Friday, November 30, 2007

Grout: Messy and Fun. And Messy.

I got the wall grouted today. As the title suggests, it was, um, messy.

Standard procedure when grouting a floor is to dump a whole bunch of the stuff out of the bucket and use a large, rubber float to push it into the space between the tiles. Gravity is your accomplice.

Grouting a vertical surface is much different. In this case, gravity is your nemesis, and the trick is to try and dump as little as possible. I found that the best way make this work is to grab a handful and smear it around the wall like, um..., like..., well, let's skip the analogy.

Once the grout has been shoved into all of the cracks, the fun ends and the work begins. And the mess continues. Excess grout is wiped off by using a bucket of water and a large sponge. The sponges get covered in grout very quickly and need to be rinsed often. The buckets fill up with grout quickly and need to be changed often. Smart tile people use several buckets of water and many large sponges, but I only had one of each.

Years ago, when I did grout for the first time, my contractor brother-in-law was helping. I filled the bucket the quickest way I knew how - in the bathtub, with both faucets turned on. He stuck his hand in the water and looked up at me in shock. "Warm water? I've never done this with warm water before. Usually at a construction site we use a bucket full of melted snow."

Once the tiles have been wiped and wiped and wiped and wiped, the rest of the grout is left to dry, and buffed off with a dry towel.

Now it should only be another month or so before the little gritty grout grains are finally cleaned up from where they got tracked all over the house.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Time For a New Holiday

Thanks to a little inspiration from Tristi, I have moved the painted Halloween pumpkins from the front porch and replaced them with the indoor/outdoor Nativity.

Anna set up the pieces while I used super glue to give the angel her wings. (Did you hear the bell?)

Alyssa used the back-up camera to take a bunch of really fuzzy pictures, and these two good ones.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Repenting With Tile

So I had a little trouble the other night, resulting in a damaged wall and a tough predicament.

The holes in the wall needed to be repaired, because if left open the chemicals in the attic insulation would come down into the house even more readily than they are now. Plus a wall with holes in it just looks bad.

Patching the holes was easy - just cut out the damaged drywall and replace it with a new piece. However, finishing the patch to match the rest of the wall was out of the question. It took nearly a month for the "safe" VOC-free paint we used last year to off-gas enough that Kara could be in the house, even for a little bit. And things are in enough disarray here that I can't stand having yet another half-way finished project around.

I pondered and prayed, and was inspired to hang ceramic tile on the wall. Most walls in the Dallas condos where Kara stays are floor to ceiling tile, and it works well. Installing tile is messy, but the materials are all chemically inert, so there is no off-gas time needed.

When we laid tile in our house in Lehi, we were blessed with nice, straight walls. In this house, not so much. The wall in question here bowed so badly that the patch stuck up over 1/4 inch above the rest of the wall. Not so good for tile.

This problem was fixed with thin metal mending brackets. The tile doesn't lay completely flat over them, but they are nowhere near 1/4 inch thick.

The tile all went up Monday and yesterday. I started cleaning it off today, but only got about a third of the way done. I'll finish up tomorrow, and maybe - just maybe - I'll grout on Friday and be finished.

I've never tried to do grout while standing on a ladder before. Should be fun.

Monday, November 26, 2007

A Couple of Happy Pictures

We haven't found the camera yet, and hope fades that we ever will. But Anna used my phone to take some very cute pictures of Alyssa at the play area in the Galleria mall. Here are a couple of the best.

And yes, we went there two different days.

Mr. Murphey Runs Amok

We survived our stay in Dallas. Kara is still there - we're not sure for how long. It was difficult for me to let the whole weekend go by without doing any of the many tasks that need to be done here at home, but I think it was good for our family to be together for that time.

Sunday night Anna and I were here at the house, trying to get everything Kara was going to need for the foreseeable future packed into the car. I was carrying out three glass pans (including a large glass stock pot) when they slipped from my hands and fell onto the tile. As usual, the tile won.

The pots broke into thousands of little pieces, and my nerves shattered right along with the glass. I said a bad word with enough volume and frequency to make myself hoarse. In addition, a nearby wall was visited by the Flying Fists of Frustration, and like the pots, the wall did not win.

So now, in addition to all of the chores that I didn't get done last week, I have a wall to replace.

And the great irony? I'm fixing the wall by applying 40 square feet of vertical tile. Photos to follow.

Friday, November 23, 2007

How To Find A Parking Space In 20 Minutes

So in honor of Black Friday, I took the girls to the mall to give them a little education. I think they're still to young to be taught about pre-dawn Doorbuster Mayhem, but they're old enough to learn about Hustle and Bustle, which is more of an afternoon activity. Our mall of choice was Northpark in Dallas. This was chosen for the model train display, which I mentioned yesterday.

Our day started between 7:00 and 8:00 - I didn't exactly pay attention to how many times I snoozed the alarm. We worked and rushed getting onion broth and acorn squash and two pounds of Brussels sprouts cooked up for Kara's breakfast and lunch, then got her out the door. We followed along behind.

We made it to the mall after Kara's 1:00 appointment with the doctor, where we "convinced" him to have her central line put in next week. (On Wednesday he said he wanted to hold off since Kara's weight loss had slowed, but today he claimed that he was waiting on her.) She's currently getting several different IVs each week, and getting poked for each of them is not helping her.

The train display was a lot of fun. It was very crowded, but we were able to take our time and see all of the trains. They had quite a few running, and it was pretty neat. Anna took a lot of pictures, and I'll post some if anyone turns our camera in to lost and found at the mall.

But despite losing our camera and having to fight dirty to get a parking space, it was a pretty good day. The mall was jam-packed with people, and since we were soaking up the atmosphere rather than actually shopping, we got just what we were looking for.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Dallas Thanksgiving Trip

Happy Thanksgiving. We decided at almost the last minute to all spend the Thanksgiving weekend at the condos in Dallas. Kara is not doing very well, and I wanted to try and help her get around to her appointments. Also, this gives us a chance to be away from home, almost like a little mini vacation. Almost.

I managed to lock my keys in the car at one clinic - the same one where Kara has locked her keys in the truck twice. There must be some kind of curse on that parking lot.

After sitting through the longest visit we've had in months with Kara's doctor, I rewarded the girls by taking them to the new American Girl store here. There were girls and dolls and accessories and really big numbers on the price tags. We were content to browse, fortunately. We also went through the Galleria mall, and found a toy store, a puppet store, and a play space.

After dinner, Anna and I went next door to Blockbuster and got Hairspray and The Santa Clause 3. We also got a couple of Wii games - Cooking Mama's Kitchen and Super Paper Mario. Alyssa fell asleep early, and she's the big Santa fan at our house. So the three of us watched Hairspray until around midnight. It was pretty good - we all enjoyed it.

Today we are going to do a little traditional Thanksgiving dinner. We have a small turkey, but I just left it in our freezer at home. Maybe we'll pull it out for Christmas. Instead, I just got a small turkey tenderloin to cook here. I wanted to do something non-traditional like lasagna or pizza (food I would really be thankful to eat) but Anna wasn't willing to give up her mashed potatoes. So we'll have turkey, potatoes, cranberries, pomegranate, and the rest of the pumpkin pie I made on Tuesday.

It's been nice to just take it a little bit easy and not worry about all of the things that I really should worry about but don't want to any more. And the girls have been having fun. Tomorrow we're going to see the trains at Northpark mall. I'm actually deluded enough to think I can go to a mall the day after Thanksgiving - pretty crazy, huh.

I'm just glad there are no doorbusters that appeal to me tomorrow. I will get to sleep in, provided Miss Alyssa Earlybird makes it past 6:30 tomorrow morning.

5 Things (times 5)

Tagged by Autumn. Here we go.

Five things found in my room:
  1. Stacks of magazines I will never have time to read.
  2. Three laser printers; one that prints onto rolls instead of sheets
  3. Two dead cell phones, one mostly dead phone that I'm trying to return, and one that works quite well
  4. Four computers and five monitors
  5. A box of tissue that is being emptied at an alarming rate
Five things I've always wanted to do:
  1. Become a pilot
  2. Write a book
  3. Make a movie
  4. Start and run a successful business
  5. Become a philanthropist
Five things found in my (computer) bag:
  1. My passport
  2. My Pilot's Flight Log Book (one hour and holding)
  3. A bag of foam earplugs
  4. Batteries - AA, AAA, and Dell Rechargeable Lithium Ion (the non-exploding kind)
  5. Business cards of people I will probably never see or speak to again
Five things found in my wallet:
  1. Texas driver's license, but without the M endorsement this time
  2. Good Earth supplement card only needing 4 more stamps (too bad the nearest Good Earth is 1,000 miles away)
  3. A family pass to the Ft Worth Museum of Science and History (expired)
  4. Three credit and two debit cards
  5. Absolutely no cash or coins of any kind
Five things I'm currently into:
  1. Blogs - both writing and reading
  2. Reading bedtime stories to my girls
  3. Writing my novel
  4. Playing my ukulele
  5. Searching for some semblance of normalcy in a crazy life

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Another Toy Recall From China

I wish I could take credit for coming up with this, but all I did was steal it from somebody else.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Working at the Chinese Laundry

I'm reminded of the old Westerns that show Chinatown with the big cauldrons of boiling clothes.

That may not be the most politically correct portrayal , but it's the mental image I got as I boiled my own pots of clothes today. Boiling gets smells out lickety-split, and as it's turned cold here (ie no longer in the 80s) I've been trying to get some of Kara's heavy clothes so she can wear them.

It's amazing how much laundry soap came out of clothes that have been in boxes for over two years. I had three pots going for probably 8 hours today. Hopefully I've done what is needed for her to wear some of these things without reacting to them.

Also, as of today I am married to quadragenarian. I get my turn at it soon enough.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Christmastime Is Here, By Golly...

...Disapproval would be folly.

So the radio stations here in the DFW Metroplex have begun playing continuous Christmas music. My guess is that your radio dial has been similarly afflicted.

Now, don't get me wrong. I like Christmas music. A quick look into my iTunes library shows over 600 songs - that's nearly a day and a half of holiday tunes.

And it's not that I really fault them for starting mid-November. I would prefer they wait until after Thanksgiving, but I understand the need for Yule. As a child I would smuggle my parent's Reader's Digest Christmas collections into my bedroom as early as September.

No, the problem I have with playing Christmas music on the radio when the Halloween decorations are still out is that this leaves a lot of air time to fill, and they will play just about ANYTHING that mentions "Christmas" or "Holiday" or even "snow."

And quite frankly, a lot of it sucks fruitcakes.

Now, I'm not going to mention specific songs or artists for fear of offending my loyal readers. Plus, I'm not in the habit of thinking "That was lousy. What was it called again?" so I really don't have a list handy.

I will, however, mention that since we left the Wasatch Front, hearing anything by Kurt Bestor come over the airwaves is a very rare treat. If only all Christmas music were as enjoyable as his.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Cough Induced Upinthenightis

I got a little bit of sleep last night. I think. I have no idea how much.

Alyssa has a cough. I hate it when Alyssa has a cough. She coughs pretty much non-stop, until she throws up.

I prayed before bed last night that Alyssa would please not throw up. That was a mistake, as she started coughing at midnight and she has coughed off and on (mostly on) ever since, despite all of the syrups and tinctures and drops and pellets I could throw at her. She has not thrown up, and she has not stopped coughing.

She's currently in the tub with cool water and Epsom salts. She should be done right about the time my morning alarm goes off.

I think I might be justified calling in sick today.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Cat's Out of the Bag

A few months ago, a cat began hanging around our house. He appeared to be a stray, although he seemed too healthy to have been homeless for long. The girls, especially Alyssa, began spending quite a bit of time giving him all kinds of love and attention, which he eagerly returned.

Then one day, Anna showed up with some cat food "borrowed" from one of her friends. She asked if we could keep him, and was told no. Having a cat in the house is out of the question. However, having a cat live outside is something I didn't really see much harm in.

So on a trip to Wal-Mart, I looked the other way as Anna bought some cat food and began a clandestine feeding operation. It lasted for all of about 6 hours before being discovered. There was some consternation and discussion, and finally an agreement that an outside only cat might just be OK.

Anna decided on the name Tucker, then changed it to Tuckee after learning that cats respond better to names ending in ee (she read it on the internet, so it must be true).

The girls made him a house from a box and padded it with the towel I never returned to my sister after our trip to Hawaii (sorry, Karra). I suspect this house will only last until the first real cold snap, and then I'll need to come up with something just a little more secure.

But for now, the girls are having the time of their life with their new pet.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Liar Answers

OK. Well, I didn't get the dozens and dozens of guesses that others did with this game, but it was fun anyway.

The answer is #2.

Something similar to this did actually happen to my buddies J and D, but I was not along for the ride. Instead, if I remember my ancient history correctly, I was helping another friend with his Eagle Scout service project when the whole affair went down. Being anxiously engaged in a good cause has kept me out of trouble more than once.

FYI, this is a PBY Catalina

As for #1, the haunted house story was pretty much just as I described it. I personally never saw or experienced anything, and often spent hours alone in the house by myself after dark (reading like a true geek). But whether or not the house was truly haunted, most people believed it was.

#3 - what can I say? Looking back, I still can't believe I thought concocting a pretend girlfriend would make for a funny joke. I guess everyone does at least something embarrassing when they're 16.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Lie Will Be Revealed...

Tomorrow. Evening. After dinner. So hurry up and guess. Please.

Greetings From Sunny Sarasota

I made it to Sarasota safe and sound last night, and today was a very productive day at work. The folks I am working with are singing my praises tonight, which is a little unnerving, actually. I've been working hard on this driver for quite a while now, and fortunately everything converged today, and we went from a barely-working-at-all driver to a nearly finished one in a few short hours.

I'm enjoying Sarasota, what little I've been able to see of it. I'm staying at the Hotel Ranola, which is an old hotel from the '20s recently renovated into a little boutique. I love the stark contrast of modernist decor against the historic architecture. And having one of only nine rooms is quite nice. One of the other guys working on the printer from out of town is staying here, too.

The hotel is not far from the ocean, and we walked down to eat at Marina Jacks. This is what the view from the restaurant looks like. At least, that's what it would have looked like had we gotten there before dark. (sigh)

I'm looking forward to a productive day tomorrow, a good nights sleep tonight, and just a little bit of writing before bed.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

The Liar Meme

Tristi is pressuring me to tell a lie. So much for positive peer pressure.

I've never been able to lie very well. See, whenever I try, my ears turn red.

However, you can't see my ears from where you are, so maybe I have a fighting chance at this Liars game.

Here's how it works: I list four experiences from my past. One is a lie. It's your job to guess which one.

Ready? Here we go.

1. I spent nine weeks in a haunted house one summer.
2. That same summer I spent several hours in jail.
3. I had a make-believe girlfriend turn real on me.
4. I used FedEx to ship a dead rabbit.

Oh, you want details? Oh, OK.

1. I was fifteen that first summer on Lanai. The fifteen year old gangs could only work the day shift, and were given housing away from the main camp. My group lived in Hale Manele, an old wooden frame building at the edge of town set up barracks style. Some people said the building used to be a hospital. Most people called it Hale Spooky.

The first few weeks of the summer were relatively uneventful, but about four weeks in strange things began to happen. Showers would turn on by themselves; strange noises came from the empty back rooms; lights would turn off and on mysteriously; and there was the cat that sounded like a crying baby - some said it had a baby's face.

Then one night, after everyone was asleep, one of the bigger, tougher kids let out a terrified scream. He had seen an apparition of the Lady In White. So unnerved was our group of young men that nearly everyone pushed their beds together in the middle of one room the next day. That night, many of them claimed to have been physically moved by an unseen force.

The next evening, a Hawaiian Kahuna came and gave the house a blessing. He chanted in Hawaiian for over an hour, while some thirty people sat in rapt attention. After this blessing, the rest of the summer passed without incident.

2. I spent most of the three weeks between my return from Lanai and the first week of school hanging out with my buddies J and D. We were all into building model airplanes, and that was how we spent most of our time together. I don't remember what D was working on, but J was building a PBY Catalina - a flying boat from WWII.

Our trouble began when J learned there was a PBY located in the aircraft boneyard near Honolulu International. J and D were both a year older than I, and J managed to borrow his older brother's car so we could take a field trip. This seemed like a good idea when we set out, but as we got to the airport I began to have second thoughts.

The planes were behind a fence with large "No Trespassing" signs posted on it. However, in one place the fence had fallen down, and it was here that parked the car. I was really feeling nervous about the idea of crossing the fence line, but was determined not to be seen as a chicken. I had felt the need to prove myself constantly on Lanai, and I guess that carried over after I got home.

J had his camera, and climbed all around the old hulk taking pictures with D right behind him. Uncomfortable with the thought of climbing into the aircraft, I was content to wander around, looking at the other planes - mostly old airliners. It was during this time I had the thought of renovating an old plane to be a house or store or something - it seemed such a waste for those airframes to just rot away like that.

A little while later, I heard J call out, and started walking back towards the PBY. It was then I saw there were two police cars parked by J's car, their lights flashing. My heart jumped to my throat, and it took all of my strength not to start crying right then and there. The cops were rather hard on us at first, accusing us of vandalism. But we explained what we were doing, were as polite as three scared teens could be, and they lightened up a little. They still took us down to the police station and put us in a cell, although I think they were just trying to scare us because we were never charged with anything, and they didn't even impound the car, which I was sure they would.

After a couple of hours, J's very unhappy mom showed up and the police let all three of us go.

3. At the start of my Junior year, I was disappointed to learn that my buddy J had decided to stay in Phoenix with his dad instead of returning to Hawaii with the rest of his family. This upset me, and I set about planning a joke to play on him. I decided to pretend I had met a near-perfect girl, and she had become my girlfriend.

I developed a full bio for this girl - played flute in the band, member of National Honor Society, etc. - and named her Rhonda. Everyone in his family was in on the gag, telling him things like "Don and Rhonda were here tonight." It was all hilariously funny, unless you consider the sad fact that I had actually made up a pretend girlfriend.

The joke went on for quite some time, but had pretty much died out by the following year, when one day my mom announced "I met Rhonda's mom at work today, and she gave me a picture." It turns out she met a woman who's daughter was my age and fit nearly all of the criteria I had made up for Rhonda, including the flute and National Honor Society.

The girl in the picture my mom had been given was actually pretty cute, but by that point I had found a real girlfriend, so I didn't pursue the matter any further. I did, however, put the picture in my wallet, as it made for quite a funny story.

Some six months later, I was at an island-wide NHS Quizfest, when I saw a girl who looked vaguely familiar. When I found out what school she went to, I suddenly realized that this might be the girl who's picture was in my wallet. I compared her with the picture, and although the hair was drastically different, the face seemed right.

I finally worked up enough courage to approach this girl (picture in hand), tap her on the shoulder and ask "Excuse me, is this you?"

It was. She seemed quite surprised at first, but when I explained how I had come to be in possession of her photo she knew who I was. We eventually ended up dating rather seriously for a few months a little while later, but things didn't really work out in the end.

4. A couple of years ago, my wife had begun allergy testing at the clinic here in Dallas. In order to test a food, she needed to eat some of it the day before doing the testing.

One food she really wanted to test was rabbit, because it hadn't given her any problems when she had eaten it before. The problem was she couldn't find a store in Dallas that carried rabbit.

I was still living in Utah with the girls at the time, and I bought her a frozen rabbit at Wild Oats and prepared to ship it to her. Being smart, I figured I would keep the rabbit frozen by packing it with dry ice and shipping it FedEx overnight.

What I didn't know was that dry ice is considered a hazardous material, so I was unable to ship it through our company shipping department and had to drive all the way to the main FedEx office up by the Salt Lake airport.

The rabbit was still frozen when it arrived, and after testing she was able to get an antigen for rabbit from the clinic. She still eats rabbit nearly every week (we've since found a place that carries them here), although seeing the easily recognizable rabbit carcass in the pot really upsets Anna the animal lover. Alyssa is more fascinated than offended, and she always begs for a taste.

Tag - Class Schedule

I was tagged by Autumn over at Autumn Ables to come up with 5-10 classes to either take or teach, depending on which version of this game's instructions you read. In keeping with the new status of 'Rebel,' (which was given to me by Connie in response to comments I left at LDS Writers Blogk) I've chosen to make my own rules and split the difference, coming up with 5 classes to teach, and 5 to take in hopes of improving my life.

These are classes to help make my life better, and they constitute the curriculum of Deluded State University.

First, the classes that I will teach. There will be weekly quizzes, and the final is comprehensive.

Home Improvement 280: Project Initiation This course describes how to make detailed plans and solid preparations. It will involve a weekly field trip to Home Depot.

Civics 125: Becoming the Neighborhood Oddity Subjects covered include aluminum foiling and taping, carpet ripping, window climbing, and vodka spraying

Theater 305: Advanced Voices for Bedtime Stories Make story time interesting with a variety of pitches, timbres and accents. Also includes a discussion on keeping story time from being TOO exciting, thus causing chronic Upinthenightis.

Psychology 110: Introductory Delusion Learn to let delusion oil the bearings of your troubled life.

Music 177: Beginning Ukulele This is an elective, just for fun.

Now, the classes that I will be taking.

Religion 99: Remedial Scripture Study Why oh why is this simple thing so hard to do?

Organization 101: Group Lab This is the class that I am taking with Autumn, and Tristi, and Stephanie, and probably a lot of others. Maybe Tristi needs to do an Organizational Challenge one of these months.

Home Improvement 285: Project Completion I'm really good at planning projects and buying supplies. I need this class to help me finish them up!

Psychology 345: Advanced Assertiveness I've recently passed Beginning and Intermediate Assertiveness, but there is still a lot more work to be done. This is a life skill I need a lot of help with.

Family Studies 210: Motivating Children to Work If I can somehow finish this class, a lot more will get done around here. I might even be able to take Organization 201: Staying Organized.

Sunday - the Day Of the Rest

Oy! This has turned into a wild weekend. I have been asked to take a trip for work the second half of the week, and the preparations have put me into overdrive mode. I worked hard all day yesterday, trying to get caught up and ready to go. There is still much to do today. And tomorrow, and Tuesday when I leave.

It's the typical dilemma - there is a lot going on that I want to blog about, but but the events themselves are taking up all of my blogging time. Even with an extra hour today, I'm going to be struggling to catch up.

But it will happen. Y'all are worth it.

Autumn and Tristi - I'm working on your tags. I'm having fun with them, but they are not progressing quite as fast as I would like.

But then what is?

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Stupid Rules

I went to the store today. A sign on the door said "Only service animals permitted in the building," but I went in anyway. Nobody tried to stop me, and there were other people in the store as well.

I guess some rules are just made to be broken.