Decked Out

January 5, 2016


The "deckless" pic of our house!

From the moment I first laid eyes on the “door to nowhere” that had been installed during the building of our house, years prior to our ownership, my mind began brimming with ideas for the “perfect deck” in the “perfect” location. The door was brilliantly  located just off of our “kitchen sitting area” as the extended area of our kitchen would be dubbed. It had been installed and double dead bolted shut since it opened to a dangerous ten foot drop to the patio below. Obviously, back in 2008, when we bought and moved into this house, you may recall, I had more than a handful of 4 year olds who were just entering preschool, a set of 7 year olds and if they alone didn’t keep me hopping, we were also busily filming our show (then called “Jon and Kate Plus 8″) on TLC with speaking engagements and all sorts of other things that kept me in motion literally around the clock. There was no time to think about adding a deck to relax on. Relax? What even is that???? I didn’t have a clue how to relax. My mind and body were a well blended team of constant “planning” and “doing.” It had to be that way in order to stay ahead … And to stay alive. However, even tho I ensured that that door was securely locked (we weren’t even given a key to open it so no worries there!) and I placed a large piece of furniture in front of it, it may have been easy to forget all the possibilities that lie beyond it…… But I didn’t.

Almost as soon as we settled into this house, a perfectly beautiful backdrop for making many lasting family memories together, the stress ramped up.  Life became even busier, more stressful, often teetering on the edge of impossible and “just too much” for me to handle. Now mostly alone. Family memories began to mean more to me than they had before. Pool time followed by a grilled dinner, eaten as a family on our picnic table was a favorite. It was difficult (to say the least) due to the logistics of where the kitchen was in relation to where our grill was located. And since I was the “grill master” AND the lifeguard, I’d often make dinner while the kids swam….made sense, but it wasn’t practical. And so, we didn’t really grill as often as we wanted to….

For all the reasons above,  I naturally began to envision that “dreamed of deck” — in vivid detail — each and every time I’d walk into the kitchen and look out the windows into our back yard. I didn’t do it consciously. My mind just wandered there. I began to secretly save money whenever I could to make this deck dream come true for our family. A little here. A little there. I didn’t tell the kids I had started saving, but I did start to muse out loud how wonderful it would be to be able to open that door and walk out onto the deck and grill dinner. Then sit there together until it was dark outside, watching the stars in the summer sky twinkle down at us! Ahhhhh! After musing, at the beginning of each new year, I began “declaring” that “this year we are getting the deck put on,” but as my kids would tell you, that got old. After about 3 years of my “declarations” they stopped believing me. Ha! I rarely say something and then don’t follow through, but I just longed for it so much that I guess I couldn’t help myself! And then, in January of 2015, I said it again… And the kids laughed. “Yeah, sure we are mom!” But this time I had meant it. The kids are getting older, having friends over more, and quite honestly, we are out of “personal” space in our house. And our stress hasn’t decreased and because of that, it’s made me relish the “little things” in life: memories. Happy times together. It was time.

I sat down and drew a rough sketch with rough measurements (using one of the kids school rulers! Ha!) and since I’m no artist, it was a lame attempt, but it was enough to get me started. I had no idea who to turn to… Who builds decks? How much do they cost? What if it turns out to be a huge expensive disaster that I regret spending money on? I really had no idea where to start. It was overwhelming. Randomly, I googled deck companies in my area, and immediately found Breyer Construction. Their one line on their website said it all “Some construction companies build decks. Decks are what we do.” — or something like that. I looked through their 200 and some testimonial photos on their website and my imagination went completely wild! I had NO idea there were SO many choices and so much ability to custom design the deck of my dreams! I was now a bundle of excitement in overdrive!

I drew my sketch on a Sunday afternoon and called them Monday morning…. We set up a date to meet and go over my vision. Right then and there I chose my TimberTech decking and railings (see below for the specifics on what I chose and why) because the quality and beauty of their products almost literally jumped off the page at me immediately.. Not to mention that there is little to no maintenance required which is a huge must for a single Mom running a busy household of 9! To add to the beauty of their products, TimberTech was helpful, knowledgeable and enjoyed helping me create my long awaited addition! Helen, from Breyer Construction, laughed at my ability to choose so quickly. What she didn’t realize is that I had pictured this deck for seven long years! I knew how I wanted it to look, and she had great advice and stunning samples to choose from! I know when I know. And I knew what I wanted right away!

Once the project was scheduled, I showed the kids the TimberTech samples and told them the project was a “GO” and received the most amazing cheers of joy and 8 smiles to match! They all agreed that the color, and style would be a perfect compliment to our home! Wait, they ALL agreed on something? That may be a first! After a few more efficient meetings with Breyer Construction and more decisions made, construction began shortly before school started this past fall.

Everyday, the kids would race home from school and run out to the backyard to see “how far they got today.” The kids knew all of the guy’s names in no time and would go out back and say, “Hey James! Looks good! When will the deck be done?” Sometimes, the boys would line up on the sofa just inside and watch them build for hours — to get a “birds eye view.” The guys were here working for close to a month and to say they were the kindest, most wonderful, flexible and helpful company I’d ever hired would be an understatement! Along with the deck, they expertly helped me design the outdoor kitchen straight out of my wildest dreams complete with tons of beautiful stone top counter space, and the perfect storage cabinets for all of my outdoor cooking supplies and dishes. AND, to be clear, they didn’t just “build a deck.” They constructed a beautiful canvas where our family will make endless memories that will last a lifetime. They set the stage, so to speak, for countless cookouts with plenty of beautiful space to entertain our many friends who have stood by us, helped us, supported us and loved us over the years. They created an outdoor peaceful oasis where we can sit alone to view and listen to nature when our house gets way too loud and we need a little time away from it all. They gave me a chance to breathe fresh air and observe nature all while I’m making dinner — YEAR ROUND — only now I am conveniently only steps away from my kitchen yet still near my kids while they do their homework either on the deck or just inside the door, and while they swim, on my newly elevated “lifeguard perch!” They created a new sunny spot for Shoka to sun bathe and a new door for him to guard :), and an outdoor jungle area for Zorro to visit on summer days (in his cage, of course!). And, looking — hopefully very far — into the future, they unknowingly gave me a natural “play pen” for the umpteen grandchildren I no doubt have coming my way…. But only AFTER the weddings that will take place on our deck and in our back yard, of course!

Little ForMEN - The boys watching the construction!

Construction Begins!

This deck addition was a financial investment that worried me initially, but it turned out to be the best investment I’ve ever made in our family’s health and wellbeing. When phrased that way, it may sound a bit dramatic, but it’s not even a slight exaggeration.

Our first family dinner on our gorgeous NEW deck!

Natures' Dinner Music

During our first family dinner on our deck, sometime in October, there was nothing but happy chatter and peace around the table. We discussed our future as a family and that their children — my grandchildren — would someday be playing right here where we are sitting. It brought tears to my eyes. I couldn’t help it. Much to my kids relief, that emotional moment passed quickly because just then a huge flock of birds, hundreds of them, decided to begin serenading us from the trees nearby, fluttering about in patterns overhead, while we ate our dinner. We sat out on our deck until it was dark that night, no one wanting to go inside.. But finally we did after listening to an owl quietly “Whoo-ing” his goodnight routine to us. The love and the peace that we all felt that night was undeniable. As a result, we ate some breakfasts and most dinners outside until it got too cold and too dark to do so on school nights.

The deck is calling … Hurry up, Spring!!




***Because I know I’ll be asked a million times WHO built our deck and WHAT company is the manufacturer, and because I’m literally over the top impressed with both companies and the end result (in case you missed it the first 100 times I said it above!:), I’m adding this….

•Installation- Breyer Construction

•Manufacturer– TimberTech

-The Decking that I chose was from the TimberTech Legacy Collection in a Pecan color. It’s a warm reddish brown color with earthy streaking so it nicely compliments the stone on the back of our house. My favorite aspects of these deck boards are the color variations that make the boards look like real tropical hardwood and the unique surface texture that resembles hand-scraped indoor flooring!

I was thrilled to learn that  TimberTech decking is capped on all 4 sides which means better protection — it won’t rot, splinter, split or be eaten by bugs! Yay!

The railings are from the TimberTech Evolutions Contemporary collection. I chose a warm brown color which adds to the calming monochromatic “natural” look and feel to our deck.

The sleek metal balusters I chose provide a clear view of our surroundings which was very important to me because our back yard view is amazing!

AND, finally — drum roll please — There is NO sealing or staining needed on the deck OR railings, at all, ever!

And, because this says it all, I have to add TimberTechs motto. It spoke to me :)…

TimberTech decking = Less work. More life.

It’s been a long time since Zorro has had a blog devoted to him. In fact, his first and last one may have been his announcement and welcome to the family blog. That was a loooong time ago! Since then, he’s settled in nicely here and is an ever present overly spoiled member of our family. He’s often called ANY name but his real name, Zorro Jay. Names like “Zee-Bee” and “Bear,” Joel’s personal pet name for him. Aaden calls him “The President” but I’m not sure why. He just does! A few others: “Lettuce,” “Pistachio,” “Edemame,” “Kiwi” and all other green fruits and vegetables are Mady’s creative names for him. Every day she seems to add a new “green name” to her already long list of names. Sometimes, I even hear her say, “oh come here, my little salad.”

Yes, this bird has quite a long list of admirers. Who are not green. But could be considered to be “green with envy” when Zorro is kissing and nuzzling another member of the family besides YOURSELF! He rarely spends time in his huge palace of a cage, and is most often found riding around the house on someone’s back, tucked neatly into their shirt, with only his head sticking out the top. He is often referred to as “BackPack Boy,” because of this favorite way to “ride.”

In our house, it’s become “standard” when being hugged to begin the embrace and then announce, “I have Zorro” which is interpreted as, “hug me gently so you don’t hurt Zorro, who is somewhere inside my shirt.” Alexis has even taken that a step further and has made, and worn-mind you, a sign she places on her forehead that says, “Zorro is in my shirt!!!” Silly girl!

Last night, we had a tornado warning in our area, so Mady volunteered to scoop Z up and snuggled with him in my bed to keep him safe. As she tucked him into my blankets, we discussed our “tornado plan” for Shoka and the little kids if one became necessary. I didn’t want to unnecessarily wake them from their sleep, unless it became mandatory. So as I sat, glued to The Weather Channel, I overheard her saying to Zorro, “Oh, my little pet, what would I do without you? I mean, I didn’t even know I could love a bird this much!” I share her feelings and fully understand them, but still it melts my heart to see the love that my kids extend so freely to our pets! They are truly members of our large family!

This morning, for some reason, I decided to take Zorro to the bus stop with us. We’ve taken Shoka on occasion but since he despises the car, we haven’t done it often. So, since the mornings have been warmer, I decided to give Zorro his fair “bus stop trip.” I even planned ahead and packed him a plastic-shopping -bag-lined-plastic-leftovers-container for his “toilet,” which was to simulate a plastic bag lined trash can that he has been “potty trained” to use when he is out and about in the house. At home, any trash can will do and it works perfectly. And he rarely has “potty accidents” anymore ever. So, off to the bus stop we went plus one little “green bean” and his potty. He rode on Alexis rather uneventfully TO the bus stop. He seemed to enjoy his ride, all tucked quietly into her uniform shirt. Then it was time for Alexis to hand him over to me for the ride home. The kids kissed me AND him goodbye, and we parted ways.

Zorro decided he wanted to ride home perched on my shoulder versus tucked into my jacket. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t convince him that this wasn’t a good idea. Much like a kid, the bird’s going to do what the bird wants to do. So, I let him learn for himself. Well, actually, I really didn’t have a choice. With a green bird perched high on my shoulder closest to the driver’s window, I made a quiet as possible exit from the bus stop parking lot, hoping to avoid other parents seeing the bizarre goings on in our vehicle. I can only imagine their thought processes had they seen us! The only thing worse than my usual “bed head” appearance at the morning bus stop would be my “bed head” appearance with a bird on my shoulder! Oh Lord! Thankfully, I don’t think we were spotted!

As we turned onto the road, Zorro chirped happily as I slowly drove home, trying to avoid dizziness, or whatever, as he took in all the sights. It wasn’t long before he decided he had to go potty. Of course, memories of having two year olds came flooding back! Ha! I decided to pull over, and only then realized it was too late. He mistook my most comfy bus stop pajama-type sweatshirt for his “potty” and used it generously. Gross. Sigh.

At that point, I insisted he nestle into my sweatshirt to ride, because I figured for him to “go potty” in such an animal like manner (ha ha, I’m laughing at myself now. Yes, yes, I AM aware that he IS an animal, although I AM guilty of forgetting at times. Seems like “one of the kids” more often than not. And, well, he IS potty trained so doesn’t that make him ALMOST human at very least?) Perhaps he was a bit worried about this car ride thing. But, once again, he had other plans…. He decided to pop out of my shirt and walk up and down my arms, cocking his head to the side as he investigated the interior of the large moving vehicle. Mind you, none of this exploring distracted me from driving as I’m very accustomed to doing almost everything with Zorro attached to me. He does his thing and I do mine. In fact, I’d elaborate and explain that I’ve even rushed off to the bathroom a time or two before, only realizing once I’m in there that I’m not exactly, er, alone, but that information may just send anyone who is not a die-hard pet lover straight over the edge, so I’ll just stick to the story at hand…

Eventually, Zorro settled into a “flat salad” (a term we use to describe him when he relaxes all puffed up and lays FLAT like a human) position on my lap for the remaining ride home. He finally sprawled out all comfortably during the last thirty seconds of the ride…I said out loud to myself and to Zorro, “this has been the longest drive home from the bus stop, ever. Never again, Z Boy!”

For all future NECESSARY car rides, he will need to ride in his little carry case that he despises, mainly because I think it makes him feel like a BIRD, of all things. Imagine the horror of that!