Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The ties that bind...update

I'll bet some of you out there think I make the stories for this blog up just for my own amusement. Well, sure I do, but sometimes I can't help but hit the nail so squarely on the head it's scary. Only a couple minutes after writing last night's post, it was time to get the squirts to bed. This of course meant time for them to come up with any trick they could in order to delay the process. Last night's distraction was for Natalie to gather her collection of nail polish bottles (really? an eight-year-old has a nail polish collection? I'm surprised she hasn't installed a stripper pole in the playroom) and organize them in the new bathroom cabinet. As I walked up the stairs I heard, "Dad! The crystal gem fell off the top of this bottle. Can you glue it?"

"Sure honey, let me check inventory on 'crystal gem adhesives' first. Meanwhile, give me the bottle and I will put it on the mantel so it doesn't get lost."

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The ties that bind

Funny thing about being a dad. For some reason kids think that you can fix absolutely ANYTHING with glue. Princess tiara get stepped on? Just glue it back together. Barbie head keeps falling off? Just glue it in place. Hole ripped in that special bumblebee pillow? Glue it closed, of course. Sometimes I think my kids could break wind and expect me to glue it back together.

Of course, any expert will tell you that gluing the gangly neck of a top-heavy giraffe carved from stale Play-Doh back together is about as effective as trying to get the Large Hadron Collider to run on used cooking oil and chicken droppings. Sure, there's a glue out there for every substance known to man (and even a website devoted to gluing things to other things), but who really has the wherewithal to collect 147,000 different kinds of adhesives?

Over the past few years of owning children, I've found an easy solution to this problem of what to do with their broken crap.

Don't fix it.

Actually, there's more to this fiendish plan. Allow me to explain.

Let's say your daughter spends the entire morning constructing an exact, to-scale replica of the Chrysler Building out of toothpicks and Irish Spring with individually-painted Teddy Grahams representing the pedestrians of New York City milling about the base. And let's say that perhaps the structural integrity of her creation is about equal to that of a Jenga game perched atop a bobble-head. All of a sudden, the radio tower at the top of the building comes loose, dropping to the kitchen floor like last night's macaroni. Be prepared for the scream of horror. The tears. The distraught waif proclaiming that she worked all day building this special just for mommy, and life just isn't worth living now. What do you do?

First course of action is not to panic. Give your daughter plenty of praise regarding how beautiful her construction is, even if it truly looks more like Smokey The Bear than the Chrysler Building. Then tell her that you think this is something that is easily fixable, and that you've had radio towers break on you ALL the time, especially back when you used to have that hobby of building Chrysler Buildings for homeless people back in Connecticut. Tell her you've got a plan, one that may involve a trip to the local adhesives store the next day. Take her construction project, and place it safely on the mantle, or a high bookshelf...anywhere higher than the normal sight-line of a five-year-old. Then, let your child continue on with her day in blissful innocence, knowing she will have completely forgotten about it by lunchtime. It helps to place a shiny object in front of her as well.

Six months from now, when you're cleaning up the mantel and come across that dusty model of the Chrysler Building with the rotten globs that used to be Teddy Graham pedestrians surrounding it, rest assured it can be tossed with the knowledge that your child will never remember it existed. She's already built a bigger, better structure, an exact replica of the U.S.S Constitution. And that mermaid on the bow, the one she carved out of the sole of an old pair of Crocs? Yeah, it just fell off.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Someone call an ornithologist!

Will someone please explain this to me? Three weeks ago we discovered a bird residing in a hanging flower pot outside our front door. I call her our Pot Bird. In those three weeks, we've never seen her leave the pot, even to obtain food. She's definitely alive and well. We've only gone within a couple feet of her, trying not to bother her, but she's not terribly afraid of us. Are there any ornithologists out there who can tell me a)what kind of bird this is, b)when we should expect her to leave and c)whether we should clean up the guest bedroom in preparation for a visit from her family once the eggs hatch (I'm assuming there are eggs, I have not seen them)?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Thus ends week one

Wow, that was a quick week. It ended on a fine note...happy hour yesterday with thirty or so of my former coworkers forcing Sam Adams White Ale down my accepting gullet. This evening spent reading Unemployment Compensation Benefits paperwork from Uncle Sam. I can't decide which made my head spin more. But some personal thanks to those diehards who made sure I never went thirsty and also made sure I didn't end up sleeping in the gutter with the hotpants-and-stilletos-wearing homeless guy.

The clean-out of the office went smoothly. It took about two hours, and perhaps it was poor timing that I chose "bring you child to work day" to do it. At least one kid was overheard saying, "Mommy, why is that man taking all the things out of his office?"

"Because, little Timmy, he's demonstrating that if you get good grades, go to college, and work real hard you too can be on unemployment."

14 years of crap is now sitting on my dining room table, including several gems:

>An original Palm Pilot
>My Timex Sinclair 1000
>My framed certificate proving my attendance at Mead Paper Knowledge, a course held in Escanaba, Michigan designed to teach you everything you can do with paper including rolling it up and smoking the contents inside.
>A folder full of newsletters from the early years at my company, circa 1995, when there were were only about two dozen of us. Looking though it made me realize that from that era, four are still at the company, one's an accessory to attempted murder, and two are deceased.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Day 1: a day of firsts

I guess it's good that it rained all day today. Last Friday, when I lost my job, it was beautiful and sunny outside. Great day for blowing off work, taking a bike ride, or mowing the lawn. But today, the weather was miserable, and that fit in well with my to-do list. Rather than be distracted by the sunshine, I was able to focus on a few important tasks:

1. Going back to bed.
2. Going to the gym for the first time in two years.
3. dusting off the resume.

These were three things I have not done in years. For example, typically I annoy the crap out of my wife every morning by setting the alarm for some obscene hour simply because it seems like a good time to get up and get things done. After all, if I wake up early I've found that I can put an entire coat of paint on the bathroom wall before the kids get up in the morning, whereas once they are awake they become enough of a distraction to make that same coat of paint take about three weeks to apply. But today was different. Today I woke up without the alarm at my normal time, but after a quick performance of my morning constitutional I crawled back into bed. That lasted approximately three minutes before Jessica bellowed from down the hall that it was time for her to be seen. Well, it was the thought that counts.

Later that morning, I took on a new responsibility, that of dropping Jessica off at preschool. There were all the moms, with their pitying looks of sorrow on their faces, looking at me as if I was a tiny kitten that had just gotten one ear entrapped in a box fan. Hmm...I may have to work that in the future, I'm just not sure how without getting in trouble with my lovely wife.

After dropoff, the administrator at the Temple roped me into helping him return some tables we'd borrowed for a fund raising event over the weekend. As I stood in the rain under cover of the van's open tailgate, waiting for him to come outside, I had an odd feeling. It was the feeling that I didn't have to BE ANYWHERE right now. Woah. That's new.

From there it was off to the gym. Health clubs take on a whole different attitude in between rush hours. Gone are the corporate yes-men getting in their morning exercise before donning their blue shirts and ties. Gone are the doctors who have been there since 5am swimming. No, after the rush hour ends, the gym becomes inhabited with a completely different clientele. Old people. Lots, and lots of old people. Frankly, that's not a bad thing. With my scrawny frame these people look at me as if I'm some sort of greek Olympiad. At least, that's what I will keep thinking to myself.

The afternoon was spent attempting to summarize the last 14 years of efforts into two pages of text. I started by digging out my old resume. It blew my mind to see that the last resume was written before including an email address on it was accepted practice.

Tomorrow's events should be just as entertaining for me. On the list of firsts will be my first cell phone purchase in 14 years (I've always carried a company phone), my first visit to a career center, and an afternoon spent shoveling out a decade and a half of stuff from my office drawers. And it's going to rain again tomorrow. Perfect.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A New Chapter

This evening marks a new chapter in my my life. Only a few minutes ago, I completed submitting my application for Unemployment Compensation Benefits. Yes, I have become another statistic in this economy, an unemployed husband and dad. I received that special folder from HR this past Friday telling me that my 14 years with the same employer have come to an end. Not with fanfare, not with a military flyover, but with a nice severance package and a slight hope that if business picks up, perhaps I might get a call to come back.

I'd seen this coming for a while now. The economy sucks, the industry sucks. I can't fault my former company for this. Everyone's heard the same stories over and over on the news lately. As cutbacks approached, I put myself in my boss' shoes many times and usually came up with the same conclusion he did. So there I was. On the deck in the middle of a Friday afternoon, enjoying an Oktoberfest. Ironic, since October is when the benefits run out.

Perhaps I'm an idiot. Perhaps I'm in shock. But the fact is, I'm a bit giddy about this. While I haven't done a lick of job hunting in 14 years, and the last copy of my resume is so yellowed that it resembles the Gettysburg Address, I'm frankly excited by this opportunity. I've got a chance to go out and find that new life, form new goals, and take on new opportunities. Since it's only been a day, I'm going to ignore all those horror stories about people getting laid off throughout the country and being unable to find jobs, and I'm going to go with the expectation that one way or another I will manage a successful outcome to this new adventure. And guess what. You're coming along for the ride.

Like I said, this is a new chapter in life and parenthood, and it's certainly a good excuse for some meaningful blogfodder. No, you're not going to see anything flaming my former company or coworkers here, I've got too much respect for the folks there and not enough stupidity to do something like that. Instead, I think this will be a good opportunity to map out the adventure, perhaps clue some folks in on what it's like to be free from The Man for (hopefully just a few) months, and get reconnected with my wife, kids, and life outside the office. Oh, and if you're hiring, let me know. I work for food.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Our newest squatter

We came home yesterday to discover this (click the pic to zoom in)

Apparently to some, a hanging flower basket on the porch might seem like a good place to make a nest. We didn't dare disturb the little bugger, but she did not budge despite the ruckus my kids made over this. Yes, she's alive, and I assume there are eggs underneath her. I wonder what's going to come first...the hatching of the eggs or the sprouting of the perennials in that basket? Either way our front porch is making for some unique entertainment.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Planned Obsolescence

It seems the honeymoon is over for my beloved new Subaru. Why you ask? Is it falling apart on me? No, it's running perfectly. Does the gas mileage suck? Well, sure, but I knew that going in. Did I accidentally drive it into the side of a UPS Truck? No, still on the straight and narrow. So what's wrong?

I learned yesterday that the Subaru's iPod interface is obsolete. Tragic, right? Can you believe? I'm not sure how I'm going to get through my days here.

A little back story. When we went shopping for a new car, one of the criteria on my list was to have relatively advanced iPod integration, allowing me to control the iPod through the stereo. The Subaru came with a dealer-installed kit allowing me to control the iPod utilizing the "satellite" functions on the radio. Lousy interface, but it accomplished the task. I should also point out that I knew, going in, that my 5-year-old iPod was not compatible with this setup, and that my wife would have to surrender her beloved iPod nano for the cause. Some day I will tell her that I stole it from her. But that's another story.

So, speaking of other stories, this week I received a surprise birthday gift, from my daughters, of a shiny new iPod Touch. Yay! Fun. Now, bear in mind that the only member of the family allowed to purchase technology is myself, so in actuality I purchased it and gave it to my wife so she could wrap it up so the kids could surprise daddy. But of course, before I did that, I made sure to load it up with all my tunes pics, etc so it would be ready to go right out of the box. I am a sneaky one, to be sure.

The evening before my birthday, I perused the day's mail and found the latest piece of advertising propaganda from Subaru. There it was on page 11. An "Alert" stating that Apple has changed it's charging mechanisms and, while the newer iPods would still work with the subaru integration kit, they won't charge through it.

Honey! Time to trade in the new car!

In other car-related news, I thought I'd share an interesting tale of road hazards. The other day I was on a business trip to Columbus, driving the aforementioned Subaru. It was 6am, still dark out, and a coworker and I were zipping down the highway still waking up. All of sudden a large object appeared in the headlights, and I panic-swerved but hit it head-on at 70 mph. Luckily, it was a just a large piece of plastic sheeting, about the thickness of dry-cleaning plastic. When I ran over it I never saw it exit behind the car, but after the sudden moment of panic passed we didn't think about it again.

Later that day we got back into the car to head home from our destination. As soon as we pulled out of our parking space we knew something was amiss. Our first thought was a flat tire, due to the loud thunking sound. So I immediately stopped, and we got out to check. All the tires appeared fine. Thinking that this was extremely odd, I got in to pull forward while my coworker watched from the outside. He immediately knew what was wrong. "Remember that piece of plastic?" he asked. "It's balled up and wedged in between your wheel and the brake drum. I got out to look, and there it was, wound up in a tight ball and wedged in next to the brake caliper. Every time the wheel turned it jammed itself up tighter against the brake. It came out easily enough after I backed up a few inches, but moral of the story...if you run over something and you don't see it in your rearview mirror, you might want to get out and check.

The Festering Craphole is Complete

Only six short months into my two week bathroom renovation project, I'm finally done. The festering craphole is no more. The cabinets are painted and installed, the Kissie Fish is hung on the wall, and we're ready for our new undersea-themed throne room to be taken over by those two aquatic creatures in the house that don't yet know how to brush their teeth without getting toothpaste on the ceiling.

Except for some assistance with floor demolition and electrical wiring from dear old dad, this project was a solo one. Though we decided not to touch the tub, I ripped out everything else and installed a new floor, wainscoting, sink, toilet, and cabinets. The three pieces of cabinetry I built myself, using ideas garnered from an article I found in Workbench Magazine.

Throughout the painting, tiling, plumbing and cabinetry process, I learned a few things that I thought I would share with my adoring public...

A two week project will likely take more than two weeks. This goes without saying I know, but i'll say it nonetheless.

Mouse hunting can easily add an additional week to the length of the project.

Avoid getting input on color schemes from your young daughters. That is, unless you like orange and green walls with purple fixtures.

Store-bought seashells can easily be passed off as ones you supposedly obtained scouring the shores of Cape Cod in hopes of making your daughters happy.

Pedestal sinks are easier to install than regular ones, but you can save yourself some grief by installing the faucet on the sink BEFORE you attach the sink to the wall.

You can buy one of every plumbing part Home Depot has to offer in one trip, and you will STILL need to go back there for one more thing before you're done.

Toilets and sinks are apparently designed to leak after the first two attempts to install, but will work fine afterwards.

When putting that little magnet catch on the back of the medicine cabinet door, make absolutely sure you don't run the screw right through the mirror.

General Finishes
makes a polyacrylic clearcoat that you can put on painted furniture, making the furniture virtually indestructible. I would like to paint every surface of my house and car with this stuff. I'd drink it if I could.

If your daughters want to help, let them. Just avoid the final painting stage. Give them a screw to twist, or a clamp to squeeze. One little project to do will give them a huge amount of pride in their creation, and it will also enable them to take credit for the entire project once it's done.

Custom cut glass is not expensive and easily obtainable. The same is true for custom mirrors. This is especially useful to know when you have to replace the one you broke while installing the magnet catch on your medicine door.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Fine Woodworking's Box contest

I dream of one day having the time, patience, and skill to do something like some of these folks did. The winner received a Steel City Table Saw with a granite top. That'd be easy to get into the basement.