Category Archives: Husbandry

Handyman

Yesterday my wife had wakened in the pre-dawn hours, packed up the youngest and headed to Virginia for our niece’s baptism.  I stayed home with the oldest two kids because they had various things scheduled for the weekend, including my daughter’s soccer game.  Well we had torrential rains so the game ended up being cancelled which left me with something I’m not accustomed to: a Saturday afternoon with nothing scheduled. I decided to take the opportunity to get some things off of my to-do list.

First up was assembling the dresser we’d purchased for the youngest’s room.  We bought it from God-forsaken Wal-Mart almost a month ago, but I hadn’t had the chance to put it together and it was weighing on me.  I opened up the box and was pleasantly surprised to find instructions that informed me that I’d need exactly one tool for the job, a hammer.  “Whoa,” I thought, “this is a job even I can handle!”

I continued unpacking the box and neatly aligning all the pieces, found my hammer, and set to work.  I had the first three pieces together in no time and was trying to get the fourth piece on when I messed up.  I misaligned the male metal bracket of one piece with the female metal bracket of the other and they got stuck.  So I pulled and tugged and finally got them to separate with a real hard yank.  Unfortunately my index finger got in the way and one of the brackets opened it up right nicely with an inch long gash that was deep enough that you could see things you ought not to be able to see.

I went into the kitchen to rinse it out and realized that I might need to get it looked at, especially when I couldn’t get my hand to stop shaking.  Honestly it didn’t hurt, but it looked nasty and I figured the shaking was my body’s way of telling me I’d royally screwed up.  So I recruited the oldest to help me bandage everything in place and then headed to see the folks at Davie Hospital.

We use Davie regularly because even though it’s twice the distance than either Forsyth or Baptist it is never crowded and you can usually be in and out in under an hour.  Since it was a Saturday they were busier than usual, but I was out of there in about 90 minutes.  They had a med student look at me and she wasn’t sure if I needed stitches or if we could get away with glueing it so she recruited a full-fledged doctor to look at it.  His judgment was I just needed cleaning, steri-strips and a tetanus shot.  So a student nurse gave me the shot and cleaned out the gash, and then the doctor returned to show the student how to steri-strip it, all the while engaging me in a cynical discussion of the impending economic doom being foreshadowed in Washington.  It was a lot of fun.

The doctor also put a splint on the finger to prevent bending, and thus reopening the wound.  They sent me on my way with instructions to keep my finger clean and dry which seemed contradictory to me.  I’m still trying to figure it out, but I figure if I get “stinky finger” I’ll know I need to do something about it.

Once I got home I recruited the oldest to help me finish the dresser.  It took about an hour, which wasn’t bad considering I was greatly hampered by the mangled finger.  Pictures of the dresser and finger below.

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Commode Wrangling

Longtime readers of this blog will know at least two things about me.  First, I have a tendency to get stuck dealing with all things turd-related in my house.  Floaters, pluggers and just strange s*** included.  Second, I’m the least handy person ever born.  I can take a thirty minute project and turn it into a two day docudrama.  And of course there’s the fact that everything about my house is all kinds of effed up.  Okay, that’s three things.

Last week we discovered that the toilet in our basement bathroom was leaking.  The leak seemed to be emanating from one of the bolts that secures the tank to the seat so I thought I had an easy fix.  On Sunday I made my way over to Lowe’s and purchased a neat little $4 kit that includes the two 5/16" bolts and all the nuts, seals and washers needed to secure any standard tank to any standard bowl.  Ah, but what was I thinking?  Nothing in my house is freakin’ standard so when I get home and start to put the bolts in I find that the holes in the tank are probably a millimeter too small, which explains why the previous owner had used 1/4" bolts and then put a bunch of green putty around the holes to seal them.  Dumbass.

So I headed back to Lowe’s to see if I could put together my own little DIY kit that ended up costing me about $9.  When I got back home I quickly discovered that my DIY kit would have been just as crappy as the previous owner’s so I took my preferred tack on any such endeavor and just muscled the 5/16" bolts through the holes using the biggest screw driver I could find.  Once I got them through I proudly re-mounted the tank, hooked everything back up, flushed the toilet and watched a fountain of water spew from the main hole that connects the tank to the seat.  Apparently I’d upset some sort of delicate balance between the seat and the tank because no matter what I did to re-seat the tank it continued to spew forth water.

Since I’d already been told by my boss/wife that we’d soon be replacing the toilet when we put a new floor in that bathroom I decided that Easter Sunday was as good a day as any to replace it.  We had friends coming over for dinner so I thought I’d head over to the store afterwards.  Celeste and I headed out after our guests went home and of course Lowe’s and Home Depot were already closed.  Perfect. This morning I arose early and headed off again to the store and purchased our new single-piece toilet. (I wasn’t going to risk another bad hookup experience between tank and seat).  When I got home I removed the old toilet from it’s seat above the poop-pipe…always a pleasant experience… and started to unpack our new toilet.  That’s when I discovered its base was broken.  Much cussing ensued as I re-packed the toilet, loaded it back in the van and headed back to the store.

The folks at Lowe’s were very nice and predictably unsurprised at my tale of woe with the broken poop pot and they efficiently processed my return.  I grabbed the one remaining toilet of the model that I desired and prayed that it was intact.  You see it was the only single piece toilet that didn’t cost as much as a semester of college so if it was broken I was faced with another two-piece assembly that I just wasn’t up to.

Thankfully the unit was indeed intact so I headed home, unpacked the toilet, put the wax seal on the base and then tried to put it on the poop-hole while getting the floor bolts to go through the bolt holes.  That’s when one of the bolts fell through some sort of gap in the floor and disappeared.  Much cussing ensued.  I grabbed one of the old bolts and re-used it and, voila, I had a new toilet installed.  Time elapsed from first effort at repair to final solution, not including breaks: Roughly eight hours.  Trips to home improvement stores to complete task: Four.

If my life was a home-improvement show and it had one of those little "This will take you x hours to complete" graphics it would show two numbers; X would represent the number of hours it would take an average person and X to the 10th power would represent how long it would take me.

Just Show Up

Most of us have heard the saying that 90% of success is just showing up sober (I’m paraphrasing here).  Personally I always equated that saying with success at work, and it never occured to me that the saying also applied to my personal life until Celeste and I attended a small event at the youngest’s school last week.

All the kids in Justin’s class had written some short stories and parents were invited to sit in and listen to the kids read the stories out loud on Friday afternoon.  When we arrived we found the kids divided into small groups of about five and the parents were asked to sit in with the group that included their child.  Celeste and I were the only parents in our group so we heard Justin read his story and then the four other children read theirs.  We were encouraged to ask each of the kids questions about their stories so we learned that the one girl in the group enjoys fantasy stories (i.e. pre-teen, chick-lit), one of the boys will only willingly read books about skateboarders (thus his report about Bam Margera) and the other boy was from Mississippi and had moved here after Katrina (his was an autobiographical account of his family’s experience after the hurricane). With our own son we learned that he has an unbelievably strong grasp of fantasy weaponry ala Halo, and a kind of Sgt. Rock bravado in his imagery.  I for one was stunned by his ability to paint such a vivid picture of his own fantasy world, and to be honest I was shocked by his fatalistic acceptance of casualties among his troops; he fully expected people to die.

Given the trouble we’ve had with getting Justin to write anything even semi-expressive in his reading response journal this year it really was a surprise to hear him read a story he had written that contained so much oomph.  He’s a quiet kid and not often open to sharing his thoughts and it was obvious he was embarassed reading his story out loud, so it was great to find his work to be so expressive.

The biggest surprise of the day came right before we left.  The kids wanted to show off their prowess at a multiplication game that features two teams of equal size, a teacher shouting out a multiplication question to a representative of each team and the two kids racing to see who can shout the answer first.  The kid who answers first stays in place for the next question and the other kid sits down.  The team that has someone still standing at the end wins. Justin’s class is undefeated in the competition, but the shock to me was that Justin was considered one of the fastest in his class.  For two years Justin struggled to finish written multiplication tests in the alloted time and only towards the end of last year was he able to do it consistently, so for him to be one of the fastest in his school is quite an achievement.

Of course Justin told us nothing about all this.  We’re lucky he gave us two days’ notice about the reading and if we hadn’t attended the reading we never would have known that he’d gone from struggling with multiplication to excelling at it.  In other words, by just showing up we learned something new and great about our youngest child.

Hopefully this lesson won’t be forgotten, by me in particular.  I have an infamously short attention span and I’m known to spend a lot of time "in my head", but if I can remember to just show up and pay attention I might not totally screw up my kids’ teenage years.  If nothing else I’m sure I’ll learn exactly how much they dislike me and how big a dork they think I am. 

5,475 Days and Counting

Joncelesteweddingdance_1 That picture to the left is of me and Celeste 15 years ago today.  I know that it’s nothing new to hear that time flies, but I don’t care who you are I think you always end up reaching these milestone days and wondering how you got there so fast.  Every once in a while I do something silly like calculating how many diapers I changed over the span of about seven years (about 16,000 for the record) and it floors me when I see it. So if instead of thinking about being married for 15 years I think about it as being married for 5,475 days it knocks the wind right out of me.  But I mean that in a good way.

I’m not going to speak for Celeste, but I can tell you that I’m happier and more fulfilled now than I was 15 years ago, or even 7 years ago.  Like so many couples out there Celeste and I had moments when we weren’t sure we’d get from day 2,555 to 2,556.  We had three young children, money was tight, and whatever romantic notions we had about life had been knocked out of us by the real thing.  Somehow we weathered those storms and emerged as a much stronger couple than we entered.  Now at day 5,476 I can honestly say that I can’t imagine my life without her. 

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And of course there are the kids.  They actually represent our first trial because we had our oldest, Michael, before we’d been married even a year.  Erin followed 13 months later and Justin rounded out the bunch just 2 1/2 years after that.  Three kids in four years will either break you or turn you into a kind of mush that you hope someday turns as hard and firm as concrete.  Luckily we went the mush route, and today we stand at the beginning of what we’ve been warned will be our greatest trial: teenage children.

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I have confidence we’ll weather this trial okay as well.  You see, Celeste is not only a magnificent woman she’s an incredible mother.  She knows when to be empathetic and she knows when to be stern.  Virtually every decision is made with the kids in mind and they know it.  She’s a great balance for me since I’m a "just get over it" kind of guy and I’m about as empathetic as George Patton. 

Finally there’s her treatment of her fourth child, yours truly.  She’s supportive when I need her to be, kicks me in the butt when I need it most, and she makes sure my world continues to spin in the right direction.  She’s truly my better half, and I don’t know where I’d be without her.  I do know that I couldn’t be close to this happy.

As a couple you don’t weather fifteen years of marriage and three kids without experiencing some, uh, changes.  So I’ll end by giving you a picture of that fresh faced couple you see above after said changes.  I feel luckier than any man should be allowed, and all because Celeste chose me over 15 years ago.  Believe me, it’s better to be lucky than good.

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Ho Frickin’ Ho

Call me a Scrooge if you will but I’ve never been much of a "Yippee it’s Christmas!" guy.  Not sure why that is, but it has always been the case.  Luckily for the last 15 years I’ve been balanced out by my wife who usually gets into the spirit about 2-3 weeks before Christmas.  That means our tree is usually begrudgingly wrestled into place by yours truly 5-8 working days before Christmas.  If I’m feeling generous I’ll also do the lights and then the kids and Celeste will take care of decking it out as they listen to cheesy Christmas songs while I find something useful to do around the house, like watching a football game.

This year’s been different because Celeste hasn’t been infected with the spirit of the season either.  I’m not sure if it’s stress from work, the unseasonably warm weather, or the lack of peace on Earth but for whatever reason it’s been a very businesslike holiday season in our house, which means there hasn’t been a push to get the tree up this year.  Thankfully our kids are now old enough to take matters into their own hands and the result is that my oldest, Michael, wrestled the tree into place as I was working in my office last night.  By the time I wound things up at seven I came down the stairs to find the tree up and fully decorated.

Do I feel guilty?  Heck no! I’m elated that I didn’t have to do my normal back breaking, cursing routine as I tried for the 85th time to get the tree to stand up straight.  How festive is that anyway?  Now that I know that I’m not needed for the tree torture I think I might actually start looking forward to Christmas a little sooner.

Or not.  As Esbee pointed out people start getting surly around this time of year and I still have shopping to do.  Bah, humbug. 

Perhaps the Greatest Spontaneous Gift of My Marriage

Frenchiefart14+ years of marriage has offered many surprises, but Celeste sprung one of the all time great spontaneous gifts on me this week.  While on a shopping spree she found some PJ bottoms from a company called National Underpants.  The bottoms, pictured at left, have a Monty Python image on them and the phrase "I fart in your general direction."  Unfortunately for Celeste, and the kids, this phrase is all too accurate, but I guess if I’m gonna possess the "talent" I might as well advertise.

The tag on the PJs was entertaining as well.  Here’s what it said:

National Underpants is the worlds leader in advanced underpant technology. With over 8000 years of research in underpants bending, elastic testing and thong rehabilitation, we know what goes in your pants needs to be able to stay there.

National Underpants. We’re here to support you.