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Home Improvement, But Without Ty Pennington

We’re in a frenzy of home improvement around here, so today at noon, I expected two visitors to my home:  an electrician-sort of guy and a painter.  They were each expected to give estimates for work we want to have done.

I spent two solid hours cleaning the teenagers’ room (aka the Boy Cave.)  Their room is a sort of communal space located just off the family room.  It was originally a garage, but the previous owners converted it into a room long ago.

The Boy Cave features twin beds, two dressers, a simple desk, an enormous entertainment center (home to a small television and a GameCube), a four-drawer metal filing cabinet, an elaborate desk with shelves and a computer, a two-drawer metal filing cabinet, a piano and an old-fashioned child-sized desk that I purchased at an antique store fifteen years ago.

The filth that accumulates in that semi-public, semi-private space is staggering and disgusting.  Every once in a while, I spend a breath-holding eternity in there, sweeping up dusty piles of debris and tossing sticky things into trash bags.  Today, they worked alongside me, complaining and dragging their feet and disappearing every ten minutes, hoping I wouldn’t notice.

When the electrician-sort of guy arrived, I ushered him into the Boy Cave and pushed the dresser away from the wall as I described the funky outlet which would only work when you stand on one foot, yodel and hold a pinkie to your right earlobe.  Or if you jiggled it just right.  Behind that dresser lurked a whole family of filth that I hadn’t even thought to exterminate.  Oh, the shame!

I pointed out the lighting fixture, or rather the absence of the lighting fixture–a bare, naked bulb has been hanging from the ceiling for about four years because I could not find the correct size glass globe to place over it into the brass-like thing.  (Thing being the technical term.)  Then I realized I could just buy a new light fixture for twelve bucks.  Duh.

Next, I directed him to the bathroom and motioned toward the dead light fixture.  The bathroom light has been out for about a year, I’d guess.  We were using a night-light to illuminate it.  (I have no shame in admitting that I am pathetic.)

He assured me he could easily fix these things (“That’s it?” he said) and away he went to gather tools and magic herbs, for all I know.

When he returned, I handed him the box with a new light fixture and he said, “Oh, I need to know where the breaker box is.” 

OH NO!  The breaker box is located in the storage room, an area you may know as the Bermuda Triangle and an area I refer to as “Don’t go in there!”

I opened the door, pushed aside the giant suitcase only recently tossed inside, shoved some shipping boxes to one side, moved two Easter baskets and the painting supplies to create a walkway, tossed a sandal into the air and said to the electrician-sort of guy, “Uh, do you have a room like this in your house?” and then, before he could inhale and compose an answer, I waved a free hand and said, “JUST SAY YES!” 

He said, ever the diplomat, “I think everyone does.”

(AND IF YOU DO NOT, PLEASE DO NOT TELL ME SO.  I’m a fragile flower.)

He installed two light fixtures, fixed a loose wire in the outlet and with a flourish said, “LET THERE BE LIGHT!”  (Okay, I made up that last part, but that is so what I would do if I were an electrician.)  Now we have light.  If I’d known how easy that would be, I would have done it a long time ago.

The painter arrived with less fanfare and did not mock my planned stripes.  (I told him if he’d just do the main walls and a primer coat, I’d stripe the walls myself–it will be easy because I’m painting over painted paneling.)

Oh, and here’s my tip for the day. 

We needed to replace a thirty-year old broken sliding glass door.  My husband went to Lowe’s to price doors.  He picked one out and arranged for them to come out and give us an estimate.

At the appointed hour, a guy came on behalf of Lowe’s.  The guy was from BC Windows.  He measured the door and on his way out, out of the goodness in his heart, fixed my front door (which had a weird piece of metal sticking up).  He said Lowe’s would call me with the estimate.

A week or so later, Lowe’s called.  The quote was something like $1700 for one plain patio door, which, frankly, seemed unreasonable considering the door itself only cost $300 or so.

We decided to get another estimate, so my husband called a company recommended by a friend.  After we made the appointment with company, I realized the name sounded familiar.  The company?  BC Windows.  So, I called and asked if they worked with Lowe’s (yes, they did) and told them they already had the measurements because they’d been out already on behalf of Lowe’s.

Soon, they called with the estimate.  They quoted me $800, which was less than half of the quote I’d received from Lowe’s.

So, if we’d hired Lowe’s, the guys from BC Windows would have installed the door.  It would have cost us $1700.

Instead, we hired BC Windows to install the door.  It cost us $800.

The moral of this story?  Always get more than one estimate.  And  hire the subcontractor directly.  (They came Monday morning and less than forty-five minutes later, I had a new patio door.)

And that concludes today’s public service announcement.

You’re welcome.


Do Me a Favor

Click here to see a really cute picture of my friend’s son.  You’ll also be helping out the photographer by just viewing the picture.  (The more page views = the more value the picture has or something complicated like that.)

Trust me.  Cute kid.  Great cause.  Seventeen views so far . . . how many can we get it up to?


I guess I’m in the doldrums.  A post-vacation slump, if you will, fueled by terrible sleep (my daughter’s sleep cycle has been disrupted) and a lack of focus.  Since May, I’ve been rushing forward to meet one goal or another.  First, we were frantic in our attempts to finish the school-at-home work.

Then school ended, and I had three weeks to pull together Fiesta! Vacation Bible School.  That ended and we launched into our week of Vacation Without Leaving Home, which was fun, but oh-so-exhausting.

The following week found us relaxing (as much as one can with four children) at the lake for almost a week.  We were home a few days and then I fled south to Portland for a few days of Mom’s Time Out.

And now I’m back, trying to find a rhythm for the days.  I have no major demands, no immediate goals and I’m floundering a little.

Mostly, I spend my time (when not attempting to catch up on my blog-reading!) puttering around, dealing with little piles of stuff, decluttering, moving, washing, fixing.  I feel like a bear about to go into hibernation who is fixated on preparations for the long, dark winter without being clear on what exactly is going on.  I need to have my closets clean, my baskets of magazines and papers sorted, my files purged, children’s clothing sorted and organized and updated. 

I do have help in these desires.  I have a new washing machine and dryer.  We hired a guy to power-wash and paint the outside of the house, plus the deck and playhouse.  We’ve having a landscape company fix the backyard, including leveling out some areas and putting down playground mulch.  The other day, a team of three men replaced my thirty-year old broken-down, scratched patio door with a new one in under forty-five minutes. 

(Can I just note that it kills me to pay someone to do something I feel capable of doing myself, if only I had the time?)

I’m still feeling a little overwhelmed and lethargic and pointless.

This, too, shall pass.  Meanwhile, summer’s rushing to a close and the moon hangs in the sky like a glowing bowling ball and mortality brings me no joy.

Want to see me?

I added pictures to the Mom’s Time Out post

Summer Vacation: A Recap in Photos

(Right-click and open in a new window for best viewing.)

ferry.jpg First, we rode the ferry to Seattle.  See the city in the distance?

momandgirl.jpgI am holding Her Royal Shyness.  That’s her brother’s arm.

seagull.jpgSeattle seagull snatching snack.

spaceneedle.jpgThe Space Needle.

saycheese.jpgTaking photographs on the Space Needle.

twintrees.jpgPosing by the 1,000 year old twin Douglas firs on Mt. Rainier.

stream.jpgSerenity now.

oceanjoy.jpgRunning from ocean waves.

lakejump.jpgJumping in the lake.

This concludes our whirlwind tour of Summer Vacation 2006 (with apologies to those on dial-up internet connections.)

Peer Into My Soul, If You Dare

I was minding my own business, reading a blog, waiting for Spongebob to end so I can toss my daughter into her bed when the noise coming from my boys’ room (which shall forthwith be known as the Boy Cave) became so intolerable that I popped up, strode to the door in a single bound and threw open the door. 



Then, with a dramatic flourish of my hands, I concluded, “I CANNOT TAKE ONE MORE SECOND OF THAT NOISE!  SO STOP!  JUST STOP!”  I believe that my eyes rolled back into my head and my head exploded as if it were full of microwave popcorn in full pop.  

And then I wheeled around, slammed the door and resumed my rightful spot at my computer desk.

So far, no more noise from the Boy Cave.  Someone get me some ear plugs.  And a scalpel to sever the nerves to my eardrums.

Grime You Can See and Grime You Cannot

I can’t begin to describe the disgustingness of the laundry which waits for the installation of the new washing machine and dryer tomorrow. Nor can I make you fully comprehend the sticky, grimy patch on the floor which was under the old washing machine. At times like these, I realize that I am a sorry excuse for a homemaker because my house harbors that kind of filth. Out of sight, sure, but still. Have you looked under your washing machine lately?

So, tomorrow morning, I will be scrubbing my laundry room walls and floor in anticipation of the installation of the new machines. Tomorrow afternoon, I will be washing laundry.

I am one fascinating woman, that’s for sure. Can you believe you just wasted your time reading about the dirt on my laundry room floor?

(You know what really bothers me? When I inadvertently and unintentionally offend someone who doesn’t bother to let me know . . . until much later, which causes me to feel all defensive and depressed and adolescent. Then, after a bleak night, I begin to feel overwhelming gratitude that I am no longer in junior high, at the mercy of the opinions of other girls, and remind myself that I cannot possibly be responsible for ensuring the happiness and good-will of every single human on this planet. And some people just won’t like me for reasons that make no sense to me and some people will misunderstand me–sometimes deliberately–and what can you do, really? Go eat worms? So, I offer this paragraph as an apology in advance to those of you who can barely stand the sight of my words on your computer monitor but who cannot look away and who will eventually be offended by what I have to say and also to those of you who feel my pain so you can say, “Oh, I feel her pain.”)

Mom’s Time Out: A Summary

So, the first night of my Mom’s Time Out Extravaganza, I wrote an amusing and clever post which refused my order to “publish.”  And then *poof* it was gone.  (See, I can say how clever and amusing it was because it’s clearly never going to materialize, despite the wonders of the World Wide Web.  Ha.)  (I did manage to update my other blog, The Amazing Shrinking Mom, however.

I’m home now and I even came home early, a whole three hours early, because I missed my kids.  My daughter was delighted to see me and jumped into my arms as if I’d been gone for years.  Then she asked what I brought her . . . and after each thing, she’d say, “What else did you brought me?” 

As part of my adventure, I met two bloggers, both named Tammy.  One blogs at Dishpan Dribble and one blogs at Lavendar KnitsP1010019.JPG(Left to right:  Tammy of Lavendar Knits, Tammy of Dishpan Dribble, and me.  Right-click and open in a new window for best viewing.) We had such a yummy dinner and enjoyable conversation.  (I have a picture, too, but the camera’s in the car still and I find myself too lazy to go get it tonight.)  I appreciated the fact that they each drove into Portland and braved the Lloyd Center to meet me for dinner.  (Once, fifteen years ago or so, when I lived in Portland, a woman was killed–randomly–at the Lloyd Center parking garage.) 

The following day, I met two women I’ve known through an AOL pregnancy message board since I was pregnant with my almost-4 year old daughter.  Tina (who doesn’t have a current blog, alas!) and JulieAnne (her blog is Home Jewels) met me at Red Robin for lunch.  After knowing them through the computer for all these years, meeting them face to face and chatting was a great joy and pleasure.  P1010020_2.JPG(Left to right:  JulieAnne, me and Tina.)

I hated to part, but the thrift stores were calling my name!  And they had to get back to their families.

I visited four or five thrift stores yesterday afternoon.  (Bargains!)  Last night, I went to a movie (You, Me and Dupree) which was quite possibly the most boring and stupid movie I’ve seen this year.  I almost walked out half-way through.

This morning, I went to Value Village (again) and then to Powell’s City of Books in downtown Portland.  The planets were aligned just right and I was able to park mere steps from the front door.  I (foolishly) didn’t pick up a basket for my books and ended up clutching a precarious armful of books.  I bought a bunch of books for my boys and also some Madeleine L’Engle for myself.  (And some other books, too.)  I could live in that bookstore forever. 

Then, I steered the car back onto I-5 going north and soon, I’d left Oregon.  I stopped at one more thrift store and then an outlet store, and then, home again, home again, jiggety jog.  Time sure flies when you aren’t wiping bottoms and fixing snacks and stepping on Legos. 

Tomorrow, life returns to semi-normal, except that I still don’t have a hooked-up washer and dryer.  But, the gallivanting has come to an end and we’ll revert to being the homebodies that we are, deep down inside.

It’s good to be home.


My three-day getaway begins tomorrow and I am ambivalent about going.  I’m filled with unexpected longing and regret.  My daughter has been waking in the wee hours of the morning from bad dreams.  What will she do without me?

My 8-year old son has “swimmer’s ear”.  Can I really leave while he isn’t feeling well? 

The laundry is piling up at an alarming rate.  The perennials cry out to be replanted into my new garden.  Items destined for Goodwill sit in closets and cupboards (“pick me!  pick me!” they cry–can you hear them?).  The kitchen counter clutter pile of unread magazines hasn’t shrunk an inch and the living room is growing its own fungus of clutter.  The twins still haven’t finished their spelling from school-at-home.

I have to much to do!  How can I go?  And my daughter, especially, will miss me!  How can I go?  And my husband . . . will be in charge of all this (she says, waving her arms at her kingdom with great drama) and how can I leave?   

Well.  I’ll tell you.  I’m not indispensable.  So, I will just get into the car and go.  I’ll drive south, stop at the outlet malls, feel the adrenalin thrill of finding the correct exit in Portland traffic, and find myself in a different world, once in which no one starts a sentence with these words:  “Mom, do you think . . . ” and one in which no one will holler at me to come and assist them in the bathroom:  “Mom!  I’m done!”

But I do feel guilt and senseless panic that I will never return, not because I’ll run away and start a new life which does not involve laundry (because that life could only be lived at a nudist colony), but because something horrible might happen and the safest place for me and my children is right here, under my popcorn ceilings, in this messy house.

Irrationality.  It’s not just for toddlers anymore.

Blocks and Not Much More On a Saturday Night

We’ve only been home one entire day, but the children didn’t waste a moment.  From my vantage point at the computer desk, I see legos scattered far and wide.  The heavy wooden blocks I spent a hundred bucks on a decade ago (best money I ever spent) add to the chaos.  My daughter flung her clothes to the floor as she prepared for her bath.  Her sandals, my white sneakers, her yellow boots, my son’s black Vans, and my daughter’s black and pink Chuck Taylors, litter the floor.

Things are back to normal, except that there are currently four gallons of milk in the refrigerator.  (Usually, half a gallon of fat-free milk and an empty gallon container of 2% milk are all you’ll find, but I just got home from the grocery store.)

Now, back to those blocks (which look like these, kind of.)  I can’t remember where I got them, but I ordered them back when my twins were about three.  They weren’t thrilled to unwrap them at Christmas, but I knew they’d love them.  Eventually.  And they did.  In fact, these blocks are the best toy I ever bought my kids.  Even now, the 13-year old boys play with them and so do my younger children. 

What was the best money you ever spent on a product for your kids?

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