Friday, May 29, 2009

Dorothy, I think we're back in Kansas.

Last weekend I spent the weekend in Kansas with Mr. K, my Uncle Tod, cousin Alex, Tim, Erin, and my mom. The trip had been planned for awhile for Tim, Erin, and my mom, but the recent death of my great-great-aunt Dorothy brought Tod and Alex out from Seattle, so Mr. K and I picked them up at the airport and went out as well.

My relationship with my mom's family has always been a bit odd. Her parents refused to attend her wedding, since it was in a Catholic church, and things between them and my parents have been a bit strained for my whole life. We spent almost every Thanksgiving at Grandma Billie and Grandad Rex's house in McPherson, but mostly I hung out with my cousins and Tod and left the older folks alone. Rex and Billie were there, but somehow I have more positive memories of "Aunt" Dorothy and her sister "Mom-mo" Lynn (my great grandma) than my grandparents.

So that's the backstory. Aunt Dorothy is gone now, so we spent the weekend visiting the remaining relatives. First up was Mom-Mo Lynn. She's somewhere around 95, and has the Life Force that Eddie Izzard speaks of: "I'm a gran, I live forever!" She lives on her own, goes to church on Sunday, and sells Avon in her spare time. She was also heavily involved in my mom's upbringing, so has a special place in her heart. We were they for quite awhile on Sunday and went to church with her. Once back at her house we fixed her lamps. Apparently her power had been out that morning and she had panicked until the neighbor came over to find the tripped breaker. Good thing it tripped too- the 2 lamps in her living room were running on ancient cords that were frayed to the point of arcing and melting the power strip into which they were plugged. Tripped breaker= no housefire. So that's kind of scary actually. But we hit Home Depot and got some new plugs, cut the wires, and made it all safe again.

Then it was off to Mom-mo Bernese's for a quick visit. She's Grandad Rex's mom and has opted to turn her thermostat up to 90 instead of just moving to Florida, so we didn't last long there. Actually I spent most of that visit outside with Mr. K and Alex so they wouldn't melt.

Then we headed to Grandma Billie's. Grandad Rex died last year and I didn't make it to the funeral- Steph was in the middle of chemo and it wasn't a good time to get away. So it's just Billie now, living on her own. Somehow, in her early 70's, she appears about 5 years older than her mother. She's been tiny my whole life, <5' tall and <100 lbs. She has also spent her life smoking and drinking, has experienced 2 or 3 strokes (that we know of), and lives in a 3-story house that used to house a family of 5. After Grandad died my Aunt Terri got her a new boxer, so she has a dog that weighs as much as she does to keep her company.

It was kind of a scary visit really. My grandma should not be living alone. She fell several times when we were there and needed help standing back up. There were several empty wine boxes lying around. (After your 3rd stroke, why stop drinking, eh?) Her left hand is frozen and useless and her ankle is swollen unnaturally. She can't walk on it. There's a room in the basement that was full of junk when I was a kid, now less cluttered with 1/2 the junk, but the room has a water leak from somewhere above and a pool of mold in the corner under it. Tod mentioned that the pipe above had been leaking, I looked up, and gee, it's still wet! Oops. The box I moved underneath fell apart on contact and we immediately stopped touching things in there. Needs professional attention.

The real excitement was when Grandma decided that we would be allowed to clean out the freezer in the basement. This turned into more of a challenge than was originally apparent. When Tod first opened it the door didn't budge until considerable force was applied. There were 5 shelves in the freezer, of varying degrees of fullness. There was also a layer of ice on everything. I have never seen such freezer burn and I hope I never do again. There were pork chops in there that were grey after 7 years in the freezer.* There were 3 tins full of collector's coins, in their protective sleeves. There were things that were not to be chipped out of the 5" of ice covering them- they went straight to the trash on the curb like that. We spent 1.5-2 hours in the basement breaking out food, chipping ice, melting ice, and mopping the floors. The freezer ended up clean though.

We ended Sunday at Tod's cousin Brandon's house. (I can't figure out the name for how he's related to me...he's the son of my Grandpa's brother...) The kids hit the pool at the Holiday Inn Express that evening, slept, then it was Memorial Day. We stopped by Grandma's on the way out of town, partly so my mom and Tod could talk to her about moving closer to somebody, or at least seeing a doctor. She refused to consider either.

So we came home, and the car trips are for another post I guess. The whole weekend was pretty overwhelming. It's hard on my mom to see her relatives looking so old and frail, but Mom-mo is 95 and Billie refuses help, so there's not much to be done. All in all it was a good trip for me to have made, from a duty-to-family standpoint, but I can't say I'll be rushing back anytime soon.

As a side note, Mr. K was an absolutely perfectly behaved and patient kid almost the whole trip. Probably did better than when I went to my grandma's. I bought him Lego Indiana Jones as a reward. Hooray for new games!

*Grandad Rex meticulously labeled things, so there were dates on everything. It was kind of scarier that way.

Friday, May 22, 2009

An Ominous Smorgasbord

(^^Currently the only usage of the phrase "Ominous Smorgasbord" on the interwebs!^^)

Today the Bean had a Smorgasbord at daycare. I'm not sure what the occasion was, but they wanted to call something a smorgasbord, so they did. We were practicing saying this yesterday and we somehow started combining it with the other word certain members of the family have a hard time pronouncing, Ominous. So we decided the Bean was having an Ominous Smorgasbord and practiced saying it 3 times fast. Try it. If nothing else you'll sound goofy.

So this morning we were headed to school and the kids decided I was the school bus teacher. Not the driver, the teacher. Just go with it. They started telling me about the pet tiger they have at home, an apparently well-trained beast who won't bite. Mostly. The Bean says he knows the commands Sit, Stay, and Eat Bad Guys. Quite the talented tiger, eh?

Speaking of pets at home...we almost lost Obi last Sunday. One of the folks who installed our sprinklers last Saturday apparently wandered through the gate on the North side of the house and left it unlatched. Sometime last Saturday night or early Sunday morning Obi went for a walk. Steph woke me up at 6:45 a bit concerned that she couldn't locate our dog. We discovered the open gate and hit the streets. We drove a bit yelling out our windows, Steph hit the dog park, then we came home and Steph started putting up signs while I went down to Standley Lake. It's only 3 blocks South of us and would be a good place for a doggy on the run to go for a stroll. I walked towards the campers and started talking to people, seeing if anyone had seen a stray dog run through. The first 2 guys I met had not, but took my number in case they ran across him. As I was walking towards the 3rd group of people eating breakfast, I saw a shape move under the next camper. A quick "Obi! Come!" and my dog popped out and ran right over to me, looking as happy to see me as I was to see him.

So all is well. The gate now has a board screwed in place over it, since we never use it anyway. Also we now have an idea where Obi might go, were he to get out again. Luckily the kids were at their dad's house when this all happened, so we just kept it quiet that Obi was almost lost. Whew.

Tomorrow I drive to Kansas for my great-great-aunt's funeral. Mr. K has opted to go with me, since he's never been to Kansas and wants to see what it's like. We're going to try to make this fun! We're driving with Tod and Alex and we'll be staying w/ Tim, Erin, and my mom, so it should be a good time. Hooray for long weekends!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Rainbirds live in my yard

Today I had a sprinkler system installed. Exciting, eh? We are hopeful that by the end of the season we will have something growing in our yard. To that end we put down some topsoil, fertilizer, and grass seed today. In the next 3-4 weeks we will try to grow some seeds. If it doesn't work we may end up sodding in the next year or 2. For now we are hopeful that regularly scheduled computer-generated waterings will inspire growth more than the haphazard distracted watering schedule employed last summer.

Yesterday was another entertaining day in my life as a stepdad. We went to The Bean's spring program at her daycare and afterward I had promised to take her home for the day. When we were in her classroom, one of her best friend's moms was saying goodbye, leaving for the afternoon to move things into their new home. We have been trying to schedule a playdate for awhile, so Steph offered that she could come over and play at our house instead of hanging out at daycare for the afternoon. This was a generous offer, considering Steph was headed back to work, and it was going to be just me at home. I'm flexible though, and 10 min later I was headed home with 2 4-year old girls to hang out for an afternoon.

It was a nice afternoon...the plumbing guy came out and ran the line for the sprinkler, we made chocolate chip cookies, met the FedEx guy who brought an envelope full of Mexican pesos for our trip*, watched The Little Mermaid, and the girls got in the hot tub for a bit. Quite an eventful 4 hours. Steph called probably 6 times to check in, wishing desperately that she was home hanging out w/ us instead of at work. The 4th or 5th time she called I pointed out that I had 2 cute blondes in my hot tub and fresh cookies in the oven. Life doesn't get much better than that!

Today I took Mr. K to see Star Trek. He loved it and asked ever-so-innocently when it was over if there were more Star Trek movies or books or anything we could get for more Star Trek fun. This could be fun!

*The FedEx envelope specifically states that it is not to be used for the shipment of "cash or cash equivalent." Should I turn in Wells Fargo for apparently making this a business practice?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Project finished!

It's over! The kids' bathroom is now a much nicer place to be. I hope the pictures reflect that adequately.

First, here's the view looking into the room. The Before pic is on the left, clearly displaying the horrid vinyl flooring which was probably installed when the house was built in 1985. Also you can see a touch of the yellow color on the walls, added by the prior homeowners and, we're guessing, picked by their 4-year-old girl. It's the only explanation. The After pic is on the right obviously...the tile behind the shower curtain hasn't changed, but I didn't quite replicate this pic exactly. Oh well.

Looking closer, this is the Before vs. After paint color. See a difference? What amazed us was how much the new paint changed the look of the tile in the shower. With the dingy yellow paint it looked like an off-tan pukey color that needed to be replaced. Once the new paint was in place, the tile looks greyish and not bad at all.

Also in this pic you can see the trim we replaced. It's dark brown now to match the vanity under the sink. I think it ties the room together nicely and makes the whole thing cozier, but that may be biased. Also you can see more of the new floor- I don't know why the bottom right corner of the pic looks that red. It's not like that in real life.

This is looking back towards the door. I love how the paint and reworked trim color go together, especially compared to the Before pic. The yellow with the light trim just didn't do anything for the space.

And now a word on the floor, since this pic has more visible than the others. We hated the old stuff. It was like a rejected 70's dorm bathroom floor sample. The pic doesn't do its horridity justice. The new stuff is porcelain 20x20 tiles picked up at our local tile place down the street (A World of Tile). We love the color and it has a nice subtle texture to it under the toes.

And just because I have to mention it...the floor grate on the left was replaced to better match the room. Almost everything else in the room was a brushed silver, and the new grate looks much nicer. You can't see it in the pics, but the tile around the grate is solid...I managed to cut a perfectly sized (4"x10.5") rectangle out of the center of the tile using only the $88 tile saw from Lowe's. That cut alone took the better part of 2 hours, but it was totally worth it.

So that's my first major home-ownin' renovation! I'm pretty darn happy with how it turned out. There's only a 2-week gap from the Before pics to the Afters. Like Steph says, I may not have gotten much else done in the last couple weekends (laundry, cleaning, etc.) but the stuff I did get done will make a difference for a whole lot longer. (And yes Matthew, there are contractors who do this kind of thing, but this was totally worth doing myself!)

Saturday, May 2, 2009

My fingers hurt

so I guess I'll spend some time typing!
Something about working with porcelain tile for 13.5 hours straight makes the fingers dry and rough and irritated. At least when your day job involves sitting at a computer all day doing namby pamby desk work. The change is shocking to the system.

This morning I started at 9ish cutting tile and laying it out to fit the bathroom. At 10:30 PM I finished cleaning the last tool. At this point all of the tile is mortared in place and curing so I can grout tomorrow, then reinstall baseboards and put the toilet back. It was a good day's work. Steph got to hang out w/ the kids all day, which had it's own whiny challenges, but we all survived and the bathroom is going to look great. Pics will be posted when it's complete!