And Then I Stepped in Gum . . .

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Creative Carpentry, or, I Think I May Have Inhaled an Entire Tree

What do you get when you mix two intellectually gifted but very unhandy people with a home improvement project that is not exactly cut-and-dried? I don't know, but if you want to see the answer, come hang out in our basement.

It all started when I fell in love with a tin-tile-like ceiling at Lowe's and decided I had to have it for my office. Hey, look! It's called E-Z Track! There should be no problem then, right? And look! It installs over joists. We have joists over which to install it. Yay! I get my ceiling!

Um, not so fast. Because it installs flush with the joists, and we have inconveniences like gas pipes and electrical wires and water pipes hanging down a bit below the joists. Hm. Oh. What do we do now?

There were several solution iterations tried out during our "thought experiment" phase (and we've been thinking about this for quite a while). What we finally arrived at was a form of "furring strip" to extend the joists and essentially make them thicker, to which we would then fasten the track of the ceiling system. Of course, we had to drop it down by almost 4 inches to accommodate the pipes, so we decided to use blocks cut from 2x4s as our "furring strips." But how would we fasten these blocks to the joists? Toenail them? Drill in diagonally from each side? We finally decided to use pieces of 1x2 to fasten vertically to both the block and the joist, one on each side of the joist.

Now there are 14 joists, and we need to fasten 12 tracks. 14 x 12 = 168 blocks needed. And 336 1x2 fasteners. Eeks. Fortunately, I've rediscovered my love for the compound miter saw, not to mention I'm able to cut the 1x2 sections in a bundle of 6 at a time. And we're using a nail gun, so that makes it a little bit easier (although 336 x 8 = 2,688 nails, and we're going to need to go to the hardware store [again!] and pick up some more nail-gun strips). However, I'm finding out that sawdust and asthma just don't mix. Dave finally dug out a mask for me, but it's darned uncomfortable.

So I've just fastened one piece of 1x2 to each of, um (quick calculation in my head: 6 8' 2x4s, with 24 blocks out of each, equals . . .) 144 blocks. Dave asked if I felt a bit like Rosie the Riveter, but I actually felt like the 6-year-old assigned to nail scrap pieces of wood together so she won't get in the way of real woodwork. In the meantime, he's solving the problem of fastening suspended ceiling track to the soffit that was built with no studs -- he's finding another use for the 1x2 pieces. One of these days, we'll get our part done so we can call the contractor back to finish the job. It's got to be finished by the second week of June, though, since that's when all our company arrives! Maybe I'll start getting some of the ceiling pieces together tonight. Then again, Veronica Mars, The West Wing, Desperate Housewives, and Grey's Anatomy are all new tonight . . . Hey! I think I may have just realized why this project is taking so darned long . . .

Friday, April 28, 2006

Overheard from the Kitchen

Dave: Ian, do you want blueberries with your corndog?
Ian: I'm not Ian, I'm Yuke Skywalker.
Dave (with practically audible eyeroll): Luke Skywalker, do you want blueberries with your corndog?
Ian/Luke: Um . . . or you can just call me Yuke.
Dave, even more exasperated: LUKE! Do you want blueberries with your corndog?
Ian/Luke: Um, what?

There are downsides to having a child who entertains himself.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Two Posts in One Day!!

I've been meaning to write a blog entry about Nancy Drew computer games, and how much we, as a family, love them. And by we, I mostly mean me. Katie loves them too, but she can't really get very far in them by herself. So they've been sort of a bonding experience for us, as the three of us (excluding Dave) gather around the flickering monitor to solve all of Nancy's cases. Heck, even my mother-in-law is getting in on the action, and the last time she was here, she and Katie were trading hints on how to get farther in the various game scenarios.

Maybe it's the titian hair connection, but I've always loved Nancy Drew. As a kid, I devoured as many of the books as I could. I saved them so my daughter could read them. And now she's just about reached that point. Katie can read them, but they're still a bit long for her attention span, unless she's in just the right frame of mind. Instead, she's plowing her way through the little-sister series, Nancy Drew Notebooks. And I'm fine with that.

Remember the Blue's Clues anecdote about Ian? Well, I'm here to tell you that he's merely following in his sister's footsteps. For a little background, I have to admit that I lost my cell phone last week, and there was a great deal of consternation in the Morgan household, with me obsessing about where it could be and Dave calling it at all hours of the day and night in the hopes that whoever swiped and/or found it would actually answer it. (He was vindicated -- I had left it at Olive Garden, and a manager finally heard it ringing in the safe. My luck holds out, once again.) Anyway, in picking up around the house today, I found a little notebook of Katie's. I'm nosey, so I opened it up to see what she's been writing lately. I found this:

I cracked up. Hysterical. Clearly, a Nancy-Drew-in-training if ever I saw one. Poor Ian, always the suspect. You know, when you contemplate having your second child, you worry and fret over how the first one will feel -- whether she'll resent the new baby, whether she'll feel replaced, and so on. I'm finally coming to the realization that it wasn't her tender feelings I needed to be concerned about!!


Katie started swimming lessons last night.

-- Digression: Do I really have to wait until she's in her late 20s before she realizes that sometimes I do know what I'm talking about and I do know what's best for her? The proposal of swim lessons was met with tears and a tantrum and cries of "But I can't swim! I don't want to!" all because she took one set of lessons a year ago and didn't turn into Mark Spitz. (Whew, that probably dates me, huh?) And yet, after 20 minutes in the water, she came out grinning from ear to ear and crowing, "That was so much fun! I can't wait to come back tomorrow!" So, good, I'm glad she's happy about it now. I would have made her go anyway, because knowing how to swim is one of my things -- I wouldn't have backed off, the way I did with the Barnes & Noble American Girl event that made her cry last weekend. Her liking it makes it easier, though, and I'm glad of that, even as I wonder what I was thinking to sign her up for lessons from 6:30 to 7:00 every night for the next two weeks. End of digression. --

Anyway, as we're sitting on the bench waiting for the teenage teachers to figure out what they're doing and who's in what class, a little boy next to Katie starts kicking his feet and singing, "It's hard to believe...that I couldn't see...that you were always there beside me-ee." I chuckled to myself. This song is continually playing in our house -- and more to the point, in my head -- as a result of Katie and Ian's obsession with High School Musical. They sing into our microphone (Ian is a surprisingly good singer for a 3-year-old), Katie listens to it on her new MP3 player, they pretend they're the characters, they quote the lines. It's a true obsession. And the songs are relatively catchy, and harmless, so I let it go. I've been surprised how many of my friends with 7-year-olds are reporting similar happenings in their households. I tell you, Disney really hit its target market with this movie!

So the boy was singing, and I nudged Katie -- she was smiling too. And then she joined in on the duet, despite not even knowing this boy (whose name turned out to be Ian), and the two of them sang a whole verse together. And not under their breaths, actually out loud. It was absolutely adorable, and I wish I'd had my video camera with me. I wonder if I can talk them into an encore performance someday.

Monday, April 17, 2006

I Hate Easter!

I've just discovered that I hate Easter. I don't recall having this antipathy before, but yesterday both implanted and cemented it. How do I hate Easter? Let me count the ways . . .

1) Holidays with kids begin so frickin' early!!! But at least with Christmas (in my family, anyway), it's stretched out for a few hours. Our Easter festivities started at 7 a.m. and were over by 8:05. After that, the fun began.

2) I feel compelled to buy candy at Easter, even more so than at Halloween. I'm not normally a huge candy buyer, but Easter has all these springtime-only candies: Peeps, Cadbury Creme Eggs, Cadbury Mini Eggs, Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs. Halloween doesn't do that! So I buy way too much candy to hoard the specialties, then restrict what candy the kids can eat (sorry, children have not suffered enough in their short lifetimes to deserve whole Cadbury Creme Eggs to themselves), then eat it all (with Dave's help -- ask him how many Reese's Eggs he's eaten in the last two days).

3) Why do we have more than one holiday that focuses on gorging oneself with candy anyway? In our house, we have a rule (for the kids) of two pieces of candy a day. Now, these aren't Snickers bars -- they're usually a single Jolly Rancher or chocolate coin, or maybe a small box of Nerds. The kids are fine with that. But for the holiday, I let up on the rule. Sure, they could have more than two pieces of candy for one day -- what would be the harm in that? Well. Let me tell you. Three-year-olds have no concept of what others would consider reasonable candy consumption. Ian? Started eating candy at 7:15 and wallowed in his Easter basket pretty much nonstop until 11, when we finally cut him off. He then spent the remainder of the day alternating between running around the house in circles and throwing monstrous, screaming temper tantrums. Yeah. That was a good plan. I thought the sugar-hyperactivity connection was apocryphal, but after yesterday, I'm not so sure.

4) Katie, the 7-year-old, has been told the "truth" about the Easter Bunny, as well as Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. I felt like I had to do it because she kept challenging me in front of her brother, and I wanted her to cut it out so she didn't plant suspicion in him. Thing is, I had visions of her being in on the secret and feeling all adult about it, helping to maintain the illusion. I think I remember feeling that way when I was a kid. Instead, she just finds every opportunity to announce that she knows that really I hid the eggs, that I bought the toys, etc. I finally had to yell at her about it -- and threaten to take away her candy. It just about ruined Easter for me.

5) and 6) I hate dressing up. Apparently, so does Ian, as evidence by the fact that the biggest tantrum was about wearing his new Easter outfit (sweater vest, polo, short pants). And yet I felt compelled to dress for the Easter service, even though UUs apparently don't really celebrate Easter. Instead, we had a Flower Communion -- a nice idea -- and shared memories of Easter and Passover. Odd. How am I supposed to teach the kids that there's more to Easter than bunnies and candy when the church we're attending doesn't even acknowledge it from an objective, distant standpoint? Oh, well. I'll dig out the Bible and talk to Katie about it sometime this week. Hope I can find a regular Bible, and not Dave's hippy-dippy Good News Bible.

7) Easter egg hunts and competitive children do not mix. I had a sobbing Katie on my hands at the community egg hunt at the park when she spent all her time looking for the special sparkly eggs, thinking there was plenty of time to pick up the other eggs, and then ended up with only one egg. Her brother got 19. Not that it mattered -- they both had to turn their eggs in to exchange them for free bags of -- what else? -- candy, but it was a life lesson that we had to get through first. Ugh.

So that was our Easter. And now it's Spring Break. Already the kids were screaming at each other as I got out of the shower (one of my least favorite sounds in the world, especially as I step out of the shower). Fortunately, Ian's in daycare today. Katie went to play with a friend. Maybe I should get some work done in this time that I get a break from entertaining the children.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

I'm Your Beck and Call Girl

Katie's home sick for the second day in a row. Ian's also home. I just discovered that I screwed up an editing job and have to scramble to get some stuff done that I didn't realize I had to do. Tension is somewhat high at the Morgan household, although the kids are actually being pretty good (read: watching TV and not arguing while I panic and my head explodes).

Ian asks for an apple. "But I don't want the seeds. You have to take out the seeds." No problem -- I have my handy dandy OXO apple corer right here. That's when the problem starts. "But I don't want a hole in my apple!" Ian whines, as he (gently -- linoleum can be hard) throws himself down on the floor. "And I don't want skin."

"But that's how you get the seeds out, Buddy. Do you want me to slice it so you have slices shaped like Os?"

"No! I don't want a hole in my apple!" issues forth from the supine figure on the kitchen floor.

I continue peeling the apple, resigning myself to throwing it away uneaten in a couple of hours. Inspiration hits. I pick up the intact core, slide it back into the hole, and hand the apple to him. "How did you do that?" "Magic," I reply.

Crisis averted. The omnipotence of Mommy is restored.

Now back to editing and my exploding head -- at least until lunchtime.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

I've Always Said White Was Boring . . .

Long story ahead. Get through it, and you'll get the punchline/blog entry title.

So. We're finishing our basement. Well, not so much we, as there are a few contractors involved and lots of money changing hands. But we're cheap, and we've been brainwashed by TLC into believing that we should be able to do it ourselves, so we're doing as much as we think we can safely handle. So the contractor's done the framing, the electricity, the plumbing, the Sheetrock, and the taping and spackling -- we're doing the painting, the ceiling, and maybe some of the flooring. A huge chunk, I'm sure you'll agree. When it's done, we'll have added about 1100 square feet to our house, in the form of a playroom, an office, a guest bedroom, a workshop, and a 3/4 bathroom.

And when I say we're doing the painting, I actually mean I'm doing the painting, as painting is one thing that Dave absolutely despises. I guilt him into taping and dropclothing and cleaning out paintbrushes occasionally, but it's part of our implicit marriage contract that if there's any painting to be done, I get to step up and do it. And it's a lot of painting. The fun kind -- no trim to paint around or flooring to watch out for -- but a lot nonetheless. I've more or less been immersed in it in my free time (and work time) for the last week, and I expect it to continue this week as well.

Yesterday I got to start with colors, after the boring priming and painting the closets and playroom white. The guest room is kind of a tannish taupe, and while I'm not sure I totally love it yet, I think it will work once it's all decorated. The office -- my home office -- is going to be purple. Now, before you think, "Eww, purple? Really?" -- as I know you're doing right now -- let me tell you that it's a lovely, deep, eggplant-y purple, and it looks amazing with gray carpet and white trim. I know, because that's how my office was in Alabama, and I really miss it. So I can't wait until the office is tricked out to my specifications, with -- most important of all -- a DOOR, purple walls, and my own choice of decorations.

The next section of the background of this story is that since painting is boring, repetitive, mind-numbing work, and I don't have anyone to talk to because Dave is watching the kids while I paint, I've been listening to my iPod nano and really enjoying it. My favorites at the moment are the podcast of Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me; the Veronica Mars soundtrack; and the audio version of Son of a Witch, by Gregory Maguire (sequel to Wicked). Although I'm not usually an aurally oriented person, I'm enjoying the audiobook, and have gotten through 11 out of 12 CDs -- I'm not sure I would ever have read that far. Anyway, it's been entertaining.

Also, as anyone in my family, especially Ian, will tell you, I'm a notoriously messy painter. My Trading Spaces paint shirt (bought for inspiration) is almost more paint than fabric, and I usually spend up to 20 minutes after each paint session scrubbing paint from my hands, arms, legs, and feet (I paint barefoot). Heck, I don't mind too much -- when I'm painting with white paint, I just focus on all the money I save on French manicures, what with all the paint under my fingernails. So I've been getting a little paint on the nano, but not too much, and it mostly comes right off.

All of which brings us to tonight's events. There I was, painting my lovely purple office with paint that is turning out to be exactly the right color. I'm on the next-to-last CD of Son of a Witch and reaching the climactic moments. It's late -- about 11:30 -- and I'm about 4/5 of the way done with the room's first coat. I lean down to dip my paint pad in my paint tray . . . and my nano slips out of my pocket and submerges itself in a sea of purple.

Of course, I panic, yelling for Dave and running with the paint-logged nano up to the kitchen, dripping dark purple paint on the beige carpet as I go. I commenced washing the headphones; Dave got to work on de-painting the nano itself. The good news is that, while slightly purple-tinged (and ironically, I'd been thinking that it would be fun to paint the thing purple anyway), the nano was still working when we shut it down. The bad news is that not a small amount of paint got into the USB cable port. We're following the time-honored solution to wet electronics of letting it dry and waiting it out, and I'll be sleeping with my fingers crossed tonight. After all, how will I get through all the second coats waiting for me down in the basement without my trusty little white friend? I'm just kicking myself over and over again for dropping it in the first place. Only I could submerge a $200 piece of electronic equipment in purple paint.