Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Wall Is Done; Long Stand the Wall

OK - I've got the tile hung and grouted, and pretty much cleaned up the mess. Granted, it's not the world's greatest tile and grout job, but it's on a short wall behind the dishwasher and under a counter. This means that 1) it was really, really hard to do, all squatted down, and 2) nobody but you lucky blog readers will ever see it.

For reference, here is before:

and after:

It will be a little while before the dishwasher is sufficiently off-gassed enough to install. In the meantime, the towels are catching the water and the new tile is keeping the wall safe from mold.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Springtime at Sea World

I just realized it's been over a week since I blogged. Well, there's a good reason for this - I've been busy.

The kitchen repair project has taken more than a few hours of my time, and I hope to finish up tomorrow. And of course, no job is done until the blog post is written, so I'll give you the photo tour once it's done.

One reason this week was so busy was because I wanted to take the girls to Sea World again on Saturday. This meant I needed to get everything I would normally do on Saturday done during the week, including the kitchen repairs. It was busy, but I succeeded. Yay, me!

So Saturday morning we got up early and took off for San Antonio at around 6:30 am. It's a 4.5 hour drive, plus potty stops, so we arrived at around 11:15. I could tell already it was going to be a very busy day at the park. It was also much cooler than I expected - Weather.com forecast 75 degrees, and it hit that by the time we left in the afternoon, but the temps when we arrived were in the mid 50's - a bit warm for the heavy coats we wore before leaving, but too cool for the short sleeves I convinced everyone to wear. Oh, well.

While we were eating lunch, my wife called and told me my step-brother and his family were also at Sea World. She read it on his Facebook status. We met up with them and the kids rode a few rides together, then we went off to watch some shows.

Alyssa had some ice cream. She tends to wear as much as she eats.

Anna wanted to sit in the splash zone at the Orca show.

We got a few good shots of the whales swimming by before the show, but I insisted we put the cameras back in the cases and wrap them up tight in the jacket, so they wouldn't get wet.

However, when the show was done, we were just as dry as we were when it started. Maybe next time.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Dishwasher Replacement Update

I wanted to post the pictures of the repaired wall and newly installed dishwasher today, but unfortunately this is still a work in progress. What follows is an update.

Here is our new dishwasher, as I unpacked it Monday on the back patio and prepared to spray down all of the plastic bits with vodka. I also hooked it up here on the patio using the garden hose and a half-dozen little brass adapter doo-dads. It only leaks a little. I am grateful that I am not a plumber.

We picked a model with a stainless steel tub because we figured it would take a plastic tub a lot longer to off-gas. Unfortunately, I hadn't anticipated the asphalt-based insulation that covered the thing. One smell of that stuff during the wash cycle told us it had to go. Here I am scraping it off. Not fun. We'll have to come up with some other way to insulate the tub.

On Monday, we also had a mold specialist come and do an assessment. He looked at the wet drywall and thought we probably caught the leak in time to avoid any mold growth. Still, to be on the safe side, we had a disaster specialist come, set up a containment area and take out the affected wall-board on Wednesday. No pictures of this - sorry - but imagine sheets of plastic taped to the floor and the counter tops, creating a little plastic bubble. I'm glad it wasn't me crouched down in there.

The good news is that there was no visible growth - big relief. This is what the drywall looked like when he was done.

Although the dishwasher outside is running and we've actually put a few loads through it, we're still using Pawelu as well, having moved it out into the middle of the kitchen and set towels behind it to catch the water. This arrangement has not been perfect, however, and twice water made its way back to the wall, getting the studs wet again. As you might imagine, when trying to avoid mold growth, it's important the wood be dry before covering it up.

I wasn't able to patch the wall yesterday because the boards still need another day to dry. The best I could do was trim it up square in preparation for the HardiBacker cement board I will be using tomorrow to patch the holes. Once that's done, I'll cover the wall with tile.

With any luck, that will be done in the next few days. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

To the Zoo, Plus a Couple of Bonus Stops

I took the girls to the zoo today. It's Spring Break around here, so the move was a bit reckless, but since we have season passes it was OK. Granted, if I'd actually paid money to spend 20 minutes driving the 1/4 mile between the street and the parking lot, then crowd my way through hundreds and hundreds of harried, stroller-pushing parents, I'd have been a bit upset.

But the purpose of the adventure wasn't actually to see animals. No, the trip to the zoo was a ruse.

The real reason we went out today was so Alyssa could go to the eye doctor, and Anna could go to the dentist. Unfortunately, Anna doesn't like to go to the dentist, and pulls out all of the fret and worry an 11-year-old Drama Queen can muster.

I'm not really up for that lately, so I simply didn't tell her about the dentist. I said "We're going to the zoo," and we went. Then I told her "Alyssa has an eye doctor appointment. We need to leave the zoo at 1:00." What I didn't tell her was that Alyssa's appointment was at 2:45, and her visit to the dentist was first.

When we were on our way to the car, and the truth about the dentist appointment finally came out, do you know what Anna did?

She thanked me. She thanked me for keeping the appointment from her. Woo-hoo! I did it right.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Good-bye, Pawelu

Longtime readers of this blog will recall the love/hate relationship we have with our dishwasher. Well, actually it's more of a tolerate/hate kind of thing. We even named it Pawelu, which means "old, worn out, worthless."

We've put up with weak wash cycles and noisy operation and a top rack that likes to fall out on a regular basis, but this week we discovered the last straw - incontinence. Pawelu is old, and now it is leaking.

Fortunately, we have no cabinets to hide the water, or it may have been years before we found the problem. With Kara and our boarder Shari both very sensitive to mold, this is potentially a very serious problem.

So yesterday, I went on a quest to find a new dishwasher - one with a stainless-steel tub that won't have to off-gas nearly as much as a plastic one. I found an LG model at Best Buy that fit the bill, and it will be delivered on Monday.

Now, the tricky part will be trying to get it off-gassed quickly so we can install it without causing too much trouble. This means setting it up on the back porch, spraying down every inch with copious amounts of vodka, and trying to hook it up to the garden hose so it can run.

The sun will be out all week, so that will be a tremendous help. But it needs to be ready to install by Saturday, as the rains return on Sunday.

Stay tuned for photos and the boring details. At least, I hope they're boring, and not disastrously exciting or catastrophically humorous.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

You Can't Handle the Truth!

Thanks to everyone who played my 500th post liar's game. I'm pleased with the turnout we had this time, and amazed at how wrong everybody was.

Let's discuss.

By far, the most popular answer is number 3, which I suppose proves that my skill rests not in lying, but in telling the truth in such a was that nobody believes me. This answer was cited because people didn't believe:
  • I got (almost) all A's and A minuses is college (which I did - I was a bit of a nerd that way)
  • I wasn't flaky enough to miss a test (ha!)
  • missing one test wouldn't pull my grade down to a B (it did)
  • I would have been able to make up the test (which I probably could have, but my flaky 19-year old self didn't believe it could be done)
  • The Salutatorian traditionally gives a speech, not a prayer (this is true at most schools, but I really gave the prayer - I have witnesses)
In short, answer number 3 is not the lie.

The second most popular guess was the story with Danny DeVito. It's true. The loud toy was not a video game or anything like that; just one of those plastic things with colorful lights and buttons. And a really loud speaker. But we only heard it while sitting at the gate - once the plane was in the air and the curtain was drawn, I have no idea what went on with that thing.

The centipede story also got some votes, but it's entirely true. And Janette, that's not a dime in the picture - it's a quarter. Yes, those things are real. Welcome to paradise.

Since these tales are all true, that means the lie is the story about Michael Dorn, a man I've never met. If you happen to run into him at a SciFi Con, don't say "I heard you take the onions off your sandwiches," because I totally made that up.

I really was the Utah Wing Leader for Angel Flight, and Michael Dorn really served on the board of directors. But his time on the board ended before I became Wing Leader. And the sandwiches they fed us at the Planning Day didn't have onions on them - thank goodness.

Now, this story only got one vote, and a weak one at that - "I think I'm changing my answer, unless of course, I was right the first time." C'mon, Elizabeth - you can do better than that.

But weak as it is, Elizabeth did actually give the right answer. So I suppose that makes her the winner! (Unless of course she wants to stick with her first answer.)

Thanks again to everyone who played along.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Game On

Don't forget - the 500th post celebration is still going strong until 8:00 pm march 10th. Read about the prize and rules here. Enter here!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

McCall Ball

Last night Alyssa and I went to the McCall Ball Father/Daughter dance at her elementary school and had a great time.

Alyssa has been talking about this activity for weeks, but I wasn't completely sure how she'd handle the crowd and loud music.

At first she was very put out, and we sat on the bench outside the cafeteria.

Then her best friend Elissa found us, and talked Alyssa into dancing with her and her friends.

After that, the ice was broken, and Alyssa danced with me, too. It was a great event - they played all of the classics: YMCA, Footloose, The Chicken Dance, Stayin' Alive, and the Electric Slide. And The Hokey Poky, of course, but that was when we were out on the bench.

Elissa won one of the balloon bouquet decorations as her door prize, and she shared some balloons with Alyssa.

Why I didn't frame the picture to include the balloons, I'll never know. But it's a great picture from a great evening.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Alyssa's Extended School Year

Alyssa qualifies for ESY again this year - essentially summer school to ensure her skills don't regress over the break. Last year, this amounted to 30 minutes of speech therapy each week. Meh.

This year, she will be getting 720 minutes a week, covering multiple subjects. 3 hours a day, four days a week. That's a big difference, and very welcome. I think it will really have an impact. And as an added bonus, she'll have a meaningful activity to keep her busy during the summer.

One problem this presents is with our summer travel plans. In my delusional exuberance, I planned a nice three week vacation to include the 4th of July weekend. I thought this would probably mean missing two sessions of speech therapy, and it was a sacrifice I was willing to make.

But I'm not willing to have Alyssa miss a full twenty-four hours of much needed ESY time. So our summer plans have changed.

There is a two week break between the last day of school and the first day of ESY. Guess when we'll be traveling?

We plan to be in Utah the weeks of June 7th and 14th. I'll be working the weekdays (I'm stingy with vacation time that way) but the weekend are currently open. Hopefully someone (Marrianne) can plan a get-together during the time we're there. I can't wait!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Liar's Game - Post 500

Here it is - the 500th post here at Fifteen Minutes of Delusion. To celebrate, I'm having a contest. You can find the rules here. Post your guesses on this post.

And now, on to the game.

1. My lunch with Michael Dorn. For several years, I was the Utah Wing Leader for Angel Flight West, a charity flying organization that donates flights in private aircraft for people who need medical attention. Each October, the Wing Leaders would get together with the board of directors in Long Beach, California, for a Wing Leader Planning Day.

The first year I attended, actor and pilot Michael Dorn was on the board. I didn't recognize him at first, but as soon as he spoke, there was no doubt who he was. Kara and I were big Star Trek fans at the time.

Although we didn't have any direct interaction, we sat at the same table during lunch. I was pleased to note that he took the onions off of his sandwich, just like me.

2. My flight with Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman. One Christmas Kara and I sat several rows behind Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman and their girls on a flight between (I think) Seattle and L.A. Granted, they were in first class, and we sat in coach, but while we sat at the gate the curtain was open, Danny smiled and waved at all us coach passengers. Rhea just sat in her seat, looking exhausted.

One of their kids had an annoyingly loud electronic toy that was constantly going off, and I felt sorry for the other passengers in first class. It was really, really loud.

3. I got a B in college. Just one - and because of it I said a prayer at graduation rather than give a speech. The sad part of this story is that this B came not from some difficult senior level class, but from Speech Communications 101.

The problem? I forgot to take one of the tests.

See, our teacher gave four big tests throughout the semester, which she put in the testing center for a week. Well, the third test came during a very distracting week that started with my birthday, contained several other exams, and ended with a highly anticipated first date.

So, as I sat with this pretty girl, whom I'd had my eye on for some time, and watched the sunset from the Tantalus lookout above Honolulu, I suddenly remembered the test I was supposed to have taken, but hadn't. And for missing that test, I got my one and only collegiate B.

4. A giant centipede attacked me in my bed. One night, when I was growing up in Hawaii, I awoke with a sharp pain in my shoulder. I went into the bathroom and noticed a large red welt. I told my parents, but my dad said it was probably just a mosquito bite and to go back to bed. But the pain and swelling increased, and as I looked more closely at the bump, I could clearly make out two puncture wounds.

I went back into my room and flipped the sheets down. A giant centipede (no smaller than the one in the picture) streaked along the bed and disappeared between the bed and the wall. I pulled out the bed and searched, but couldn't find the little beastie.

I told my parents what I had seen, and spent the next hour with a half a papaya on my shoulder (it supposedly has enzymes that counteract the venom.) It took several days for the swelling to finally go down.

And those are my four stories. All but one is true. Can you spot the lie?

Contest Rules and Prize - Post 499

OK - we're almost at post 500, so it's time to set the stage for the contest. Here's the deal:

For this contest, I'm going to play the Liar's Game. That's where I write four experiences from my past, but one of them is not true. Your job is to figure out which one is a lie. If you want some practice, you can look at the last time I did this game. The practice session answer is here.

Now, last time I did this, I got a total of 4 guesses, while other players got dozens. Not good enough! Granted, I've made a few more blogger buddies since then, but just to make sure I get a good response, I'm gonna give something away. That's right - a real, genuine prize!

Here at our house, one of our favorite things is our Mr. Coffee Cafe Motion hot cocoa maker. We use it almost daily. Perfect cocoa every time! Well, dear readers, I have an extra, and I'm going to give it away to YOU! That's right - one lucky reader in the US or Canada will get their very own, new in the box cocoa maker. Just in time for spring! (Ah, well - sorry about that.)

Here's the way it will all go down: I'll post my four stories as soon as I get them written. Should be within the next hour or so. You read the stories and guess which one is not true, and post your guess in the comments. The contest will remain open until 8 pm Central time on March 10th, (which happens to be my birthday), and then, from the dozens and dozens of correct guesses, I will pick at random a WINNER!

It will be fun and exciting for all! That is, unless nobody plays, in which case it will be totally lame.

You will play, right?

OK, good.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A Blow to the Budget - Post 498

Tragedy struck our family budget yesterday. Not the financial part of it - thank goodness. No, it was the clerical part that got pulverized.

You see, we have this system where we divide our income into different categories on paper, keeping different accounts for things like food, gas, medical, etc. Then as we spend money, we record the transactions in the account book so we always know where the money has gone.

It's a good system, but unfortunately what often happens is the receipts tend to collect for a week or two or three at a time before they are actually entered into the book. Life happens - what can I say?

This is the situation we found ourselves in this week. Kara had a pile of receipts in her purse, and I had a wad in my left hip pocket. Unfortunately, it was in the left hip pocket of a pair of pants that went into the washing machine.

Yup - the receipts got washed, and that flimsy paper the stores use didn't hold up the way a five dollar bill can.

So now there's a hole in the budget - several weeks worth. I suppose the best bet would be just to estimate based on the bank statements - Wal-Mart is usually 75% food and 25% miscellany. But of course, that means even more work.

Oh, well. I'm just grateful that we have enough money coming in to cover these expenses, even if tracking them can be a pain in the, um, hip pocket.

Contest note: This is post 498 here at Fifteen Minutes of Delusion! As you long-time readers know, post 500 will be a contest! With a Prize!

What will it be?

Who will win?

Stay tuned and find out - the contest is near!