Weekend ReMix

So, on my bachelor weekend, I turned to hookers and blow.

And by “hookers”, I mean “home projects”.  And by “blow”, I mean “pizza”.

I installed shelving along one wall of the garage, and organized it all.  Hopefully, it will stay that way.  We still have Too Many Things in there, that needs to be addressed.

I worked on the countertop mods around the stove, cutting and staining the wood that will go there.  I removed the backsplash behind the oven, and cleaned and painted the walls.  Painted the cabinet door from the old stove.

All in all, it was about 14 hours of work.  Then did the regular house cleaning and laundry.  It was nice to control my own schedule and just power through the jobs.

Stacey and Scout had a great time with friends in Pigeon Forge, doing a mountain hike and OHMIGODWESWAMINTHEHOTTUB.

They traveled with Scout’s friend L__ and her family up to meet a group of other old friends.  All told, there were about 8 or 9 kids to play with, and the adults could pretty much gab uninterrupted.

On the way home, they stopped somewhere called Goats on the Roof, which had… goats on the roof.  You could feed the goats, reportedly.  There, on the roof.

RocketBoy got back from his world tour.  He said he was sad we weren’t there; He felt like the family should have been with him, at least at Rock City.  I promised we could go back as a family, and he could be our guide.

I dropped him off Saturday morning, and then traveled up to their first stop at the Chattahoochee Nature Center for the Earth Day Kids festival.  Parking was full, so I had to drive two miles away and catch a shuttle.  I missed the first song, and RocketBoy let me know he knew it.

They do a good concert, those kids.  Then they hopped back on the bus to head up to Rock City, a Ronald McDonald house near Chattanooga, and the to the hotel.

At the hotel, RocketBoy couldn’t find his swimsuit (the suitcase is a tiny one… It’s hard to understand why he had to search for “an hour” for it).  Then, once in the pool, he hit his head on the side when someone bumped into him, and had to go back to his room to recuperate.  So, not a lot of swimming to be had there.

He stayed in a room with a counselor and one other boy, who he got to know.  He was nervous he wouldn’t get to know anyone, but he did pal around with two other boys, so all was well.

Sunday morning, they went to a Presbyterian church to perform, and I guess had to listen to the sermon, because he cited a low point as “having to listen to some guy tell a story I didn’t understand about Jesus and some goats.”   I sympathized; I was never clear on the goat story myself.

When he got back from the trip, the director came up to me and said one of the counselors had told her a story about RocketBoy.  I cringed, because “I have a story about RocketBoy” could go either way, quirky kid that he is.

But the story went that when they were done singing at the Ronald McDonald house, he struck up a conversation with a family that was staying there, and heard about their baby daughter who was in the NICU “just like Scout was”.  After he heard that, he went and found an employee of the house and asked to make a donation.  He took a $1 from his “treat money” we gave him, and handed it over, because “they needed it more than I did.”

So, I’m going to stop cringing.

In the final tally, he lost a shoe, but gained someone’s pants, and had a good time, so we’ll call it a win.

Making Good Neighbors

There are some folks putting up a fence in our backyard this week. It’s not a fence vigilante group or anything… we had to pay them to do it. Jes’ doing our part to help the struggling economy.

I’m looking forward to being able to let the Dog burn off energy without driving him to a dog park, paying $25 to send him to doggy daycare or being attached to him by a line while he’s doing it.

I had thought Scout was on a Very Busy Spider kick, but I see now that it’s a reading kick in general. There are books scattered throughout the house as she continues to bring them from her or RocketBoy’s room to wherever a potential reader is.

She is not amused by our blatant refusal to read her a book while we are otherwise occupied, e.g. taking a shower. Usually we can distract her by suggesting she brush her teeth, which she does 10-12 times a day.

This bodes well. Both for literacy and dental hygiene.

We Are So Cool

Because our air conditioning is working again.

Last week, we called Randall Brothers to come out and look at the AC (they had done some work on the heater on our last home to our satisfaction). Appointment scheduled between 3 and 5 Friday afternoon. Stacey picked the kids up early so she could be there.

They didn’t show.

So we called Estes Heating and Air. A guy came out Saturday to take a look at it. He pronounced the compressor dead, said something I didn’t quite catch about the inside unit, and said we’d need to “upgrade” (aka replace) the system. They’d send a guy out Monday (today) to quote on replacing the system.

We talked with a few folks about what kind of price tag we were likely to receive, and heard between $6,000 and $10,000. Yikes. I mean… yikes. I’ll never take an AC unit for granted again.

We spent our weekend tabulating all the home improvements we weren’t going to be able to make for a long, long time. Also, which child would bring in the most cash on the black market (They’re both pretty cute… RocketBoy is stronger, but Scout has some killer dexterity… RocketBoy can sing planet songs, but on the other hand, RocketBoy sings planet songs…)

Stacey also got a name from a friend who’d recently had their system replaced, Dunwoody’s Choice1. They quoted her half what other HVAC repair/replacement folks had.

So, the Estes guy shows up at 2:00pm today, and steakums leads him through it. While he’s writing up his quote for $8,000-10,000 (depending on the efficiency we want), the guy from Dunwoody’s Choice shows up.

The Estes guy leaves while the Dunwoody’s Choice guy goes to look around. steakums calls me to give me the bad news from Estes, and says “Well, the Dunwoody guy is doing his review, and I’ve got the quote from Estes. The quote is… oh, wait. Here comes the Dunwoody guy. I’ll call you back.”

Fifteen minutes later, she calls back and says, “There is cool air blowing on me. $350.”

Apparently, the compressor itself is not blown, just a few easily replaceable components blew out. They fixed it up quick.

So, anyone who saves me from $5,500 to $9,500 gets free advertising on my livejournal:

DUNWOODY’S CHOICE, for all your HVAC needs. Contact info below.

(And thanks to all who gave recommendations)
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1 Cecil Maxey, Dunwoody’s Choice, 1340 Center Drive, Suite 204, Atlanta, GA 30338. www.dunwoodyschoice.com, 770-394-3121 office, 770-480-2367 mobile

The Week Alone

Last week I set a number of tasks for myself whilst the family was vacationing in New Jersey. Now comes the time to check my work:

1. Regrout and seal the kitchen tile.

Done. Done and done. Yup. All done. May I never feel the need to tile anything ever again.

2. Fix the hall toilet.

Found the part I needed, didn’t need to replace the whole thing. Yet.

3. Buy a bow and arrow, finish creating the rope swing.

Did you know that the Sports Authority here in NorthEast Atlanta doesn’t carry bows and arrows? True story. I ordered a set online, but it hasn’t arrived just yet.

But I did buy a heavy bolt at Lowe’s, and who’d a thunk but it turns out I can throw a heavy bolt up 40 feet and hit a two fit diameter target area. It only took me two hours. I actually did it twice, but the first time the string I was using broke when hauling up the actual rope swing rope. The second time I just left the string there until I could get some medium-weight cord to haul up as an intermediate stage to the actual rope. And then I need to do it all again on a second tree. The end result is that rope will hang out at a 45 degree angle from each tree and meet in the center, and then hang straight down from there, forming a “Y”. A “Y” using about 80 feet of 1″ manila rope.

An observation on how the mind works: I spent the first hour wildly missing the target area until I took a second to visualize the bolt going over the branch the right way. The next two throws were very accurate, the second one hitting the mark. I felt like Lightning McQueen, chanting I Am Speed to himself.

4. Finish chainsawing up the fallen tree, and haul away.

Done. I estimate this tree was about 50 feet, comparing it to my measurements of the rope swing tree1. It took about 3 hours to finish sawing it into manageable size logs and branches and moving the pieces into the woods or the firewood pile. I declare I have never sweat so much, ever, except when I worked in the insulation warehouse that one summer. The insulation warehouse was itchier work, but I didn’t have to pull a tick off my leg at the end of the day, so… pros and cons.

So, 3.25 out of 4 not bad.

I also did a deep cleaning of the refrigerator, pulling out all the shelves for scrubbing and discarding anything that wasn’t recognizable or appetizing. Anyone have a guess as to how many bottles of mostly-full salad dressing we have in there?2

Every scrap of dirty clothes were cleaned and put away, and Scout’s dressers purged of too-small or out-of-season clothes.

I watched the first few episodes of Weeds, Season 1 via Netflix Instant Viewing. Funny.

A good week, but I have to admit I did not find as much joy in being on my own as I expected. I was awfully glad to see the gang when they got back.

Also, through no act of negligence on my part, one of the goldfish died. I replaced it with a identical fish. RocketBoy, if you’re reading this some years in the future, I apologize for deceiving you, but really, you’ve already spent more time contemplating mortality at age 5 than I would prefer you to.

Also, I didn’t want the nickname fishkiller.

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1 When planning the rope swing, I used some sticks, paper and trigonometry to estimate the height of the target branch of each tree at about 42 feet. Using markings on the string I threw over, it showed almost exactly 40 feet. Let’s hear it for MATH. Who says you don’t use that stuff in real life?
2 Nine. 3 Italian, 2 balsamic vinegar. Three additional bottles mostly empty.

Grout & Peanut Butter

I am alone in the house this week. Which hasn’t happened… well, maybe ever in this house.

Friday night, RocketBoy had his friend J_ over while J_’s parents, steakums, my MIL and niece all went to see the opening at Georgia Shakespeare. So, I managed two 5 year olds, a 2 year old and a very excited dog for the evening. Everyone survived.

Saturday…

Foreshadowing the Weekend

There is 150 feet of 1″ manila rope in a box in our entry way, a slingshot in the basement, a roll of yellow poly twine on our kitchen counter, and a heavy bolt or nut somewhere on the premises.

There are two size #3 soccer balls in a bag in the entry way.

In the basement, there are a number of unused toys stored in shelves in the back room.

In the back of a small theater in Little 5 Points, there is a play-board with one more show left in it.

In the backyard, there are a number of left-over fence stakes still staked in the ground.

There are squeaky doors leading to the bedrooms of children, and a can of WD40 in the garage.

These material items form a map of my weekend to come.

Accomplishment, Thy Name is This Past Weekend

Man, I’ve got an accomplishment buzz.

The garage? I went medieval on the garage.

Things I cleared out or quarantined for disposal:

– The desiccated corpse of a rat
– 5 Advanced D&D Dungeon Master Guides, 2 Fiend Folios, 3 years worth of Dragon Magazine, 4 AD&D Player’s Manuals, Basic D&D sets 1, 2 and 3, and an inch worth of paper comprising characters and hand made, graph-paper dungeon maps made in the early to mid 80’s, various non-D&D RPG paraphernalia (Paranoia, Gamma World, Twilight 2000)1
– A dozen comics compilations: B.C., Heathcliff, Garfield, and others I don’t even recognize anymore
– The dredges of my grandmother’s Sci-Fi paperback collection
– My college footlocker, complete with Ferris Bueller’s Day Off sticker

Things discovered and not thrown out:

– Wedding dress (worn once)
– Wedding night nightgown (worn once)
– 6 jillion Georgia Shakespeare sweatshirts
– a 3 gallon bucket filled with crayons (needs to be returned to Imagine It! Children’s Museum)

There’s a wheelbarrow with Tools With No Home that will require some shelving, and a 5×8 foot area full of stuff that needs to be 1-800-GotJunk’d, but otherwise it’s a work of art.

steakums unloaded 3 garbage bags full of baby girl clothes off on two friends expecting 3 girls between them.

I cleared off 4 or 5 shelves of books in our IKEA IVAR shelving to make room for putting our computer center there, and making the kitchen eating area free of computer desk induced clutter.

Most of the books will be put up for sale in our planned May 24th yard sale, and those that don’t go then will be paperbackswap’d or trashed.

If we can keep up the momentum, we’ll be clutter-free in no time. Or rather, 5 or 6 weeks. Which is no time on the geologic scale.

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1 Lest you think I bought all these, they came out of a bunch of boxes that belong to my brother that he left when he moved out. By the look of things, all of his friends left their D&D and other gaming stuff to him, probably when they were de-cluttering.

Anniversaries and Unnatural Acts

We went to Murphy’s for our anniversary and had a pretty good meal, and then walked around Virginia Highland for a while. Sometimes it’s nice to walk aimlessly, with nowhere in particular to be.

We walked by a stone, 5 bedroom house that had been for sale when I was buying my first home umpity-ump years ago. At the time, the ~$230k price was well out of my range. I briefly toyed with the idea of talking my parents into going in with me on an investment and renting out the rooms, but decided against it for purposes of being financially independent. I’m sure that was a horrible mistake now. Live and learn.

I’ve been looking into how best to get RocketBoy started in reading, and came across this quote on readingrockets.org:

It has long been argued that learning to read, like learning to understand spoken language, is a natural phenomenon. It has often been suggested that children will learn to read if they are simply immersed in a literacy-rich environment and allowed to develop literacy skills in their own way. This belief that learning to read is a natural process that comes from rich text experiences is surprisingly prevalent in education despite the fact that learning to read is about as natural as learning to juggle blindfolded while riding a unicycle backwards. Simply put, learning to read is not only unnatural, it is just about the most unnatural thing humans do. (Emphasis mine)

It can’t be as unnatural as that one trick with the whipped cream and the cucumb… er, never mind.

Scout slept through the night! It’s not like it’s the first time or anything, but I feel the need to celebrate it when it does.

As a result of a 2 hour cleaning and organizing binge, everything in the family room now has a place. Which means we can (belatedly) start teaching the kids to put things away on a regular basis. Previously, the effort was doomed to failure because really, you couldn’t put everything away. You could just put lots of things away in random locations, and pile the remaining stuff in the corner.

Scout is a delight when it comes to cleaning. She loves putting things away, just as much as she likes taking them out and throwing them around. She is perfectly happy to do either, or both. And being allowed to throw something in the garbage can is like Christmas to this girl. In fact, for Christmas, we should get her her own garbage can with lid. The trash, she will create herself.

This, of course, presumes that she makes it to next Christmas, because she seems hell-bent on killing herself by plummeting from a height. She is spider-man in tiny overalls.

As special volunteer to the Fish Tank Committee, I aided RocketBoy in the addition of two more goldfish to the big tank, where his fish Kissy has taken permanent residence. The new fish (Andro and Pandro1) are Kissy’s adopted parents, and RocketBoy spent the rest of Saturday lobbying for the addition of cousins, or at least grandparents.

Saturday was possibly the worst Uncle Grampa’s Hoo-Dilly Storytime ever, where we portrayed the three bears as a dysfunctional, unpleasant and possibly abusive family. During which the monkey turned dysfunctional, unpleasant and abusive to Larry Lederhosen, because of Larry’s poor character choice in his portrayal of papa bear. Hopefully, we can put that one behind us and make the last 3 shows (ever?) much, much better.

Whilst trying to come up with cost-efficient solutions to some household storage issues, I came across two way-cool blogs: unclutterer and ikeahacker.

From ikeahacker, I like the secret passageway bookcase, the roll away cat litter box and the 2007 best-of turtle terrarium.

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1 I have no idea where these names came from. Also, the fish family’s last name is Green, after a family from a book RocketBoy recently read that had nothing to do with fish whatsoever.

Steampunkin’

I think I’ve decided1 that when we remodel our “master” bathroom, it should be done in SteamPunk style.

Apparently, this is going to be easier, as the SteamPunk movement is starting to pop up in mainstream advertisements for sink fixtures.

Copper pipes, pressure and flow gauges, gears for knobs… hmmm.

This person is working towards a SteamPunk home.

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1 Read: “I have decided to try and convince steakums