Wednesday, May 12, 2010

When life gives you lemons

...hand them to your children to start a lemonade stand. Maybe they will make enough change to buy that Thomas the Train they have been bugging you for.

We currently have a hole above our fireplace. I'm not exaggerating, it is a large area (probably 4 feet across) of missing dry wall, ceiling and insulation. Right after we bought the house, 5 years ago, our first homeowner issue was a leak above the fireplace. It wasn't big, just enough to notice the wet spot forming when it rained. Joey's dad came over to help us out with our inexperience. The solution seemed rather simple, the caulk around the bottom of the chimney had worn out; something we were informed happens every few years. Who Knew?? Well, apparently, the problem had been there for a while becoming a sloth-like thorn in our roofs side. It seems that the earth refreshing, sleep inducing rain had seeped under the shingles adjoining the chimney. After we caulked, the leak had been repaired but the water's entrance to it's new hangout had gone unnoticed. The newest rain speakeasy remained open for business, all the while growing and weakening roof boards underfoot. As anyone in the south knows, rain is not our only party goer. Humidity causes mold on our shingles leaving "beautiful" streak like marks on the cover of our homes. It joined the party as well setting up an all you can eat buffet for the mold that learned the password for the speakeasy club. Yep, mold.

So, now you are thinking, "how in the world did you figure that out? Didn't you say you fixed the leak?" Oh, I did. We fixed the original leak but the rain and mold sneaking under the shingles began to wear down the floor of its party room and slowly move into the insulation, down the 2x4's and, finally, into the drywall paper; all of which are some of mold's favorite snacks. This fall/winter, we all started getting sick. At first, I didn't think much of it. Joey had just returned from Germany and long trips can wear down the immune system. Keegan, Kendall and I all suffer from seasonal allergies and anyone who lives in NWA knows that there is ALWAYS something blooming. Our climate allows for 24/7, 365 blooming season, an allergy sufferers nightmare! Plus, fall and winter is cold and flu season. Heres the thing... we couldn't get better. Joey, whom rarely gets sick and, when he does, recovers quickly, had a cough that wouldn't go away. Keegan and Kendall continued to stay ill, Keegan, especially, continually getting worse. I got sinus infection after sinus infection with no relief from my Neti-Pot, vitamin C or allergy medication. It got to the point that Keegan was even diagnosed with allergy induced asthma. As I was about to give in to the thought of visiting an allergist, Murphy was due for a well baby visit. My WONDERFUL pediatrician noticed that poor Murphy STILL had a runny nose. His short little life (he was 6 months at the time) had not had enough environmental exposure to suffer from seasonal allergies. Dr. Lovell asked me if we had recently added a pet to our family unit; nope, not even a goldfish. Had we recently made a major change to our diet; nope, if anything, Keegan had been becoming a picky eater, removing things from his diet. Well, what's left? Dust and Mold.

Now, I HATE to dust but I also hate to look at it so I do it. I consider myself a pretty decent house cleaner and hadn't noticed mold anywhere. The Dr. asked if we had had a leak anywhere... well, yes, we had, but we had fixed it, right? When I got home, I looked around the house, out of mind that something in our home was making my family sick. Then I noticed it, the slight discoloration where the wall met the ceiling above our chimney. I had repainted that area and, yet, the discoloration had returned. I gathered my wits, a step stool and a plaster blade, took a deep breath and touched the ceiling with the blade. My thinking was that I would scrape away some of the popcorn to see if the dark color got any darker under it. Simply touching the popcorn made a large chunk of it fall and the color did, indeed, continue and get darker. When I touched the wall, it bent easily under slight pressure. I didn't want to investigate any further, I knew I had found the problem. Panicking, I called my parents who agreed to come up that weekend. When Joey got home, he cut a small hole in the wall to reveal the thick black mold living behind it. I had a rush of relief, panic, disgust and guilt all at once. We had found the source of our troubles but how had I, as mom, the one in charge of taking care of the family and keeping our home clean and livable, not known it was there? The days following the discovery consisted of MAJOR scrubbing, cleaning and purging. Every piece of furniture was moved, cleaned and cleaned under, including kitchen appliances. Every window was bleached, every window covering, blanket and bedspread washed. Every pillow and stuffed animal baked in the drier. The carpet in the kids rooms was steam cleaned and the walls washed (we have hard wood or tile everywhere else). That weekend, Joey, his brother Matt and my dad removed the section of offending wall and ceiling and scrubbed the wood. My mom helped me finish up the cleaning. My mother-in-law even got in the act by scrubbing the bathrooms from top to bottom for me. We were all breathing a little easier, literally.

Within two days, Keegan was barely coughing and wheezing, Joey felt great, Murphy and Kendall no longer had runny noses and I woke up without the sinus pressure that had been plaguing me for months. Allergy shiners were GONE! In the week that followed, we got an Ionic Air Filter from Honeywell, a new 3M allergy air filter for the heating/air vent return and swapped 99% of our cleaning products to natural versions. Did I go overboard? Probably. Is my family better? You betcha! The kids are sleeping better and Keegan is regaining his youthful energy. Murphy's boogers are clear and easily attributed to his teething status. Yes, we still have outdoor allergies and as spring continues the blooming process, grass is cut and outdoor play takes over we still have to use our Claritin but not daily. Keegan no longer takes his asthma medicine and I have not had a single infection!

Now, back to that hole. It's still there. We left it open to ensure it was no longer leaking and it is a good thing we did. It took just over a week for God to offer up rain again but, when he did, we had a puddle. Due to the activities of daily life, work schedules and continuing rain spurts, we haven't been able to get the leak fixed. Joey has been talking about having someone look at it for about a week now but, so far, it is still just talk. I've decided that I will just frame the eyesore, scribble some illegible name on it and mark the value of the house at least $65,000 higher due to the "one of the kind art work" it holds. Hence, the lemonade. The hole has inspired Joey to let me re-due the kids bathroom. Maybe I'll get my bathroom done next. Who knows just how far this hole might take me but right now, I'm shooting for the stars and keeping my lemonade stand going as long as possible.

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