How to Stop Your Basement from Flooding with Sewage, and Other Adventures

So. We got a lot of rain last week. Like, 5 inches worth of rain in less than 24 hours.

A year or so ago, we had a similar rainstorm and it was then that we discovered that when we get a lot of rain, the sewer line backs up into the laundry sink in the basement. Our niece and nephew were sleeping over, and I don’t know what made me check the basement that night, but when I got down there, there was about a half inch of sewer water coating the floor and the laundry sink was completely overflowing with yellowish-brown water. Every time the sump pump under the sink kicked on, it was like a geyser erupted in the laundry sink, the basement bathroom sink, and the washing machine drain pipe. It was horrific, but with the help of my dad and his trusty shop-vac, we got it cleaned up within a few hours.

Last week we were not so lucky. I knew we were supposed to get a bunch of rain, so I was vaguely worried that something bad might happen, but mostly I was concerned about the fact that our furnace had stopped working and it was only about 59 degrees in the house. I scoured Lowe’s, Home Depot, and Target for space heaters, but they’re all gone because “it’s the wrong season.” I got home at about 6:30pm and immediately checked the basement. Dry. Just then the sump pump kicked on and a couple gallons of water were pushed up into the sink. My heart dropped and I called my dad to ask him to bring the shop-vac over. While I was waiting, I started scooping water out of the sink and dumping it into the other sump pump (we have 3!).

I basically spend the next 14 hours emptying buckets of sewer water from the sink into the sump pump every 20-30 minutes. I never thought it would last that long, which is why I sent the hubby to bed at around midnight. I figured he needed his sleep because it’s hard for him to take a day off, but I could finish up and then go to sleep and maybe go into work late. To say that was wishful thinking is the understatement of the century. At about 3:30am, I was completely frustrated and probably a little delirious, so I considered actually just letting the basement flood and selling the house. I persevered and managed to keep all of the dirty water contained to buckets and strategically-placed garbage cans. Until 6:00am when all hell broke loose, that is.

I don’t know what happened, but water just started going everywhere and the basement started to flood. I was screaming and on the verge of tears, so hubby called out of work and then called my dad to see if he could come over and help us. Between the 3 of us (again), we were able to keep it under control and somewhat clean until the nightmare finally ended a little after 1:00pm.

We had a plumber come over and he told us that the sewer line was flooded and there was nothing he could do. We called the town and they said that it’s a trunk line issue and there was nothing they can do. I’ve since talked to another plumber and the town again, and we’re basically left on our own. We’re going to have the plumber come and reconfigure the sump pump so that it stops emptying into the sewer (which is apparently illegal – thanks a LOT, previous owners!), which should alleviate the problem a bit. We also need to see about having a back flow valve installed on our sewer line, if we don’t already have one. At that point, the only other thing we can do is buy a plumber’s test plug (which is essentially a balloon that you inflate in the line to stop water from coming in or out) and use that when and if this happens again. I’m thinking that when we go on vacation we should put the plug in just in case. Not only would it be horrific if this happened while we were away, but I wouldn’t my dad or brother-in-law to have to deal with it if we’re not here.

It’s times like these that I really miss renting.

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Our Next House Will Have a Small Yard

And very few trees.

One of the biggest selling points, to me, of this house was the large yard and the fact that it backed up to the woods. All I pictured were our future children running around in the backyard, playing on swings, jumping in leaf piles, and generally having fun. I grew up with a large yard like that in Canada, and then we moved to NJ and traded in our expansive lawn for a tiny patch of grass just large enough for a swing set.

I didn’t listen to my husband, who continuously told me that this house would be a lot of work and we should look for something with less grass. This has resulted in endless hours spent mowing, raking, shoveling, pruning, weeding, spraying, and lots of other “-ing”s. When he suggests to me now that maybe we should just pave the whole thing, I half-consider it.

We raked all the leaves two weeks ago, and then he did it again on Wednesday afternoon. By yesterday, the lawn was covered again, so I decided to use it as my workout for the day. It was sunny and not too chilly, and I am willing to do just about anything to avoid having to use the elliptical. I grabbed my phone, plugged in my headphones, and raked my little heart out while prancing around the yard to the latest Backstreet Boys album.

This is what I started with:

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After less than an hour, I had several neat little piles of leaves full of all kinds of creepy crawlies. How I ever played in these things as a child and didn’t notice all the spiders and other unidentifiable critters is beyond me.

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I was feeling overly confident and decided to take a quick break to clean out the dryer vent and in the process managed to slice up most of my hand. Even with that little detour, and having to go inside and administer first-aid to myself, I still finished the backyard in an hour.

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I started the music back at Track 1 and headed to the front yard. I was on a roll. I was unstoppable. Until the wind started howling and blowing so hard that the leaf bag wouldn’t stand upright and all of my piles started getting tossed back around the yard. I gave up after about 10 minutes and went inside. I figured there was no point raking while Mother Nature was busy blowing down more leaves while I worked. Still, I felt like it looked better than it did before I started. Then I woke up this morning and walked outside to go to church.

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All my hard work, completely undone. Perhaps this is why all of our neighbors have left their lawns leaf-covered.

The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven

We’ve lived in our house for almost two years and for that entire time the dining room has been empty. We finally realized that we’ll never use it as a real dining room (at least not any time soon) and buying a dining set would be a colossal waste of money. We decided instead to make it an office – it would give us somewhere besides the family room to keep the computer, and it would give us space for a nice big bookshelf.

Three hours at Ikea, a borrowed truck, and four+ days later, this is what we ended up with (Yes, the doors are uneven and no, I don’t care):

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It forced me to finally go through the boxes of books that I’ve inherited from my mom and Christina. I put them into two piles: Books to Keep and Display, and Books to Keep in the Attic. I then went through all of my own books and separated them into Keep, Donate, and Storage. I really didn’t think I’d have enough room for everything, but apparently I need to buy MORE to fill it out.

One of the books that I came across in Christina’s pile was The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven by Kevin and Alex Malarkey. It stood out to me for several reasons: Christina was extremely skeptical about things like Heaven and God so I wasn’t sure why she would have a book like this, I needed something new to read, and I’m intrigued by stories about near death experiences and Heaven.

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I finished it in two nights and it was good, but not great. I was really hoping for more of Alex’s perspective – not just his story about Heaven, but about his accident and recovery and new life. What I got was a LOT of talk from his dad about prayer – which is fine, I understand it’s a spiritual book – but it was so overwhelming at times that I skimmed large portions of chapters just to get back to the story itself.

Full disclosure: I’m Catholic and although I believe in God, I question a lot of things and definitely don’t have it all figured out. I come from a more conservative background in terms of talking about my faith, so Evangelical Christians like the authors tend to make me feel uncomfortable. Every time there was talk of “prayer warriors” and spiritual battles and laying on of hands, I had to skip ahead. And there was LOTS of skipping, which is probably why I finished it so quickly (I’m a fast reader, but two nights is quick even for me!).

I guess I was looking for what a lot of us are looking for: answers. I wanted to read in depth descriptions of Heaven and death and what the afterlife is really like. Alex provides a glimpse, and honestly, I do believe his story, but I found it frustrating that there were many things he said he wasn’t allowed to talk about. I tried Googling him and his family today but I came up short on current information.

It’s been quite a while

I knew I hadn’t posted in quite some time, but I had no idea that it’s been almost five months! All day long, I daydream about things to write when I get home, and then I actually get home and am exhausted and just lie on the couch watching tv.

When we bought this house, I thought that we made a good choice and we wouldn’t have to make any repairs because it all looked so pretty. How wrong I was. How very, very wrong. The water heater, stove, and washing machine were annoying. But the critters living in our family room wall have been driving me absolutely insane. We noticed the scratching noises the day we moved in, but we chalked them up to the wind/siding/wires and whatever else. As the year went on, and the noises became the distinct pitter patter of tiny rodent feet, we decided to call in a professional.

The first exterminator is one that my family has used for years. He did a thorough inspection of the house and put down a bunch of poison packets in the garage, basement, and behind the stove. He said it should get quieter in about two weeks. And it did. And then it started up again. We called him back, he put down more poison.

There was no improvement. I scoured Angie’s List for someone better and found another exterminator with fabulous reviews about getting rid of mice. He came out and spent about two hours inspecting the property and ended up putting bait boxes outside and a bunch of traps in the garage and attic. He seemed confident that he could stop the problem, although he was concerned that we were hearing noises during the day.

Again, no improvement. He came back and ended up giving us a partial refund and a phone number for a local wildlife expert. We called him and he came out, did an inspection, and still couldn’t tell us for a fact where the little bastards were getting into the wall. He put down more traps and ultimately told us we could either continue to ignore them (as the previous owners clearly had) or we could start ripping down drywall and siding. We opted to just ignore it. We’ve spent several hundred dollars and I’ve taken countless afternoons off of work to be here, and I’m just done.

Surprisingly, it’s gotten quieter. Although now I am hearing them run back and forth along the front of the house. We’ve only been here a little over a year and I’m already fantasizing about the day we can sell this house and buy something with a smaller yard and further away from the woods.

Three Things

I’ve recently discovered organization blogs, once again thanks to Pinterest. I am horribly disorganized. We’ve lived here for 10 months and still have an entire room of unpacked boxes, a basement full of I-don’t-know-what, and important papers thrown into random drawers, folders, cabinets, wherever.

I’ve tried making lists – on paper, on the iPad, on my phone – but I always seem to lose them/forget about them/ignore them because I get overwhelmed. I read a suggestion on one of the blogs I found to make a To Do list of three things to accomplish each day. That sounded doable, so I went in search of an app in my phone that would allow me to make checklists and cross things off as I completed them. I downloaded Color Note for free and it is exactly what I was looking for. I made a note for each day of the week and started adding things I wanted to get done by Friday.

Yesterday morning, my Monday list looked like this:

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(Yes, I know there are more than three things on it. They were so easy, I thought I needed more of a challenge.)

By 11:00 pm last night, the list looked like this:

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Success!

As an added bonus, I got a 15% discount on our car insurance AND I saved $50 by ordering the dehumidifier online and picking it up at the store. Yay for saving money!

Today I was not nearly as productive:

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Baby steps.

As If I Needed Another Reason to Dislike Yardwork

We’ve been putting off doing something with the flower beds in the front yard ever since we moved in 9 months ago. The farthest we’ve gotten was raking some leaves out. Since we haven’t done any kind of maintenance, the two beds have become completely overrun with weeds.

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You’ll notice the railing is still broken. I think we’re going to have to call someone to replace the whole thing. Ugh.

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I hate this stupid plant. It flowered for, like, a week and then shriveled up and died and has looked like this ever since. Spiders love it, and they build webs between it and our cars. Unacceptable.

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I decided that I wanted to rip out everything except for the bushes and fill in everything with mulch. I figured I could do that on my own, while the hubby spent the day getting ready for the new school year. My dad offered to come over and help me, and we planned to start at 9am on Saturday morning.

I woke up a little earlier and went downstairs to get started. I had most of the weeds pulled out by the time my dad got there, so he worked on digging out the rose bushes and the larger roots. We were done with the right side by 10:30am but realized we were a little short on mulch. When the hubby and I originally bought it a couple months ago, we thought three bags would be more than enough to cover both sides. Ha! Three bags barely covered half of the right side. We went over to Home Depot, bought nine more bags, and headed back to the house.

Finished product:

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I think the angel statue has to go, but for now it does a good job filling in space.

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No more ugly plant! Soon there will be grass there!

After a short break, we got started on the left side. It should be noted that before we went on vacation, we discovered a yellow jacket nest over there. My dad poured boiling water down the hole and it seemed to do the trick. When we got home on Friday afternoon, however, we noticed that they were back. This is foreshadowing.

I started ripping out flowers and weeds on the side closest to the neighbor’s house, while my dad started cutting down the rose bush. I went inside for a minute to put some sunscreen on my face and when I got back outside, I started to wonder if maybe we should have done the boiling water thing again. Just as this thought entered my mind, my dad started yelling and jumping around. He ripped his gloves off and threw them down, while some very colorful words I had never heard him say before came flying out of his mouth. He was stung, so I tried to usher him inside the house to wash it out and get it taken care of. Those little bastards were swarming all around him and about five of them followed us into the house. He ended up getting stung three times: on his finger, on his arm, and on his hip (one of them got stuck in his shirt). I got stung on the back of my thigh. It was the first time I’ve ever been stung by anything and WOW. I had no idea how much it would hurt! We both downed a couple Benadryl, put some frozen vegetables on our wounds, and killed the remaining culprits flying around in the kitchen.

He ended up going back to Home Depot to get some spray while I sat inside and got progressively more drowsy from the medication. We cleaned up outside and called it a day. I took a shower and went to bed to sleep off the medicine. I slept from about 1pm until 6:30pm. By 10:00 that night, I could barely keep my eyes open. I had called my dad around eight to see how he was doing and he was also complaining of feeling unusually tired. We talked about going to the ER but ultimately decided we were ok for now and we would see how we felt the next morning. I was in bed by 11 and slept straight through to the next morning. After church I went back to bed and slept for the entire afternoon. The pain had mostly subsided by that point, and I was just left with some annoying itching.

We went over to my dad’s for a Labor Day BBQ and we were both a mess. He was so tired that he said he was nodding off while sitting down watching tv, plus he was complaining of aches and pains all over. The hubby consulted Dr. Google and we determined that we weren’t having an allergic reaction, we would take more medicine and regroup in the morning. I talked to him a little while ago and we both feel SO much better. I’m still itchy, but not nearly as bad, and my fatigue has reduced to my normal level. He isn’t as achy and isn’t tired at all anymore.

The spray doesn’t seem to have slowed down the little buggers at all, so our plan tonight is to flood them out with the hose. I read some other suggestions online involving gasoline and homemade flamethrowers, but the nest is a little too close to the house for us to start playing with fire.

Why I Haven’t Blogged in Forever

I wish I had a reason. It’s not that I haven’t had things to write about, in fact, I feel like I’ve had SO much stuff to write about that I get overwhelmed and end up not doing anything.

The husband and I decided to repaint the downstairs to make it feel more homey. For the past 6 months, it’s felt like we’ve been staying at someone else’s house and we got tired of it. It was a huge production to pick out colors, mostly because I have a terrible time making even the simplest of decisions lately. We finally decided on a brighter green for the kitchen, a bluish-purple for the dining room (it was baby blue before), and “milk chocolate” for the living room, mostly because it sounded delicious. We couldn’t agree on a color for the family room and we both kept wandering back towards the red section. I picked a paint chip, showed it to the husband, and he immediately said yes. The name is “cherry cobbler” and it is the exact same color we had in the living room in our apartment.

You would think that since we had previously painted with red and knew what a huge pain in the butt it was, that we would do it correctly this time. You know, with primer. Apparently we think we’re big shots who are above using something silly like primer, so we just got the paint-and-primer combination. After painting one wall and seeing how horrendous it looked (streaks, tan bleeding through, dark patches, a general mess) I called Home Depot and asked for help. Then we ran over there with about 10 minutes to spare before the store closed and I begged the very grumpy man to help us fix it. He told us we needed a separate primer so he mixed that up for us and gave us a gallon of just paint as well. We went home and primed the unpainted walls a lovely shade of pink, looked at each other, and decided to just put the primer over what we had already painted. It worked! Who would have thought that stuff actually served a purpose, other than to scam me out of $20? It took 5 days and 3 more coats of red, but now it’s done and I love it. It feels comfy and familiar and fun.

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In other news, I’ve been doing horribly at Weight Watchers. I haven’t seriously tracked in weeks, I’ve been drinking way too much wine and eating entirely too much cake, but I’m walking about 2 miles everyday which seems to be keeping me losing, even if it’s only ounces per week. I wasn’t able to weigh in last week because the tv and everything was unplugged for painting, so I weighed in today for the first time in two weeks and am down only .2 pounds. I’ll take it. I’ve hit the 10% mark and have 13 pounds left to lose. I’d love to lose another 5 before we go on vacation in 2.5 weeks, but I just don’t know if that’s realistic even if I step it up and follow the program to the letter.

Last night we were at my dad’s to walk and I ended up looking through a bunch of my mom’s papers and things she had collected over the years. She used to go out and buy magazines and newspapers whenever anything major happened in the news, so there was a whole plastic tub full of them. I found the original newspapers from when JFK was assassinated (she was obsessed with him), from the first moon launch, the OJ verdict, Princess Diana’s death, the Clinton impeachment, etc.

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There was another bin full of stuff she had printed out from the computer. Thinking it was mostly garbage, I sorted through it quickly. Then I found a bunch of photo album pages full of pictures from the late 1960s and early 1970s – she would have been in her early 20s. They were pictures my dad and I had never seen before, mostly of her with old boyfriends on various road trips! I’ll have to scan some of them so that I have a copy. I can’t get over how beautiful she was when she was young.

The last thing I found was a package… One of those soft-sided envelopes. It was open on the side, so I reached in and pulled out these two books:

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I couldn’t help but laugh. How ironic. I turned the package over to see if there was a date on it somewhere, but there’s not. The shipping label shows that they were shipped to that house, which means she would have ordered them sometime after 1999 when we moved in. I doubt she bought them for herself because my nana died in 1991. I just checked the copyright dates and they were both published in 2003. I can’t help but think that she ordered them at some point (whether it was before she was diagnosed or after, I don’t know) for me. She knew that after she died, I would probably be the one to be sorting through all this stuff and she knew I would find them. She was huge into self-help books, and of course they are published by the Catholic press, which is so typically her. I like to think that she planned a little in advance to help me deal with losing her.

Further evidence that I am really a 5-year-old

As if my affinity for boy bands, small animals, and all things Disney wasn’t proof enough, I outdid myself the other day.

I went to the municipal building on Tuesday at lunch in order to drop off my property tax payment. That sounds like a really adult thing to do, right? I mean, an insultingly large check to pay the property taxes on the house I own? Totally grown up stuff.

I was walking up the steps outside, the steps that face onto the major street with tons of cars and pedestrians passing by, and I remember specifically telling myself to concentrate so that I wouldn’t trip and embarrass myself. And what happened? I tripped. But I didn’t just trip and keep going, like I meant to do it. I tripped and then BAM was on the ground on my hands and knees. It took a second, but then I shot back up and kept right on going because really, who trips walking up the stairs?

When I got into the tax office, I told the nice lady that I was there to make a payment and I pulled out my checkbook. My Winnie the Pooh checkbook. As I was filling out the check, I realized that I had somehow managed to scrawl all over my left hand with the pen. I glanced up to make sure that the woman didn’t notice, and sure enough, she was staring at me with a look of both pity and confusion. I handed over the money, took and receipt, and I swear I heard her giggle as I walked out.

Adventures in Homeownership.

I’ve lived in this house for less than a month, and I’ve already learned SO much about what to look for in our next house. Thank the Lord that nothing major has happened, but I didn’t expect any of this:

1) On moving day, we noticed that one of the railings on the front porch is broken. As in it is broken in multiple pieces and was lying on the lawn. How we or the inspector missed this is beyond me. My father-in-law glued it back together for us temporarily.

2) Last Thursday we came home at around 7:00 pm after having dinner with my in-laws. The house was suspiciously cold, so I went to check the thermostat and noticed it was only 57 degrees inside. Odd. I turned it up and nothing happened. Hubby walked over and looked at it and decided to turn it off and back on again. I went down to the basement to listen to the furnace. It was silent. It kicked in when he turned the heat back on, but it wouldn’t light. I did what any married 30-year-old woman would do: I called my daddy. He came over and confirmed that there was definitely something wrong and he called my uncle (who is not really a blood-related uncle, but family nonetheless) who is licensed to deal with these sorts of things. He took one look and told us we needed a new igniter and gave us a phone number to call. We made it through the night thanks to our wondrous electric blankets, and then I started making phone calls in the morning.

I talked to 4 or 5 places who all acted as though I must be some kind of moron just because I’m a woman. I’m surprised they didn’t ask to speak to my husband or father, that’s how degrading they were. I stopped myself from reaching through the phone and throat-punching them and finally gave up and called the furnace guy. One hundred sixty five dollars later and we had heat again. He was also very nice and showed me the parts and told me what he was doing.

3) This morning my husband woke me up at some ungodly hour (read: any time before 8:30) and informed me that we didn’t have any hot water. I thought I remembered how to light the pilot on the water heater, so I trudged down to the basement, still half-asleep. When I got in the laundry room, I noticed a small puddle of water next to the water heater. It was in an odd location, and it was kind of discolored, so I knelt down and smelled it – I thought maybe the cat got stuck in there and peed on the floor. Nope, no smell. So I took the panel off the front of the heater and saw that the pilot was definitely out, and I also noticed a puddle of water directly under the heater. I took a picture on my phone and texted it to my dad. It wouldn’t go through, so I called him and told him the situation, to which he responded, “Oh no. I’ll be right over.” Not very encouraging.

Long story short, we needed a new water heater. My uncle once again came to rescue and took me to Home Depot to pick one out, along with all the other parts he’d need to install it. SIX HUNDRED SIXTY SIX DOLLARS and eight hours later, we had hot water again. I am forcing myself to see the silver lining, which is that the whole thing could have rusted out and we could have had fifty gallons of water in the basement.

Lunch Date

I came home for lunch today and hung out with Rosa.

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She was busy staring out the window watching the birds and squirrels. We brought her over to the new house last night and she spent hours wandering around and crying. Once I went to bed, she climbed in with me and seemed to settle down. Since I’ve been home today all she does is follow me around and talk to me. I think she likes the house, but who knows. I’m hoping that she settles down over the next couple of days and adjusts well.