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House Surgery

So we started the first of the house renovations: replacing all of the windows and doors.  We’ve needed to do this for years but put it off because it’s a pain in the ass.  A smarter person would have waited until spring when the weather was a little warmer (since the temperature in the house is the same temperature outside).  But we are not smarter people.

The twins sobbed the morning before the window people arrived.  Sobbed.  Took photos of their cruddy old windows.  Kissed the panes of glass.  It took everything in me not to start shrieking, “do you kiss every piece of garbage before it goes in the bin?  YOUR WINDOWS ARE CRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAP.”  As is, I did threaten to never tell them again before we make changes.  I told them that if they didn’t stop sobbing, I would go ahead and make all the decisions for the kitchen without them, and they’d come home and see an entirely different kitchen with no warning.  That stopped the tears and made me feel evil.

I spent the morning very anxious before the window people arrived.  I don’t do well with strangers in the house.  Plus, I work out of the house, and I still needed to work.  I had no idea how much I’d be able to get done.  I dropped off the kids at school and drove back to the house, pausing outside as I looked up at the windows, realizing it would be the last time our house looked like this.  And then I took out the phone to take a picture because I was suddenly feeling a bit weepy too for our cruddy windows.  Not weepy enough to kiss them, but weepy enough to snap an extra picture for the kids.


And then the workmen were here and they were knocking out the windows.  Doing home renovations is a bit like surgery.  You dread the lead up, stressing about the time off from work and the interruption to your life.  And then the during is pretty awful as people are walking around your house, covering it in a fine layer of dust and making a shit-ton of noise.  And then there is the recovery; lying in bed and sniffing in the strong smell of caulk as you and the house recuperate.  And then there is the day when all is healed and you enjoy the new-found health of your space.

I’m not going to lie.  Replacing the windows sucked.  A word of advice if you are considering doing this: they remove all the windows at once and leave big gaping holes in your house for a few hours before they pop in all the new windows at once.  Which means that if you do this in spring or summer or fall, you end up with gnats or mosquitoes in your house.  If you do this in winter, you end up with a cold house but at least nothing flying around afterward.

Though we lucked out and the first day was warm-ish.  Warm for winter, though the skies opened up 15 minutes after they finished.  The second day was cold but sunny.  The third day… yes… there was a third day because these people seemed to want to drag the smallest job imaginable into the longest stretch of time, was fine as well.  So it was just very lucky that the weather was what it was, the biggest problem being the wind blowing bits of leaves and dirt into the house.

I went up on the first day to peek after they popped out the upstairs windows.  It was a very strange sight; these rectangular holes in the house.  If I had their job, I would always be worried that I’d accidentally fall through.  It happened to my friend’s child; he leaned on the screen when the window was open and tumbled down to the concrete below.  I tiptoed up to each hole to snap a photo, as if the hole had the ability to suck me out of it like a portal into another dimension.

The second day was a little less awe inspiring and more seriously-how-much-longer-do-you-guys-need?

And the third day was a stare-at-the-clock-and-wait-for-them-to-be-finished feeling.


After they left on the first day, I went upstairs and opened the window.  Actually, this was after I checked the basement to make sure they didn’t let a mass murderer into the house while I wasn’t looking (you can never be too careful).  But after I did my check and before the storm began, I sat on the floor of our bedroom and opened the window.  It was difficult to open our windows before this point (and in some rooms, impossible).  While air molecules circulate and we’ve obviously opened the door millions of times, there was still this sense that the air in our room had been with us since we moved in.  It contained all of the moments that had gone into our life in this house, infertility and treatments and raising the twins and several novels and a play and hours of television and book reading and talks in the dark while we slide under the blankets.  We’ve eaten ice cream with these air molecules and made love with these air molecules and made major life decisions with these air molecules around us.

And now I’ve opened a window.

And I’ve let them out.

And I’ve brought new ones in.

And then the rain started to pour, so I closed the window and started to clean up the dirt and dust left from the first day.


1 Jennifer { 02.18.13 at 9:25 am }

Good grief, now you made me scared to replace our windows! 😛 We too have been working around the house (floors, kitchen, bathroom – nothing too major) and there is always that moment of sadness before the old stuff goes away. I seriously had laminate counters (ugh) but was still sad when they were hauled away. I learned to cook on those counters, after all.

2 serenity { 02.18.13 at 9:46 am }

We SO need to replace the windows in our house. Except that for most of them, they are the ORIGINAL windows in the house. They’ve been here since 1898. And the glass is wavy, and beautiful, and pitted on some windows where they absorbed the heat from the fire in the one room schoolhouse next door.

That’s why we deal with the drafts in winter, where we can see the curtains blowing when it’s windy, where we can’t really open the windows in the living room. It’s more than just OUR history here – it’s the house’s history. And it makes me sad to think about throwing that history out.


3 Bionic { 02.18.13 at 9:56 am }

If they are like that over the windows, they are going to be IMPOSSIBLE when you take their organs.

4 {sue} { 02.18.13 at 10:57 am }

Oh goodness – the air molecules. So poetic!

5 Ellen { 02.18.13 at 10:58 am }

Aw, children are so attached to all the things in their little world. <3 Mine cling to old favorite shirts with a fervor that borders on the religious. I confess, I'm a bit of an enabler on the shirt front. Ancient windows, though? Those would be summarily kicked to the curb.

6 Becky { 02.18.13 at 1:34 pm }

And now I feel my life and family are very boring, for the the replacement of our windows last year led to none of this. Really, it was only another day (well, 2 days, but you know what I mean). Also, perhaps I should have checked the basement for murders. Although, since it was more than a year ago, I’m guessing we’d already be dead. Moot point, now.

7 Pepper { 02.18.13 at 1:38 pm }

It’s funny, because the air molecule thing sums up exactly what I have been thinking recently, although you said it better. We are moving out of a house I do not love into a house I already love. I am beyond excited for the new house and have never had an attachment to our current house (my husband bought it before we were married) except for my daughter’s lovely room. But suddenly I’m hit with a nostalgia about all we did in this house, all the memories, and occasionally a wave of sadness rolls over me. We brought our daughter home here. We spent hours together on the couch when she wouldn’t sleep alone. We’ve played on these floors where she learned to crawl and walk. We have made so much happiness here and we are leaving it behind. So I try to focus on all the sadness we are leaving behind, too. The miscarriage, the infertility, the heavy weight I felt when I feared we would never have a child. And I know that we will make new happiness in the air in our new place – and we don’t have to bring any of the sadness.

8 Chickenpig { 02.18.13 at 1:48 pm }

Our windows are two hundred years old and I wouldn’t dream of replacing them. What I am looking at doing is to install storms either in the inside or the outside that will insulate and keep the look. They cost a fraction of the cost of replacing them, and we won’t kill the history. Putting good storms over old windows is every bit as efficient R value wise. And what most people don’t realize is that those new windows everyone is using to replace the old ones only last about 15 years. Yikes! I can’t imagine replacing every window in my house right now and having to do it again in 15 years. I have one window in my house that has the names of two girls born in this house around 1815, and the name of their servant Phebe carved in the glass with what I assume was a sewing needle.

I had to laugh at the idea of replacing windows in the winter. Do you know how cold it is here today? 🙂 My husband said he got a brain freeze headache walking to the car! I’m not even thinking of leaving the house today, let alone take all the windows out. You crazy! 😉

9 jjiraffe { 02.18.13 at 3:22 pm }

The description of your twins kissing the old windows is both funny and touching: what sweet kids!

Ugh. I’m sorry you’re dealing with a renovation. We just redid our first floor (it flooded) and it sucked! So much noise and dust. The end result is pretty fantastic, though, so there’s that.

10 Blanche { 02.18.13 at 4:12 pm }

2nd to replacing windows in mid-winter is installing air conditioning as my parents did in their rancher the February after I was born in October. Apparently it was a very very cold week while all the ceilings were opened for vents and such.

Glad you survived!

11 Kimberly { 02.18.13 at 5:09 pm }

Your post intrigues me because I’ve never really thought much of renovations. It’s such a different perspective to my own. I just moved into my childhood home because my parents just built a new home not far from us. When I moved out of this house just over 6 years ago, my mom had her kitchen gutted and put in what is now my dream kitchen. What would be exhausting and emotional for some was really just an inconvenience to us. It meant take out for a week and washing your dishes in a bucket camp-style but nothing more than that. But I also wonder if that’s just us or the fact that I grew up around tradesmen. My father and brother are electricians, my father in law is a carpenter, my female friend is in her first year of her carpentry trade. Plus a handful of cousins, friends and friends of the family are in a variety of trades and most now work in camps on the other side of Canada like my father and brother.

Growing up, there was always some kind of house project on the go. This week the bathroom, next week something in the garage, then something in the basement. I think I just find this post fascinating because our views on renovations feel like polar opposites and its interesting to read the difference. 🙂

12 a { 02.18.13 at 7:22 pm }

It’s funny how we get attached to weird stuff. We have a chair for my daughter that was mine once upon a time. It was turquoise. My sister’s kids all used this chair (It’s higher than a normal chair and perfect for a little one to sit at the table), and then I took it for my daughter when my nephew was 8 or so. Then I painted it purple (because I like purple). My nephew got very upset about it. Now, my daughter has outgrown the chair and got upset when I said we were getting rid of it. By that I meant moving it to the basement, but she wasn’t clear on that.

Anyway, congrats on your new windows – I hope they work well, and that the new air in your home refreshes you.

13 loribeth { 02.18.13 at 8:40 pm }

We’ve been replacing the windows in stages… we did the ones at the front of the house in 2002, and all the rest but the big living room window & sliding patio doors in 2004. Maybe we’ll finally get those two done this year. I know I was around for at least one set of replacements & that I was surprised by how quickly it was done. I tend to be the one handling tradespeople because dh gets a lot of anxiety having them in the house. I think it’s because he’s not handy himself and it makes him feel insecure. :p

I got a laugh out of the twins’ reaction. I don’t remember being upset over anything like windows, but I do remember throwing a fit when my mother wanted to get me a new bedspread. Most kids would have LOVED the chance to go shopping, right? We moved so often when I was a kid — my surroundings kept changing, so I think I tended to cling to the old & familiar objects aorund me. I am still much more of a packrat than dh, who grew up in the same house and whose mother threw out everything, including his high school yearbooks. I keep thinking there must be a PhD thesis in there somewhere. ; )

14 JustAnotherJenny { 02.18.13 at 11:17 pm }

I am absolutely paranoid about getting work done at the house. EVERY time we have work done, I go around and check to be sure every window and door is locked. I’m always concerned that they will unlock a window that we normally don’t open, so that they can enter later and kill/rape/maim/steal my stuff. Now, I’ll have to add checking for lurking murderers in the basement to the list.

15 Tiara { 02.19.13 at 8:11 am }

Beautiful post.

16 Shelby { 02.19.13 at 11:24 am }

Luckily when we bought our house, the windows were new-ish (I’d rather not go through that-plumbling work with holes in the walls was bad enough), but being that I am a sentimental schmuck, I attach memories and almost a persona to every object in my life. To get rid of something is almost to let go of the time that it is associated with, so you can imagine what a pack rat I can be. I’m not sure I would be like that with home renovations, though. You may just be more sentimental than I am. And now it’s easy to see how your kids came to kissing window panes. 🙂

17 Lori Lavender Luz { 02.19.13 at 2:54 pm }

That means all MY air molecules are gone.

I need to come back.

18 Neeroc { 03.08.13 at 10:44 am }

We re-did the windows in our old house. The most memorable bit for me was when the guy carrying the front of the new living room window tripped AND FELL OUT THE WINDOW. I’ll never forget the sight of his fingers, with him hanging on for dear life. I can laugh about it now.

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