Wednesday, December 10, 2014

On handymen who are not, and baby's first [fill in the blank]

Owning an old home is frustrating. There have been lots of previous owners, I believe we have mentioned, who fancied themselves handymen, and we have spent a significant amount of money fixing their mistakes. The oil heat has been a source of frustration to us in particular. For the last two years we have stayed warm during winters mostly by wearing lots of thick socks and sweaters, and staying near the pellet stove that we had installed. Imagine our shock, then, when our chimney guy came by to do a routine chimney sweep and pointed out to us that our boiler (the one we purchased to replace the antique one when we bought the house) was improperly installed. Literally the pipes had just been slapped onto the chimney with large gaps sucking in extra air, and had never been optimized for efficiency. He took three minutes to do a temporary fix and then came back a week later to optimize it, and our oil consumption has plummeted. I mean that literally. Before we kept the oil heat off because using it drained the tank in under a month, and now we have gone weeks with the heat on and barely registered a dip in the oil tank's level.

I won't tell you the name of the company that so haphazardly installed our boiler the first time around (I will pretend that that is because I am not a vindictive person, but really it's because I forget who did it, and I don't feel like looking for the invoice from 2.5 years ago).

It does make me angry that something so simple could have made such a large difference in our life. Our house could have been warmer. We wouldn't have gone through so much oil so quickly. It wouldn't have sounded like a dragon was in the basement every time the boiler kicked on to heat more water (although a dragon for a boiler does seem appropriate). We wouldn't have wasted hundreds of dollars on oil that was inefficiently burned through.

This same chimney guy also noticed that our forced hot water radiators were installed on a peculiar system where, instead of forcing the heated water through the a radiator and on to the next one, a circuit of pipes was set up with offshoots where hot water could go through them but instead usually took the path of least resistance and circulated past the radiators. We had a very warm basement, and cool radiators.
Who decided this was a good idea? It's a terrible idea, and I'm not a plumping or heating expert and I can still figure this out. And it must have cost more in copper piping to set it up this way, too. Oh previous home owners, I have dreams of punching you in the face.
(And seriously, if anyone needs a chimney guy, I would love to give you a referral. Kevin at Integrity Chimney is amazing.)

Baby's first 3AM firetruck and smoke filled house.
It has been an eventful early winter for us. Calvin grows and experiences more and more firsts (Baby's first time sitting up unassisted! Baby's first Lapsit adventure at the Bookstore!). Of particular note is the first he experienced early Thanksgiving morning where, with the power flickering off and on during a major snowstorm (Baby's first snow storm! Baby's first power outage!) we awoke to the smoke alarms beeping and the first floor filled with smoke. We were out of the house within a minute of discovering the smoke, all the while thinking "This isn't happening. This only happens in movies. This only happens to other people." Exhausted fire fighters arrived (having been out all night, going from one call to the next, remind me to make them a plate of cookies for the station) and examined our house (Baby's first fire engine!) while we huddled in coats and boots and bathrobes in the driveway, fat snowflakes fluttering down to land on our heads (Calvin was delighted! Everyone was up at 3:00AM, just like he liked it!). It turned out that we were never in any danger, the power had momentarily kicked on and our pellet stove had turned on and then dutifully smothered the flame when we lost power again, the smoke being pushed back in through the exhaust pipe by the wind.
It was still terrifying.

In other news, Liam and I have tried to get out on a date at least once a month (we have managed this 3 times in the last 6 months, so we actually figure we're doing quite well). We had our first date for my birthday, going to see Guardians of the Galaxy at the movies and eating at Buffalo Wild Wings, which was, incidentally, the last place we went out to eat in the days before Calvin was born. It was not intentional, but it seems fitting that it was the first place we went out to eat afterwards. We had our second date on our wedding anniversary, spending an hour furtively eating pizza at C.C. Tomatoes. We had our third date this past Friday, attending Liam's company holiday party in Manchester (delicious hors d'oeuvres and a production of A Christmas Carol at the Palace Theater). While we knew intellectually how important dates were to a marriage, it was startling to realize how different it felt to be together at home vs together away from Calvin. While we have carved out time to spend together at home (difficult since we have opposite work schedules in order to provide care for Calvin), a part of one's brain is always spent listening for the child to call out or cry or need you. It is only when you are away from the baby that you realize that you have really been spending time coexisting in the same room but not truly being together or being present for the other.
It was nice to reconnect, to be Liam and Elisabeth again, together.