Archive for July 2012

Two Years After Installing Flooring   1 comment

Two years ago we installed new flooring before moving into our house. I blogged about our three choices, carpet, Marmoleum, and cork back then. At the time we left one room undone, the nursery. It was convenient, as it gave us an extra place to pile stuff while the flooring was being installed in the rest of the house so that we could overlapping the cleaning/prepping phase and the moving phase. It was also convenient to put off paying for the flooring and installation in a room that wouldn’t be used for a while. Fast forward to today, when we need the nursery carpeted. This got me thinking that this would be a good time to write about our experience with our flooring choices.

I’ll actually start with the one choice that we didn’t make: tile. About a third of the house (kitchen/dining room/entry, and both bathrooms) was already tiled, and we didn’t left it in place. The tile in the bathrooms is just fine; except that the grout wasn’t sealed. It’s easy to care for, and would really be perfect, except that the grout isn’t sealed so it doesn’t get clean. The rest of the tile was really nice, and really poorly installed. It is the kind of tile that is meant to be installed edge to edge without grout spacing between; instead there’s variable spacing between tiles and they aren’t flat.  It makes cleaning difficult since the edges scrape stuff off the mop or broom and into the crevasse between tiles. Plus, the tile wasn’t sealed. Break a bottle of margarita mix on the floor? The spill will be visible forever, or at least until we get around to refinishing and sealing the tile. But for all the problems cleaning it and the weird feeling of the edges underfoot, in summer the cool tile is really nice in a place like Sacramento. Our first winter here I was afraid that our heating bill was going to be crazy since a third of the house is tile, but the tile didn’t seem to act as a heat sink. Maybe when we eventually seal the tile and have the cracks filled in I’ll really like it.

Our favorite of the flooring choices we made is definitely the carpet. It is an undyed wool carpet with cotton/hemp, jute, and rubber backing. Since there are no adhesives or synthetic materials, there’s no offgassing to create “new carpet” smell or cause headaches. Why do we love it? Well for starters it is sooooo soft! There’s a good thick wool carpet pad underneath, so it feels so comforting underfoot. It also feel soft against skin, not scratchy. The color is a beautiful mottled dark brown (wool from a black sheep) that does a good job of hiding any debris between vacuuming. The only drawback is in the care. The beater brush of the vacuum shouldn’t be used on wool carpet. Something about the fibers being shorter than synthetic fibers. We’re not really consistent about using/not using the beater brush, partly because vacuum cleaners just don’t seem to work very well without it. As a result I can tell the difference in the surface where there’s more traffic and vacuuming relative to areas that are rarely vacuumed. But overall, I give wool carpeting two thumbs up. It’s awesome!

We also like the Marmoleum that was installed in the outer part of the master bathroom. Marmoleum is a brand of true linoleum (made from linseed oil instead of the modern vinyl stuff). It’s easy to clean and hides dirt well. The pattern may actually be too good at hiding things, since water drops visually disappear immediately. Unfortunately it’s a little slippery when wet, or when the foot stepping on it is wet. But otherwise, again, I give true linoleum two thumbs up!

Now we come to our problem child: the cork. We installed a floating cork floor in the living room, hallway, and office. It is has a layer of cork under a paperboard core, with a layer of cork on top and then a decorative cork veneer on top. There are what I see as “design flaws” that are compounded by less-than-ideal conditions. The veneer is really really really thin, and the edges crumble, so a portion of every box cannot be used. The veneer is also easily damaged, say, by the feet of a sofa, leaving black scars in the floor. The edges of the tiles are unfinished, and have to be perfectly snug against the adjacent tile. Since I helped install it I know that we made sure that there were absolutely no gaps between tiles, but a year down the line and there are very small but visible gaps between the edges. Unfortunately if water gets between the tiles the paperboard can expand and cause the boards to deform. That’s probably also why the instructions say to put down a moisture barrier when installing on slab-on-grade concrete. Neither of the contractors that we got quotes from included moisture barrier in the quotes, and when I asked our contractor I was told that he’d never done it before and never had a problem. Well, we have had major problems with buckling and cupping of the individual tiles. Unfortunately, I mopped the floor for the first month or so, so I can’t pin the blame solely on the installer. Before choosing this flooring we didn’t do our full due diligence and read the care instructions, which say no wet mopping or damp mopping. After almost two years of dry mopping only, I so desperately want to damp mop to get rid of the buildup and smudges. We’re working with the contractor finally, after way too long procrastinating, to figure out what can be done. This brand of cork was expensive, so replacing it is not an option. Final verdict: pretty and feels good underfoot, but be careful about how it is installed and how to maintain. I’d recommend something with beveled edges, not straight edges. Glued-down might be a better choice than floating planks, and be careful about veneers. If you don’t keep your house at a constant temperature, don’t even bother with cork. This is definitely the one flooring choice that has been a disappointment (and a learning experience).

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Posted July 25, 2012 by mayakey in home

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Pregnancy Task List Item: Get Lost In a Book   1 comment

After spending several hours this past Sunday curled up on the couch enjoying a wonderful book, I realized that this should actually be on the to-do list while pregnancy. Maybe it would have been good if I’d been outside ripping out the front of the lawn, or figuring out if/which birthing class to take, or cleaning the kitchen to hopefully make it smell less stomach-churningly bad. But then again, in a few months, after Baby is born, I won’t have a chance to spend hours immersed in a book sans interruptions. At least not for several years. So I hereby declare that lots of reading time is now a priority item for the next few months.

This has been a new experience for me, this permissible laziness. Well, new since the start of adulthood anyway. Not that I haven’t had plenty of lazy time reading books in one sitting, watching all-day TV marathons, or other things like that. But most of the time I try to balance it and actually be “productive”, living actively, and trying to make the life that I dream of. Life seems to go in these cycles. Childhood is, or should be, a period of relative carefree-ness. Then adulthood gets busier. College was fun-busy during the school year, and then relaxing in the summer. It’s easy to come home from a summer job, do some yoga and reading, and relax when you don’t have to cook dinner, pay bills, or otherwise be “responsible”. Working that first full time job while also carrying the responsibilities of independence is a shock. For my part, I compensated by being as lazy and unproductive as possible while still meeting my responsibilities. But that means zero progress toward creating the life of my dreams. Then, boom, I meet my future husband and all of a sudden there isn’t enough time in the world. Life gets busy, really busy. There’s the dating, wedding planning, honeymoon planning, buying a house, and then working on starting a family. But there’s also making up for lost time working towards the life that I want to have. And now, a hiatus. A forced hiatus at first, given that for a couple of months I barely managed (ok, didn’t manage) to get all the bills paid on time and checking account in the black because I was just so exhausted all the time. I will be eternally grateful that Mike took over all of the dinner cooking responsibilities and still did the dishes afterwards (as well as picking up much of the rest of my slack). I would have starved otherwise since my nose dictated minimum kitchen exposure. And now that I have some of that energy back, I still just think that rather than a time of being busy “preparing” for life with Baby this needs to be the calm before the storm. The preparations will happen in due time, but the calm can’t be rushed or put off until later.

Posted July 18, 2012 by mayakey in musings, pregnancy

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Why We’re Doing a Home Birth   3 comments

Come this December, whenever Baby decides to come, there will be no packing a bag, taking out the trash, and driving to a hospital for us. Instead we’ll be relaxing at home, calling the midwives, and filling the birth tub. Barring complications, of course, I cannot imagine a better scenario.

This decision is the culmination of a long evolution of thought for me, and I don’t even remember when it started. For as long as I can remember I have felt that the act of giving birth is a natural act, and unless there are distinct risks of complications, not a medical procedure. Even as I teenager, as I recall, I did not like the idea of giving birth in a hospital. This may have been an attitude partly (subconsciously) influenced by cultural attitudes at the time, because I think that was when the labor and delivery rooms in hospitals started being redesigned to be more comfortable and private. But to me even a nice private birthing room with a non-metal bed and room for spouse/visitors is still located in a hospital. Maybe another contributor to my attitude is the fact that my father was an emergency physician. Other people visited hospitals to see their doctors for regular health care visits; but when I visited the hospital it was the emergency room to see my dad either for fun or for care. I was much older before realizing that my mental picture of a hospital is very different from the average person’s. In any case, I vaguely remember as a teenager not wanting to give birth in a hospital and wanting to celebrate the natural part of childbirth instead of smothering it in medical procedures. I’ve also always wanted a natural birth with no drugs, especially after I found out what an epidural is. At the time, though, the thought of home birth was extremely scary. Over the years I heard about birth centers and figured that would be a nice compromise, but that still felt like a compromise. I have no idea when the idea of home birth went from scary and unsafe in my mind to being the ideal birth setting.

In our previous house (rental), I would not have been comfortable giving birth. It was just not up to my standards (old, drafty, moldy, almost entirely carpeted), and so I was trying to adjust my feelings to be okay with some kind of birth center. Then we realized we could afford to buy a house, and moved into a house that will work quite well for a home birth. So when I first met the midwives who will assist us, and they gave me a packet of information, I needed no convincing but still enjoyed the reading. Luckily for me, I didn’t have to talk my husband into it as he is pretty much willing to along with whatever I want to do in this arena. It did make for interesting reading. Apparently the World Health Organization recommends that birthing be done outside of the hospital setting for normal pregnancies. It was really comforting to read statistics, articles, and stories about the experience of homebirth. Maybe it’s because I’m already fairly granola, but I have no problem believing that homebirth is just as safe if not safer than hospital birth, involves less pain, and will leave us with more satisfaction. I’ll be able to wear what I want; walk/sit/lay down when and where I want; eat or drink what and when I want. I’ll be in my own comfortable surroundings, if I want we can watch a movie during the early stages of labor to help me relax. It’s my domain, and not the doctors, so if I decide that I want no one in the room but the midwives and myself so be it, but if I feel like I want/need the support of others it is within my control to ask for them. In any case, there won’t be anyone in the house who is a stranger or with whom I am not intimately comfortable. When the baby is born, I don’t have to go anywhere, and over the course of the next few weeks the midwives will come to my house for the postpartum check-ups on both Baby and me. For that matter even now I don’t have to go anywhere as prenatal visits are also in my house. (Obviously not things like blood draws and ultrasounds, though.) We have an emergency plan, and the hospital we transport to will depend on time of day (read: direction of rush hour traffic). The midwives have many years of experience and I feel very comfortable with them. Like I said, barring complications this could be a dream. Painful, yes, but still a dream come true.

One other aspect of homebirth that I had been told but didn’t know until recently whether or not it is true is the cost. Our cost will be $4k for prenatal visits, birthing assistance, and postpartum visits for 6 weeks. My health insurance organization’s website has a cost estimator tool that I used because I was curious how that number compares to a typical hospital birth. In the Sacramento area, apparently the total cost for normal (no complications) birthing in a hospital is $10k – $14k!! Of course that includes costs for the blood draws etc that aren’t included in our $4k, so for comparison sake we’ll bump it up to $5k to include three blood draws, two ultrasounds, and the birth kit. Granted, if I went to an in-network facility, my direct cost would only be $3k. We’re assuming that the midwives will be considered out-of-network and so my deductible is $6k. Maybe we’ll get lucky when we submit the claim afterwards and we’ll get some of that back, but I doubt it. So basically, as far as direct costs go it is significantly more expensive to give birth in a hospital vs. home without insurance, but slightly more expensive at home vs. hospital with insurance. However, by keeping my company’s overall health care costs a little bit lower this year, I do my part to keep our premiums from going up next year and since I work for an employee-owned company that means more money in my pocket next year.

Posted July 9, 2012 by mayakey in conscious living, health, pregnancy

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