my bin of receipts from 2014 that I had been meaning to sort.  Plus I decided to grab the kids teddy bears, even though none of them requested I packed them. I grabbed a few DVD's for the car, particularly Frozen, which is both a hit with the kids, and would help to keep their mind on ice and not the heat :D

So, we're driving along, the kids are disappointed because the Frozen disk was left at home.  Whateve.  We'll survive with the others. Eve pull stuff out of bag, reads a little, feels a little queezy, and puts her stuff away (thank goodness).  I say no movies for a bit, until I'm sure that Eve's queezness subsides. The boys fall asleep, and I think Eve started nodding off. 

Just as we're pulling into the last NH town, Brattleboro, Eve alerts us to her tummy woes.  I sprinted back to her with an empty chip bag we had devoured in no time (don't judge - Late July Dude Ranch... so yummy!) I made it in time, and thankfully the carsickness mess was contained.  Jon had pulled off while I was back there, which landed us in 99 Restaurant.

So, we have some lunch, use the potties and are back on the road.  I actually moved a lot of stuff in the cabin to the back, just in case there's more car sickness.  About 15 minutes out we pass Marlboro, and start heading up hogback mountain, which is known for it's view overlooking 4 states.  At the time though, we had no idea where were yet, because we hadn't gotten to the mountain yet.

Anyway, as we're climbing, Jon says "The transaxle light is on".  I wasn't super alarmed, it's come on before going through Vermont, we've pulled over, let the car rest and the light stayed off for the rest of the trip.  We had our mechanics check it out after, and they hadn't seen anything wrong.  I suggest we pull over.

As we're pulling over though Jon makes me very alarmed, and says, "We're stuck in 1st gear."  And as we hit the shoulder, thick white smoke starts pouring out of our vents.

I yell to the kids to "Get out now!" and I open the door and notice the ground is still moving beneath my bare feet,   I guess Jon hadn't come to a stop yet.  Isaac, our youngest at 3 1/2,  sits behind me and can't undo his buckle by himself, so my first thought is to get him out (um, duh) and I pull on the handle, and it doesn't open.  That fraction of a second induced Mom-panic.  Either because the car is locked, or even just not in park, cause either way it won't let the doors open.  I flip back to my open door and hit unlock at the same time Jon had hit it.  Thank God (no really) our electrical was still working, and the doors unlocked.  That would be the last time I saw the front seat, where I had my purse, sandals, and kindle.  Not that I give it the tiniest thought.  I hadn't even noticed I was barefoot yet. 

At this point, I get Isaac out.  The big kids did as they were told and quickly got out of the car on Jon's side.  They started towards the back to meet up with me.  Jon says at this point he went glanced back up front and saw flames licking out under the hood next to the front window, on the passenger side.  He runs to meet up with us.  I recall seeing two cars stop across the road, people yelling to us (I don't know what?) and a motorcycle behind us stopping.  The motorcycle wouldn't do anything to stop, or even alert traffic to slow down around the bend, so I was really worried about leaving the kids.  However, the women on the motorcycle hopped down and helped take care of our kids, so I ran back to the car. 

A man from the other side of the road had ran over to the drivers side of the car and was yelling "I would get this carseats out if I could just figure out how to do it!"  I got to the passenger side sliding door and respond, very uncharacteristically "The seats don't matter, get back!"  I'm a carseat nut, so I'm glad I have one moment to show safety is still my top priority.  But, again in less than a second I thought, I'm standing next to it, I should take the seats out.  Even with shaky hands, my experience uninstalling our Britax seats a million times came in handy, and in less than 2 seconds I had Isaac's seat out.  Have I mentioned, I LOVE the our Britax Boulevards?  I do. I really do.  They're so easy to install, but also easy to uninstall.  As I was getting it out, I'm sure I was taking in a bit of smoke, but I hadn't really noticed much.

I bring it to the back of the car, and that would be the first time I noticed I didn't have shoes on.  My guess is at this point probably 30 seconds has elapsed since I jumped out?  At most a minute.  I get it a distance away, turn around and see Jon carrying Eli's seat.  He saw that I had grabbed Isaac's seat and followed suit.  I took it from him and carried to the other seat, grabbed both and brought them not too much further back and turned around to look at the car. 

This was the point I realized the whole car was going to burn before anything could be done.  I hadn't really had a chance to think about it before then.  Honestly, my normal "directive thoughts" were just random pulses at this point.  Never before has my mind worked like that.  Most of the time was mind was divided between thoughts of... no more like constant feelings of "Got to get back to the kids" and "What if the car explodes?" Any cognitive decisions were few and acted upon quickly whether good or bad.

Anyway, with the realization that it was all going to go, I set down the seats ran back to the car again. Jon had already opened the trunk and together we started pitching EVERYTHING into the ditch.  I stood up, leaned over the backseat and grabbed Eve's bag and a book that was laying on the seat.  I am SO glad Eve had picked up all her toys and put them back in her bag.  I saw her RECARO carseat and knew I didn't have time to pull it out.  I went back to the trunk and started indiscriminately throwing stuff into the ditch as far back as a I could. 

I made two errors in thinking. 

The first was hard to recall for a few minutes.  The laptop bag was taken out by me.  I recall thinking, "Oh, thank goodness we got this" but lost the thought pretty much instantly and threw it into the ditch just as I did eveything else.   I had a nagging feeling I was forgetting something.  This could have been compounded actually, but I'll get back to that.

The second erroneous thought was that I saw the green bin of 'car stuff' in the car when I did my final lookover that I got everything.  I didn't throw that in the ditch.   My guess is that I'm so used to knowing that it's not luggage and it typically stays in the whenever we unload the car.  I recall the thought "That stays in the car."  It's crazy how autopilot I was.

I closed the trunk, mostly out of habit, because I can just barely remember it, and that was it.  The last time I touched the car.  I ran back to the seats and brought them to Jon, the kids and the motorcycle couple.  I had a nagging feeling that I needed to move the stuff we saved.  I wanted to go back so bad, but the car was getting worse every minute.  I couldn't remember what it was I wanted to get so bad.

The ditch was kinda odd, that in some places it was quite low, like where our luggage was and in further back there was no ditch and it went straight up the mountain.  At this point, I sat down into the side of the mountain and started to... pout?  It wasn't crying, I didn't have tears, but I was in disbelief.  Some of the cars on the other side that had stopped right across from us moved on (which is a good idea), and Jon had borrowed someone's phone to call 911. 

He was very frustrated with the 911 person.  They wouldn't alert the fire department until they knew exactly where we were, and we had to find a local to tell us that we were just in front of hogshead mountain.  I recall hearing him say "It's the CAR ON FIRE."  He said it took a full minute before they even connected him to the fire department for him to repeat everything again.  Meanwhile, I got a hold of myself and decided to borrow the woman on the motorcycle, Pat's, cellphone to call my Mom.  She didn't pick up, but I wanted to be super clear on the recording, so I said twice that we were all safe before I said it was a fire.  No reason to make my Mom panic.

I got off the phone, and we decided to move back again.  This is about the time I realized the purse and kindle were in there.  I asked her to take a picture, which is the one above.  It's one of two pictures we have.  You can see that my open door is still open from when I jumped out. 

So this is the second thing I think was nagging at me.  There's something burning on the ground at the back.  I think it's our garbage bag of pillows.  I can't remember, but my guess is that I didn't want to throw our nice clean pillows in the ditch, and I meant to carry it with me.  They're the only thing that was in the trunk that we found almost no trace of later.  Oh well, I guess.

My Mom called Pat's phone as this picture was being taken, and I talked to my Mom briefly.  The first two tires popped, and I got off the phone to move back again.  A off duty utility worked had gotten out of his car, thrown on his neon vest, and was directing traffic (and us) to move back because of the increasing chance of explosion.  We decided to round the bend completely and have the mountain between us and the car.

All the while, we were keeping our humor.  Once my initial shock wore off, I realized there was nothing we do, so we resorted to jokes like, "at least we don't have to worry about passing inspection".  Eli even got on board and said "Anyone have any marshmallows?" The kids were concerned about our money and our stuff, but I reassured them that we had insurance just for this reason, and explained how insurance works ::sad face::.

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It was a little odd.  People had got out of their cars to film it or take pictures.  There were several cars now much closer to it then us, and now we could see the line of cars past the bend who were frustrated because of the unknown blockage, and getting out to look around the bend.  Frustration and curiosity were sort of replaced by sympathy.  Sort of.  It's odd to see your misery being something of interest.  My sister found the above picture on twitter.  We were probably a bit behind this car on the side.

Anyway, I should move the story along.  The utility worker gave us water, which was great because my throat was burning (smoke inhalation anyone?).  A women in an RV gave a pair of flipflops, which I was so grateful for.  The tires all blew, and that was pretty loud.  When the last tire blew, we were like. "Wait. Five? Oh the spare!"

The town police came, and didn't say much expect that the state police handles all this.  The state police came and talked to us only briefly.  Finally the fire trucks came.  There was an ambulance, I guess, but it never came to us, because they were stuck on the other side of the road.  Nothing crossed for a long time. 

I'll skip the boring part.  We were there over 3 hours.  The fire chief was concerned because of the amount of fuel in the tank.  The bugs bit us. Eli, who WILL NOT pee in the woods, was forced to pee on the side of the road om front of the line of traffic.  He screamed and screamed.  He was  also upset he didn't have hand sanitizer, but a firewomen came through with some, but not early enough to spare us some screaming.

Pat and her fellow (I'm not even sure they were a couple, but probably were), stayed with us for a long long time, and helped us manage the kids.  Having an interim 'grandma' was wonderful.  The kids could go on talking to her about everything, and she took interest in them, which is an awesome form of entertainment for them.  But eventually, they had to leave because it was getting dark and they, like everyone else on the NH side, was blocked from their destination because of us.

Speaking of that.  We found out later, my uncle, who was heading to the funeral, was in the line of cars, and turned around.  I wish we would have known. 

Anyway, after the couple left, the fire winding down.  We were allowed to load our car seats in a police cruiser and warm up in there, away from mosquito's.  He said it's not normally allowed, but since we were two hours from any taxi, they made an exception.  Once the fire was out and clean-up was underway, we asked the firepeople to recover our stuff, particularly the laptop and the bag with teddy bears.  That's when we found out how much of our 'saved stuff' was damaged. 

The entire laptop bag had caught fire.  This picture was taken later, but that metal thing poking out of the laptop there is our harddrive :(

The bag with the kids teddy bears had melted on one side, so we had warned them that there could be damage.  Isaac's teddy bear was in the middle, unharmed and dry so I gave it to him right away. Eve's bear was on the melted side and his hat was stuck to the bag, but the body seemed salvageable.  Eli's bear was on top, and had some soot and burn spots, but also seemed reparable.  I was able to show the big kids, who were in and out of tears at the news of damage, the surviving parts of their lovies by holding up the whole bag, and they felt much better.

So once we had gathered up our stuff, we loaded ourselves into a police car and our singed stuff into a firewomen's truck. We were dropped off at "Dot's Diner", who were more than accommodating for us.  The kids were hungry and full of energy, and they were given toys to play with and food (their meals were on the house).  Then we just waited until my Mom came, which was only a few minutes after we got there.  My step dad was just a few minutes behind her.  We ate our meals and it was time to figure out what to do from there.

If anyone actually made it this far down the post, I'd say I think it's gotten long enough, and it's time for bed... so I guess there will be a part II!