Sunday, June 25, 2006

The dust settles

This weekend was a big one with the addition. It was drywall time. Nick and Paul, two Italian, round, and very, very sweaty gentlemen spent the weekend hanging all seventy-six sheets of drywall in the entire space. They arrived Saturday, 8am, did the mudroom and workshop in about ninety minutes, and promptly left for the day because Nick had a leaky toilet emergency back home. They swore they'd come back on Sunday to finish. The next morning arrived, and there they were. They spent the next ten hours working, sweating, and sweating some more, and did the whole danged thing. Now our kids love to run around the new space yelling at the top of their lungs, to see how loud they can make the echo sound.

Speaking of kids, Nick and Paul got a good kick out of them Saturday morning as the kids ate breakfast. Natalie and Jessica were playing the "I love you" game. This is when They say, "I love you sissy" back and forth to each other over and over again, and throw in a few for mommy and daddy. Something tells me they watch too much Barney. So Nick and Paul, the Sweaty Italian Drywall Hangers, got in on the game with lots of, "I love you Nick! No, I love you Paul! You complete me Nick! You make me love myself, Paul" for the next hour.

Or maybe the kids had nothing to do with that. who knows. I've never met these guys before.

So as the dust settles (literally), we prepare for more dust. The next stage of the game is taping the drywall. For those who don't know, taping involves spreading the white goop (that's a real term) on all the screw holes and joints, sanding it down, and repeating twice more over a period of a week until the walls are ready for priming and painting. This process creates an unbelievable amount of dust. Can't wait.

On another note, it seems I'm a regular with the Ladies Of Home Depot. In the past two months I've been to HD virtually every day. Yesterday I passed by the kitchen and bath section, and one of the ladies at the design counter yelled, "Hey Mr. Daninhirsch, what's it gonna be today?". A few minutes later at the special services counter, a woman looked at the address on my paperwork and said, "oh, you're doing the big addition!"

I once read an article, in Business Week I think, that stated part of Home Depot's business model is that they expect to get $21,000 of each customer's money in the customer's lifetime. I think I'm starting to see why.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Ugh! Nosebleed!

It was Memorial Day. Our friend Paula was having a BBQ, so we spent the afternoon there, enjoying the festivities. Eventually the time came to leave, so we hit the road for the five-minute drive back home. Halfway into it Natalie announced, "Jessica's nose is bleeding!"

We turned around to see this torrent of blood streaming from her face. Her shirt was crimson, her hands were covered in it, her car seat was streaked. My wife reached back to see what she could do, and I soon pulled over, slid back the van door, and attempted the old clamp-n-clot on her.

Do you have any idea how hard it is to hold the nose of a two-year-old for more than two seconds?

Well, after what seemed like a day but more likely was about a minute, we decided it just wasn't stopping. conveniently, we were only one block from the local hospital, so we decided a visit to the ER would be in order. Besides, bringing in a kid covered in her own blood was worth moving to the front of the line, no?

Thirty seconds later we were in the parking lot, and as I took Jessica out of the car I noticed the gushing seemed to have stopped. However, we were already in motion, and just decided to continue in to the triage area.

We spent the next 45 minutes in the waiting area, wondering if we should just say the heck with it, chalk it up to your basic nosebleed, and leave. Just as we were getting up to leave, the nurse called us in. we then spent another half hour again wondering if we should just leave, and as we got up to leave the doc walked in. It's like they were watching us.

So after almost an hour and a half, the diagnosis was a nosebleed. That's one afternoon we'll never get back.

Oh and what reminded me to write this was the bill from the hospital. While we are only liable for the $50 ER fee, the total bill to insurance was $364.50. For a nosebleed.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Some movie reviews

I've been meaning to catch up on a few movie reviews. As always, I try to review movies for the purpose of letting parents know whether or not they are appropriate for small children. I'll avoid getting into the details of the story, but instead focus on whether or not you, as a parent, will survive the afternoon without being dragged from the theatre by a disturbed toddler. Two outta three ain't bad...

Pixar's latest flick is a lot of fun. Zero scary characters, lots of jokes both for kids and for adults (including a vast number of inside jokes), and astounding animation. It's educational, as well, teaching kids everything they need to know about Nascar, the history of Route 66, and cow tipping. If you go, make sure to stay through the credits (ALL the credits) for some extra treats.

Over The Hedge
This movie was a blast as well. It was totally unexpected how good it was. Since some of you may not know what the story is about, I will summarize by explaining that it focuses on a group of small forest animals who wake up after a long winter's nap to discover that their home has been surrounded by urban development. Discovering that there's no food left to gather because there's no woods, they are convinced by a visiting racoon that there is a virtual Xanadu just over the hedge and into one of the developments, where suburban dwellers throw out more than they actually use. The movie is incredibly well written, the animation is crisp and clear, the music and jokes are fabulous, and there's even a lesson to be learned about urban sprawl and waste.

I do have one complaint about Over The Hedge, however, which is that the racoon starts off the movie being threatened with death by a big mean grizzly bear. The bear, played by Nick Nolte, is unnecessarily scary for little kids, and its lines were badly chosen ("If you don't come back in a week, I will catch you and KILL you"). The writers could have achieved a better effect making him more comical, while still getting the same point across. And they would have avoided making parents have to hold their kids down to keep them from running out of the theatre. But if you kid starts to run, hold him down, the rest of the movie is more than worth it.

Skip this paragraph if you don't want one small spoiler. I have to say they stole one of my running jokes. At one point an animal asks his friends what this big new thing (the hedge) is in their forest. Another answers with, "I don't know, but I will call it 'Steve.'" That's my line. I call everything Steve. Steve's gonna be the name of our next dog. Our kids and the rest of the theatre had to hush my wife and me after that, as we were laughing way too hard and no one really knew why.

Chicken Little
We rented this yesterday and previewed it before deciding whether to show it to our 5-year-old. After viewing, we decided against it. This is a very amusing, goofy movie that adults (especially SCRUBS or Zach Braff fans) will find very funny. But there's a lot of scary stuff. Animals panicking, aliens with spinning razor blades chasing panicking animals, and screams of death and dispair (though no one dies). Too bad, it's got some really funny stuff in it. If your kid can handle some mild violence, then this movie shouldn't be a problem. But if they still can't handle that opening scene in Finding Nemo, forget it.

Our Green House and Arnie Palmer's Poop

Boy, the things that can happen when you go away for a week. I schlepped the wife and squirts to CT for the week to visit the family and, while we were gone, Bob The Builder had the run of the place. As a result, the house changed color and some walls are now missing.

Bob started hanging the new siding, the color of which we agonized over for days. We were determined to replace the gawdawful baby-blue siding with something a little nicer, but didn't want to go with the tan, beige, or otherwise generic color that most of the other houses in our neighborhood have. We also didn't have the budget to go with anything pricey like James Hardie siding (made of concrete..never needs to be replaced or painted. Beautiful stuff), and certainly weren't about to go with the pink stucco look of our neighbor's house. So we opted for green. Which of course was the most expensive of the samples Bob gave us.

On the inside, Bob ripped out the kitchen walls to open up the new space. When we came home to see it, we were somewhat awestruck. Suddenly it's real. We've got a huge living space! And, oy, a lot of flooring to put in and furniture to buy.

But the real fun happened yesterday. A truck came and delivered seventy-six 12-foot sheets of drywall (yes, that's 76 sheets). I need this truck. Its boom was able to pick up the sheets, carry them over the corner of the house, and pass them through the hole in the third floor without ever leaving the driveway. That would be really handy for getting the kids off the swingset and in for dinner.

By the way, I've been meaning to tally up the wiring project. Turns out we put in 1300 feet of wire, and about 70 boxes (outlets, switches, etc). Once this is all said and done, I think I'm going to start doing lectures on how to properly budget for a home improvement project, cuz the magazines don't do the subject justice. For example, yesterday we went to the local bath gallery in search of a sink, toilet, and shower door. I was stunned to find out that a door for our $350 shower would cost $890. Luckily we found a nice one several hundred dollars cheaper at Home Depot, but that was still six hundred bucks.

Toilet shopping was fun. My wife had no criteria really - she just wanted something with a seat that would automatically lower when I left the bathroom. That aside, it was up to me. Turns out there are a few basic criteria, to finding the right toilet. First, do you want a round bowl, or an elongated one? My wife couldn't understand the benefits of the elongated bowl. I had to delicately explain why the extra space in an elongated bowl is handy. For guys, anyway. Well, at least for me. Ya know what I'm talkin' bout? Do ya? Am I right? Yeah man....

Sorry anyways, the next question is height. There's "standard height", and "right height". Right height is about three inches higher, allegedly saving you squatting effort (and thus valuable time), shortening the target distance, and perhaps keeping your legs from falling asleep when you get engrossed in a good story in Reader's Digest. The drawback supposedly is that toddlers' legs tend to dangle. Well, screw 'em, this is my throne, not theirs.

The last characteristic is how many golf balls can flush down the toilet in one shot without clogging it, or what I refer to as the "Arnold Palmer Crap Quotient". And believe it or not that number tends to be in the mid twenties. Now I'll tell ya what, the day I crap 25 golf balls is the day I stop eating my mother's stuffed cabbage.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Kaddish For Fez

Alas, Fez the gecko has passed. It happened quickly in the night. We think. Or perhaps it happened days ago. geckos don't move much, really. He coulda been dead for days.

We're currently visiting the family in CT, and staying at my sister's house. This morning, as I was finishing up my shower, I happened to look out the window to see my twelve-year-old niece Tova walking across the back yard with a small box in her hands. She seemed to be searching for something. My first thought was she was looking for bugs to feed Fez and his lady-gecko-friend. But then I saw Tova's dad following behind, carrying a shovel. Uh Oh. Any time a dad with a shovel follows a kid with a box, it can only mean tragedy.

I quickly threw on my clothes and shoes and headed outside, in time to witness the first shovelfuls of dirt being laid atop the cigar-box coffin containing Fez, the gecko with a sex drive that knew no boundaries. Tova then disappeared around the corner, came back with flowers and laid them atop the gravesite. She finished it off with stones, spelling out Fez's name in the gravel. It was all very touching. Tears flowed, we said Kaddish, dads thought about wasted money on gecko surgery, and older sisters thought about weirdo younger sisters. A classic tale.

It seems that, after Fez had impregnated Art again last week with twins, Art decided she's had enough of this trailer-trash, stay-at-home-mom lifestyle. Evidence showed that she offed Fez by burying his water bowl, forcing him into massive dehydration. Whether there was an insurance policy to collect, or perhaps another younger, peppier, and perhaps richer gecko with even bigger testicles off to the side, only time will tell. But it meant the end of Fez, and most likely another trip to the pet store for dad.

Here lies Fez.
Fez was a gecko.
A gecko with big balls.
Huge balls. And an inside-out-ass.
Father of three.
Husband to Art.
Fez lived a good, but short life. Got his groove on at least twice.
Rest in peace, Fez

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

A stress free vacation

While the cats are away, the mice shall play. At least I hope not. We're headed on a week's vacation to see the family in CT, thus giving the mice (if there are any left) and the ants the run of the place. While we're away, Bob The Builder is going to be insulating, ripping down the walls of the kitchen, hanging drywall, and hanging the siding. We'll be lucky if we can find the right house when we get back.

Head Shop?

This is great news. Our new bathroom vanity will be delivered on Tuesday. Looks like I'm gonna spend a lot of time in the bathroom....

Monday, June 12, 2006

A washing machine for humans

You know, this thing makes a lot of sense. We do it to our dishes. To our clothes. Why not to ourselves? Most importantly, I think this would reduce a lot of bath-time stress in our house. Instead of the kids splashing around, arguing about who gets the Ariel Mermaid doll, thrashing around in an attempt to avoid removal from the tub, and tracking wet throughout the house, we could just lock 'em in one of these and walk away. Come back ten minutes later and a day's worth of sunscreen, ice cream sandwich-stained fingers, Crayola-painted knees, a dribbled Hi-C would be gone.

Make sure to check out the first-hand (translated)account from It's very amusing.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Happy anniversary, honey, I got you an electrical inspection!

Yes, today's our 8th anniversary. Thanks to everyone for your cards and letters. We'll just assume they were late coming through the mail and we should see them in the next day or so.

So we made it through the itch year, unless you count the addition to the house as the itch. One big itch. So anyway, I took today off to finish the gruelingly long project of electrical wiring. When I felt I was close to being done, I called the number my electrician had provided me to set up a meeting with the electrical inspector. I figured he'd give me a time in the next several days. Well, it so happened that he was about five blocks away from the house when I called him, so he said, "sure, be there in a minute."

That was a good thing. It got the inspection out of the way with no time to stress about it. You see, this electrical project has been fairly daunting. I'm no electrician, but I've picked up tips here and there, and my dad and I felt we were up to the challenge of wiring the whole addition ourselves, leaving the heavy-duty dangerous stuff for the electrician. So as mentioned in previous posts, we spent an entire week mapping out wiring routes and schlepping to Home Depot, spending hundreds of dollars on wire, romex connectors, boxes, light fixtures, and the like. At first it felt pretty crazy. Every time I whipped out the HD Mastercard I felt like this whole project was just bleeding us of money. But after a while, it was water off a duck's back. Eh, another hundred here, another hundred there. All told, we're into the electrical for probably twelve hundred bucks. Meanwhile, most of the advice I got from the electrician when I called him was, "oh, I wouldn't have done it like that. Yeah, the inspector might have a problem with it" Gee thanks. Next time, a few more specifics please.

So back to the inspection. What a racket. This guy shows up, I explain the whole project and what we did, and start the tour. He asked me where our grounding rods are. I said, "our what?" He said grounding rods are pounded into the ground several feet from the house, and a ground wire is run to them from the circuit panel. I told him this house was built during my Bar Mitzvah, so I couldn't even guess where they would be. Somehow he accepted that as an answer and that they probably existed. The whole tour took all of ten minutes, most of which time was spent counting the number of outlets, switches and lights we put in. I assumed that was to make sure there weren't too many on one circuit. Wrong. It was to determine how much to bill me for the inspection. You see, the base inspection price of $80 includes X number of "boxes", and for each additional there's a separate charge. So in total the inspection was $125. Hey, that's almost the price of a box of wire. And after a week of worrying if the wires were stapled neatly enough, or if they were stapled far enough away from the face of the stud, or if there were too many circuits or not enough, or if the right kind of wire was used in the right place, he looked at none of that. Just counted boxes.

In the end, he told me I need to make one small change. You see we're moving the kitchen table into the new family room area, making it sort of a dinette. That was a bad thing to tell him, because it means that any outlets near the table need to be 20amp instead of 15amp (which means running a thicker wire). It seems they think perhaps we'll be making smoothies, playing with our daughters' Lite Brite, and powering a generator simultaneously at the kitchen table, thus drawing too much power to our table while we drink our smoothies. Dang. I shoulda told him it was just a family room. Well, could have been worse. I could have told him about the nuclear accelerator I was planning on building in the workshop, but I avoided that subject.

Another milestone that occurred today was being able to retrieve our collection of pots, buckets, and tupperware from the new space. Bob The Builder completed the roof, so it's no longer leaking every time it rains. And believe me, I know EVERY place that it's been leaking, since it's rained almost every day for a month now.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Latest varmint

Boy, between robins, geckos, and mice I'm not sure if this blog is about parenting, renovation, or hunting.

The critter of the day is ants. No big surprise. Summer is about here, and the house is wide open due to various missing walls and such. We're currently being visited by some of the largest carpenter ants we've ever seen. Their size makes them easy to kill, but I gotta wonder. Why is it that you never see ants come from one location. For example, I killed one on the kitchen countertop, one on the stove, and one on the closet door. Scan the room...all clear. Then all of a sudden, there's one in the middle of the floor. How did he get there without me seeing him walk across the room? he wasn't there a second ago. Does he have a teleporter? Was he beamed here from some alien planet in another dimension? It's al very mysterious.

The construction news of the day is rain. Rain, rain, and more rain. We seem to have a good drenching thunderstorm once a day at least. Every plastic bin or unused kitchen pot is serving double duty in the new space catching drips. I've begged and pleaded with the builder to do the roof and siding next, so I can stop stressing about it. I'm starting to dream about gathering two of every animal. We've got our first windows in, and Monday is a big day - the day Bob breaks through the hallway, creating a door to the bedroom. This means that not only do we no longer have to enter the new bedroom via the window, but it also means that Hilary can no longer sleep in when the builders come at 7:30am, because they're gonna be entering the work site from just outside the bedroom door.

It's a damned shame...

Throwing away a perfectly good superhero like that....