i realized that the past two days i have not spent hours searching and learning on this forum! thanks again all of you for the information and support you provide by being here.
the key has been to get the water beautiful so that other work seems worth it. here's a photo from this week before we addressed the rotten bottoms of the decorative columms and allowed my son to jump.
i'm really amazed how satisfying it is to own such pretty water and have trust in the pump. the TA has been the biggest issue, the CH started at 30. i have added de to the filter, and started borates. the kids have swum in it a few hours a day since filling almost two weeks ago.
my levels today are
when we saw this pool last summer i wondered if there was a dead body i couldn't see. it did have one bird and just about everything else including large amounts of glass, screws and nails, metal filings, metal cans, concrete, electronics, lumber, plastic. still then, it reminded me of the movie cocoon and our friends smiled when we stood next to the vat of grime. fortunately our inspector was familiar with pools and pump systems. we had to clean up for appraisal (as well as the rest of the property). the pool had a skin of algae that was like a giant rubbery seaweed that turned into white breaking sheets when shocked . it has heaved one time but the pump seemed fine and the water held decently....hopefully completely. we scooped, hooked, hauled, and shocked. we brushed, leaf vacuumed, and plaster vacuumed. imadocloprid chased off the pharoah ants. there was piles of broken glass on the surround, in the crevices of the sliding doors, outside the doors. it got to where we had to let it be for a few months as we moved in while i fretted the loss of money and work put in so far, the consequences of allowing a dirty indoor pool to sit, and if we could ever simply make the area free of sharp objects.
three weeks ago we used a submersible pump and garden hose to fully drain since the winter rains seemed finished. we did not shock again - we crossed our fingers and monitored. all this time we have scrubbed everything outside the pool over and over. straight vinegar got the yellowish scale and epsom salts some rust and buildup. the pressure washer has been a great help but the elbow grease and back work, wet/dry vac, pool brush and brooms have had significant roles. as much as i wanted the surround of the pool perfectly clean before the drain, the motivation to spend days scrubbing 6X + was not there until the good water was in. also i was a little nervous scrubbing the outside when it was near empty. we will probably do something abt the astroturf in the future but for now i'm surprised and glad it is a nonslip surface clean enough to sit on. at first i thought it was dirt, and it was all dead algae.
the good thing about an as-is neglected fixer upper is that those poles, skimmers, and vacuums that you fish out of there come in handy until you can afford prettier ones, and you don't mind mucking them up as you clean. (btw we just found the slide in the woods, intact, lol. not sure abt that, and the holes for it are filled in)
i am also less panicked about every leaf and speck of dirt coming in, and now i'm sorry i didn't take a photo of its initial scariness.
edited to add: i'm not sure we could have done all this ourselves with babies/toddlers. my youngest is 7.