31 August 2006

The Very First Thing

Anyone who's been to our house can appreciate our need to renovate the kitchen. It's not just ugly, it's as if someone found a bit of space and dragged in random cabinetry one day. The lower cabinets are not tacked to the wall at all, they're just standing on the floor. Pieces of formica countertop that almost fit rest atop them, held by gravity alone. Upper cabinets are fastened to the wall - just the plasterboard part...not to studs. There's a ragged hole in the ceiling where someone once punched through to get at the shower drain above. Rather than fix the hole, they put in a dropped ceiling. Probably the same person gave all the walls that he could see a single coat of paint. If you move any of the cabinets or counters (which happens everytime you bump into one), you see the unpainted parts. It's delightful. So, when we looked at this house to buy it, we agreed the very first thing we'd do is renovate the kitchen. Riiiiiiight.

In the two and a half years we've lived here, we've had mold remediation done twice (two separate areas), put on a new roof (rip-off/replace), installed a new furnace and hot water holding tank, upgraded our electrical service, replaced the original basement windows with glass block, moved a sliding glass door from the front to the back of the house (and rebuilt the wall where it was at first),
refinished floors in the den and hallway, built a new banister for the main stairs, put in a new well pump and installed a new surge tank. You may notice the very first thing we were going to do is not on the list of what we've accomplished so far.

A few months ago, we evaluated our finances and decided we could take out a home equity loan. We'd still have to be careful about the process but we'd FINALLY be able to do the kitchen! I did some research and we selected a loan and went through the mountains of paperwork and eventually got to the part where they gave us a satisfying pile of cash, in exchange for some of our blood and rights to a portion of our house if we're ever carted away. $$$!!

Ecstatic, I sent notes out to the architect asking to finalize the plans. I dug out information we've been saving from contractors and lined up a list of suppliers we'll need to call. Once or twice each week, I log in to our account and admire the balance. Then I log in to my "kitchen" spreadsheet and force myself to observe the difference between the money we expect to need and the money we actually have. There will still be some financial dancing, but we can manage it and we'll be managing it in a wonderful kitchen!

And then, a very nice guy called Steve cut in to my happy-about-the-kitchen dance today. We asked Steve over to look at our basement, in preparation for the coming wet season. I had visions of a couple of guys painting a few vats of sealant down there, and then we'd do a nice fresh coat of paint over it all and there you go. I, it turns out, know nothing about basement sealing. I'll be getting a crash course next week, though, when Steve's gang come by to repair and waterproof the basement. When they're done, we'll have a fabulous drainage system, two sump pumps, a Zamboni drain, a chipmunk waterslide, and all the exterior cracks will have been sealed. Steve says it will take a few weeks to get totally dried out but once it does, we'll be able to finish the basement off with confidence. Oh, and the corner footings to the house won't be caving in, either. So, we won't have a glorious kitchen anytime soon...but at least the house will stay standing while we save up for it.

28 August 2006

College Prep

Lunch discussion, over boxed mac-n-cheese and applesauce:

"What if there was a Rama* truck, like an ice-cream truck but full of Rama, that would come on our street?"

"And we'd see it and we'd get some money from Mama and then we'd run out and buy Rama! Right from the truck!"

"And then we'd eat it and go and get more Rama!"

"And the guy would say, 'Oh no! I'm out of Rama! I have to go to the grocery store - I'll be right back!'"

"That would be SO cool!"

*Rama = Ramen noodles, a current lunchtime love. Yellow is the favorite flavor, followed by red, with blue taking a distant third place. Chris won't allow pink into the house - apparently, even fake shrimp flavor comes under the ban.

As Lady Epiphany heads back to University for her first semester in a long time, she's reminding me of allllll the fun (orientation! tuition! dorms! fees!) I have to look forward to when my kids head off for college. Luckily, they won't go for another ten years, give or take. By then, maybe I'll have them prepared to face a bit more than just college food?

27 August 2006

Worm Race

Though she seldom bends to peer pressure, my sister-in-law has gone and started a blog of her own, Worm Race. Have a peek, a smile, and post a comment (...or five)!

23 August 2006

The Ants Come Marching Two by Two-hundred...

Each spring, we are visited by tiny ants in our kitchen. They come in somewhere behind the sink and are most frequently found on the counter beside the sink or in the dishwasher (how they get IN the dishwasher, I will never know...). We put down ant traps. We rinse dishes before stacking them in the dishwasher. We make sure all food is sealed away. Still, we have ants. Since it's the kitchen, we don't use ant spray but I have been known to zap them with Lysol now and again when I'm disinfecting the garbage container. Want to know what happens when you spray tiny kitchen ants with Lysol? They get wet. That's it. They continue on as they were, being ants, just wet and a little shiny for it. Recently, we've been using a line of bio-degradable, non-toxic cleaners around the house. I happened to be cleaning the counters one day and zapped a set of oncoming ants with the Method all-purpose spray I was holding. Want to know what happens when you zap tiny kitchen ants with bio-degradable, non-toxic, all-purpose cleaning spray? They drop dead. Instantly. The label says "not tested on animals," which leads me to believe the manufacturer might not know just how effective their all-purpose sprays (all three flavors) are at ant eradication. Think they'd want to know?

21 August 2006

Someday (like today) her prince will come...

After years of waiting for Just The Right Guy, I'm happy to report that my sister might have found him! A recent trip to his home state allowed her to meet his family and spend a few days relaxing at their cottage. Her reports of the weekend are glowing (as is she!) and she's looking forward to seeing them all again in the fall. Woo-woo!!

20 August 2006

*REAL* Money

We took the kids out to one of their favorite stores this afternoon, so they could choose something new to buy with their own money. Before going, I got each of them aside to count their spending money so we'd know how much they had. At seven, Ross is old enough to responsibly carry his own money, if he'd like. Still five, Lars doesn't get the option yet. After the reckoning and before we left the house, the boys compared amounts. Lars had more money overall but Ross had his in his pocket. Upon this discovery, Lars came to find me. He solomnly asked if he could be careful with his own money, too. Not the dollars, his real money - the circle kind.

Oh, for the innocent days when the circle kind was more important than paper or plastic!

18 August 2006

Dam it! ...or... More on Chipmunks

At dinner:

"Can chipmunks chew through cement with their teeth?"

"I don't think so, no. Why?"

"Because I've been using the cement we keep under the Carriage Tree to build the dams."

"The Carriage Tree??"

"The one by the Bilco door. The one I sit in like a carriage."

"Oh! That tree. We keep cement under it?"

"Yes, and the round red rocks."

"Of course, with the round, red rocks. Our masonry supplies are very organized. Now, what's this about a dam?"

"Chipmunk dams. I build the chipmunk dams out of cement. It will keep them in their holes."

17 August 2006

Parent Satisfaction

Our school district is getting a jump on the amazing heap of paperwork they send home during the first week of school by sending some of it to us in the mail two weeks ahead. The joy! Among the early arrivals is a "Parent Satisfaction Survey" which consists of ten multiple choice and five short essay questions that reminds me eerily of a Regent's exam. I'm filling out the form, with censorship advice from Chris. For example:

Do you feel that your children are safe in school? What steps do you feel may make our schools safer?

My answer: I feel my children are most threatened in school by the presence of potentially harmful substances such as peanuts (instruments of certain death) and berries (choking hazards). I feel that banning such substances from storage and use within a five mile radius of the school would be a strong step towards protecting our children from Darwinistic death.

Censored to: Yes.

How can the Board get people, without children in school, more involved?

My answer: More involved with what?

Censored with: an exasperated (or possibly strangled?) look.

What aspects of the School System provide you with the most satisfaction?

My answer: Summer vacation.

I think Chris would prefer that I refrain from actually submitting a response. Really! Don't ask if you don't want to know. 19 days until school begins and I'm already poised to cause trouble. I really, sincerely, did not want to be That Parent...

P.S. Jury is still out on whether the survey will be sent in.

16 August 2006

Vacation, all I ever wanted...

There's nothing like a five year old with a camera for a new perspective on a familiar landscape.
It's that way...

Fossils on the point - still cool!

Are you supposed to eat what's on the menu? Or is the menu supposed to eat you?

Scuba-dooba-here we go-scuba!

15 August 2006

Ice Cream! FROZEN Ice Cream!

Scheduled to arrive between 8:00am and 12:00pm on Monday, Refrigerator Repair Guy #4 appeared shortly after 1:00pm. At least he hit Monday. He glanced at the pile of parts sent here by previous repair guys, then pulled open the freezer. When the light didn't come on, he commented that he'd see if he had a new bulb in his truck. I told him not to bother - the lamp is fine; it just doesn't come on when the compressor is actually cooling because something in the switch freezes in the "off" position. I told him (as I've told all the other guys) that the freezer light coming on is the first sign of a defrost. He fiddled with the switch a bit, then disconnected it and disappeared to his truck, returning a while later with a new switch. He installed the new switch, explaining that the REAL problem we've been having is with the light. The switch had malfunctioned, keeping the light on even when the door was closed. The heat from the light was causing the compressor to overwork and eventually shut down to save itsself from burning out. Ummmm....sure. I must have looked pretty scary in my sincere effort not to say something I would regret in court, because he stopped talking about his light theory rather abruptly and turned his attention to the 36 pound pile of parts stacked up beside the fridge (28 lb compressor kit, two freezer drawer rails, 4 lb each). After a moment of consideration, he determined that he would go ahead and replace my compressor anyhow. And that he'd go ahead and install the new freezer drawer rails, too. Because they were here. And, possibly, because he realized that he might be twice my height and three times my weight but I would take him down if he didn't. Smart man. He spent the better part of three hours working on the fridge and I'm pleased to say that our fridge hasn't ever operated as quietly as it does now and, as a bonus, it's been keeping things cold for over 30 hours in a row! It hasn't done that since June! Chris bought ice cream today to celebrate and I'm off to get started on eating it...just in case.

11 August 2006

Mailing Lists

For some years now, I have been recreationally tracing the path of various mailing lists - you know, trying to figure out which company has sold my contact information to some new catalog that arrives unbidden. I have a friend who used to sign up for each new thing using a different middle initial so he could figure it out more easily. I'm not that organized, but I do use a different form of my name and will include a company name or title if I'm subscribing to something work related...which is why I'm very curious about the path of a brochure that just arrived, addressed to my home name at my home address, no company name or title: Columbian TecTank, for fire protection water storage tanks. The kind I can rely on to safeguard my liquid petrochemicals and wastewater. It gets more confusing when you consider the fact that my work junk mail trail tends to be electrical device related. Wire, backboxes, watertight connectors, conduit bending tools...but all that stuff comes to my work name, with my company or title attached. Has L.L.Bean's or Pottery Barn joined up with an industrial liquid enclosures gang?

10 August 2006

Current Tally

Number of spiders eliminated by myself: 9
  • Number that gave chase: 1
  • Number that made a horrible crunch: 2 (Location of crunchy spiders: Web-commune installed under the heels of my blue pumps. I wore blue Birkenstocks instead which was less unprofessional than having spider-shoe flashbacks during meetings (sorry, Buddha).)
Number of horrible (but pretty) beetles ruthlessly sprayed off the remains of the only two rose blooms we've had on the new red rose this year: 27

Number of kibbles Pixie missed her water dish with yesterday: 11
  • Number of ants who found the cat food: 31
  • Number who lived to tell their friends: 0 (For the record, Method spray cleaner (grapefruit or lavendar) works much better as an ant spray than Lysol. Method drops them in their tracks, Lysol just makes them wet.)
Number of days until the refrigerator is fixed: 4

Number of days until my boys get home: 3

Number of days until WTHS 2006: 1!!!!!!!!!!

07 August 2006


I get a week at home on my own!


1. House stays neat for 24 hours (or more!) in a row.
2. Pixie appears in more parts of the house than usual.
3. Quiet.
4. No bother about cooking.


1. Squish all your own spiders, no matter how large or hairy.
2. Quiet.
3. No bother about cooking.
4. Miss my boys (all three).
5. Miss my boys.
6. Miss my boys.

Four Minutes

The repair man was here exactly four minutes. He listened to my description of the problem over the last few months (fully documented on notecards), collected the model and serial numbers off the refrigerator, and said he'll be back next Monday to install a new compressor. No garbage about my kids hanging on the freezer drawer and bending the rails (which are steel, weigh four pounds apiece, and cannot be bent by 116 lbs jumping on them while suspended - I tried). Not cooling? Funny clicking and rattling with no resulting motor noise? Fan still running? Total defrost? Your compressor's shot.

Thank you, thank you. That's what I said six weeks ago...but what do I know about refrigerators? Well, I know they're really nice to have around in the summer time. Maybe next year I'll get to experience that again!

05 August 2006

Wild Thing

A helpful young hawk enjoying a chipmunk for dinner atop the dragon. We hope the chipmunk was very tasty so that the hawk will stick around to enjoy a few (dozen) more!

04 August 2006

Headcount, 10:24pm

One down.

Two dozing.

Two wishing they were down or dozing.

Two raring to go!

Thank god neither of those two can drive.

Thanker god we keep cars with manual transmissions.

Drun,k paryt of 7

Most people shrink when their mother-in-law is about to arrive. I rejoice! It generally means a good time will be had by all and I wonder about how to make our visits more frequent. Things I have learned:

1. If it cools down 20 degrees in a day, you still should rdrink water.

2. Id it comes in a box, it's proabably not water.

2. Have I mentioned my in-alws are fun?

4. Cousins too - they can take the train from LIRR and get here in time to meet us at the station by the AAA stadium for dinner. And drinks before. A lot of drinks before. And probably after. I don't know yet butr I'm guessing...

5. Given the choice between going to bed and drinking iwth the rest of us, the kids will pick drinking the rest of us, every time.

6. Chris loves me a lot when rdrunk. (sobre too...)

7. And he looses his phone.

02 August 2006

Sooooo...you want to keep something cold?

Two and a half years ago, we moved in to this house. Some of you may recall the hazy happy time we had moving, when we sold in September but couldn't get a new house until December? Well, in the four storage months, our then less than a year old refrigerator (from Sears) was left to rot - the movers spilled soda in the freezer part and then shut the door, thank you very much. A LOT of black stuff grows out of a puddle of sugar water in four months of darkness with limited air supply. A LOT. As I was not up to battling the black goo, we wrote it off (don't even talk to me about the hideous wrongness of the whole move...) and set out to get a new fridge.

On December 5th, we purchased the exact same model as the one that had rotted. They told us we could have it delivered on the 30th. Three weeks, plus the holiday. We slept on it and woke, determined to do better. We ventured over to a new store called The Great Indoors where we found a larger fridge that we liked better and that they could deliver a week sooner. Sign me up! Surprisingly, The Great Indoors turned out to be a Sears derivative and offered the same 12mos no payment/no interest deal if we used our Sears Card, which was great. They could also do the return on our first purchase without us having to go back to the original Sears store. Bonus! And so it was that on Christmas Eve, 2003 our refrigerator was delivered. I will never forget the date or the two weeks we went without a fridge, although it was December in the Northeast, so we were just using the back porch.

Flash forward a year. Our kids get a bit taller and more self-reliant and can open the fridge doors on their own. Every now and then, we find a door left ajar and, once, left hanging wiiiiiide open. Each time, we explained how important it is for the doors to stay Very Closed All The Time and life went on.

Once last year, the freezer door got left open (we think) and everything inside defrosted. We spent a day and a half cooking everything and a week consuming it. Frozen tartlet hors de vours! Pork chops! Chicken! Stew beef chunks! Corn! Peas! Anything not completely lost (ice cream, *sob*) was rendered into a meal or something that could become a meal. We didn't shop for about two weeks and it took a few months to stock the freezer up to my comfort point again.

In May of this year, the same thing happened. Pounds of meat suddenly needed to be cooked and consumed. Ice cream was a gloppy mess. Frozen fruit unfroze and spooged all over the freezer bottom. Totally delightful! (or not...)

In June, we finally ascertained that it's not the fault of the children leaving doors open and called Sears for a service appointment. They scheduled a date three weeks (!!) away saying they were totally booked and couldn't possibly do any better. On the day, their tech skipped the call and was another five days before they could squeeze us in on an "emergency" basis. The tech actually appeared for the second visit, said pish-tosh we don't have a compressor problem, just the rails for our drawer freezer are bent so the door isn't closing right. I was skeptical that a bad seal on the freezer could cause full disfunction of the entire refridgerator/freezer but he's the tech, right? He ordered us two new rails and showed us how to install them - an easy snap-in sort of thing. We paid him for the visit and the rails, which he said would be at our house in two days. Six days later, ONE rail showed up. Two days after that, I called parts to see when the second rail would get here.

Currently, we're in the fifth week of twice weekly thaws and I've stopped keeping anything truly perishable or likely to breed salmonella (100° and humid is not an optimal storage condition for, say, chicken). The third service call is still a week and a half away, the second rail still isn't here, and the supervisor of our regional service center greets me by name when my number flashes up on his caller ID.

Aside from all the regular reasons why this rots (literally), we have guests coming tomorrow. Hopefully they will appreciate not getting food poisoning more than they will not appreciate being served a variety of canned or boxed food where I'd ordinarily offer fresh. Did you know they still make powdered milk? I thought that went out in the '70s...

Things I learned today

Things I learned today:

1. How to make a conference call on my cell phone.

2. My cell phone gets hot when abused. Really hot, like I could cook an egg on it. Which I'm tempted to do because then, maybe, it would stop working and then people couldn't call and frustrate the )&*(^&* out of me.

3. There really is such a thing as "too hot to be naked," and it's happening here in case you'd like to check it out for yourself.

4. Buying a refrigerator from Sears is not a great idea. I'm not sure buying one from anyone else would be better, but I know for certain that Sears is astonishingly unhelpful when something goes wrong.

5. My kids actually are adorable and good! At least sometimes... :P


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