our new home

How Not to Use a Blowout (or: if You Don’t Have Opposable Thumbs, You Can’t Help)

Have I mentioned that we have plumbing drama in our home?
We do. There are gremlins in our pipes. And you know, since you aren’t supposed to get gremlins wet, it never turns out well.

It really started when we bought the house and began the renovation process, but I didn’t pay much attention to all of that. I heard words like “pex” and “diameter” and decided to tune it out and let my Jedi Master husband and uncle worry about all that. I was busy perusing paint swatches, after all.

All I know is that from the beginning we have had pretty much the worst water pressure that mankind has ever seen in our laundry sink… and that the water you CAN squeeze out of it is yellow. The same rules apply to the toilet in that room. Fortunately, the whole washer setup is new, so that water is good to go.

The toilet randomly decides to purge itself of water… all the water. The bowl, the tank, and any residual water lingering in nearby pipes all get emptied onto the floor. And by emptied I mean “poured out with a dramatic whoosh.” And by onto the floor, of course, I mean “under the chest freezer, washer, dryer, and anything else that is touching the ground at that moment.”

Our kitchen sink also has a gremlin. It likes to stop things up so that NOTHING drains. Occasionally, after washing dishes, if you let the water sit for a good hour or so it would slowly drain… but if the dishwasher was running, forget it. And if you had to use the garbage disposal, everything that went down the disposal would reappear in the other sink bowl… just more chopped up and gross looking.

This happened several times, and several times we used various un-clogging techniques to fix it. But then, the Ultimate Gremlin lodged itself in those pipes, and nothing was working… except, maybe, a blowout.

We had done a blowout once before, but with my dad’s help. This time, he was busy and unable to find his blowout, so we were on our own. Jonathan went to the hardware store and bought one while I was at work, only to bring it home and determine that no, there was no way for one person to do it alone. And since Ramona didn’t have opposable thumbs, it was game over until I got home from work.

For those of you who know exactly as much about plumbing as I do, a blowout is a heavy duty black balloon that you screw onto the end of a water hose. You detach the pipe to your kitchen sink, put the blowout up in there, and turn on the water. The balloon slowly fills up, until it is very full and has lots of pressure built up, and then releases. The sudden, strong surge of water is supposed to dislodge any gremlins and/or clogs that are making themselves comfortable in your pipes.

I arrived home that day to find a water hose stretched through my house and into the kitchen. There were towels and buckets strewn around. All the pipes were disconnected from my sink. Jonathan was ready.

My job was simple: turn on the water hose when he yelled “go,” and turn it off when he yelled “stop.” We put Ramona in her kennel because she was offering way too much moral support, and assumed our positions.

“GO!” Jonathan yelled. I turned the water hose on as high as it would go. Then I waited. And waited. And waited.
“Is it working?” I asked.
“I’m not sure,” he yelled back. “It’s not making the right noises.”
Ramona paced, upset that we weren’t letting her help.

After a couple of minutes, I was about to suggest that we turn off the water and see if anything had changed… when Jonathan started screaming from the kitchen.
“STOP! STOP! STOP THE WATER! STOP IT NOW!”
I ran to the faucet and turned it. And turned it. The problem with those water spigots is that you have to turn about 15 times to get it on all the way, and then 15 times to turn it off. I spun as fast as I could.

“THERE IS WATER COMING FROM THE ROOF!” Jonathan yelled as I spun. Well, that was crazytalk, so I kind of ignored it. Finally, the water turned off. But the yelling continued. “WE NEED MORE TOWELS! RUN! TOWELS! NOW!” I ran past the kitchen – and the water cascading from underneath the sink – and snatched up an armload of the largest, most absorbant towels I could find. I dove into the kitchen and started mopping like my life depended on it. Jonathan was furiously mopping alongside me, and Ramona was still letting us know she wanted to help!

Once we got the cabinets and floor relatively dry, and a fan blowing on all of it, we went outside to investigate. Jonathan insisted that water had been coming out of our roof. I knew this was impossible, and that he was hallucinating. I was about to offer to check him for a fever when he decided to call upon the All Knowing Uncle John.

The All Knowing Uncle John (previously referred to as Jedi Master Uncle) revealed to us something fascinating about plumbing and vents in the roof and pipes and blah blah zzzzzzzz……

The point he made was that there is a vent in the roof, and yes, if your pipes are clogged badly enough, water WILL be forced up and out of that vent. WHAT. When I turned the spigot off, all of the water that was headed up suddenly came down (way to go Isaac Newton), flooding our kitchen and causing Jonathan to have a heart attack. The only way to fix it was to have a third human (I specify human because Ramona was STILL offering to help) on top of the roof to plug the vent with a towel.

So, two days later, we talked my youngest brother into coming over and helping us. It was a Sunday and since he hadn’t made it home yet, he climbed up on our roof in his nice black pants, fancy shirt and shiny black shoes to do the dirty work. What a pal.

This time, the blowout worked. Water whooshed through the pipes like it was supposed to. Our house did not flood upside down. And after 30 minutes of putting the puzzle that is plumbing back together under my sink, all was well with the world… or at least with my garbage disposal.

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2013, in five bullet points… and what’s coming in 2014!

Problems with growing up:
You have to actually remember things, because your mom isn’t there to remind you.
Paying bills.
No more sleeping in. Like, ever.
You are supposed to do courteous things like send Christmas cards and Christmas letters. Every year.

We have now been married for three Christmases, and for three Christmases we have failed to send a card or letter. To anyone. I will admit that is due in equal parts to forgetfulness, procrastination, and laziness.
(Forgetfulness: “Oh, we forgot to do Christmas cards, and it’s December 15 already!”
Procrastination: “Oh well, we can figure something out tomorrow.”
Laziness: “Eh, it’s December 20th. It’s just not worth all the hustle I’d have to put into it now.”)
So, in lieu of the traditional Christmas letter… here are the bullet points of 2013:

The House

This might be the #1 biggest accomplishment for 2013… right up there with me using a pressure cooker without blowing myself up, and Jonathan discovering a new love for mayonnaise (we aim high around here). I have those “after” pictures of the house. I doubt they will make it into this post, but they will make it up eventually. They are trapped in my camera right now, crying for release. For now, let’s just say it is BEAUTIFUL.

The Employment

Jonathan is still the jack-of-all-trades (Jonathan-of-all-trades?) that he has been since we got hitched. He works more hours at the local Christian radio station now, and of course spends LOTS of hours pouring his heart out as youth pastor. As far as they let us know, the kids still like him, so he must be doing something right. He is a super good teacher, which also is why he’s excited about coaching a local school’s baseball team this spring, and tutoring one of our 5th grade friends in the fine art of mathematics. Good teachers are hard to find, and sometimes they are just as valuable OUTSIDE the classroom setting as in it, no?

I stayed on at the bank I work at, making it offically the longest I have ever stayed at one job (I’m not that much of a flake, I promise… I always ended up moving or starting school before spending a long time at any other job). I try to help out with the youth as much as I can, and since my strengths are DEFINITELY planning activities and organizing events rather than teaching or discipling, those things fall to me whenever I am able to muster up the time to do them. I’ve also been doing a lot of baking and a tiny bit of media work for the church.

blog6Dieting and Running and Mysterious Illnesses

We both actually did pretty well with a “be healthier” New Years Resolution. We ran our first two 5k’s, ate much healthier, and we both lost quite a bit of weight (yes, some of it has crept back on towards the end of the year, but we both feel much better and definitely can tell a difference in how our clothes fit from 365 days ago). Regardless, I spent most of the summer sick, and it took forever to figure out why.

First, I had some mysterious virus that wasn’t technically Mono but acted exactly like it. Naturally, I waited until it had almost cured itself to go to the doctor for it… but it was nice to know why I had been feeling like death for a few months. After that, I was still feeling sick to my stomach 90% of the time… and, after a self-diagnosis we figured out that I am now, mysteriously, intolerant of caffeine. After switching completely to decaf, I am like a new person… it only took two days to get over headaches and about a week to not get extra sleepy every afternoon. AND we figured it out about a week before I was scheduled to make a trip to a specialist… saving us a copay and myself a dreaded visit to yet another doctor. Hot dog!

Accomplishments We are Proud Of

blog5As mentioned before, Jonathan decided he likes mayonnaise. He perfected the art of grilling pizza. He painted all of the ceilings in our house, which took about a kabillion gallons of paint (just kidding, it took 13). He did a lot of skiing backwards when we were in Colorado in February. He started eating salad… often. He got a Red Robin Loyalty card, which gets us free food every now and then. He carried his iPhone along on our first 5k, which was a color run, and it didn’t get ruined. He bought a motorcycle. He didn’t have a heart attack after the Iron Bowl. He fearlessly led our youth group to camp, where we dominated in the homemade boat race with our Dragon Pool Noodle Viking Ship.

blog4I learned how to make yummy salads. I settled on paint colors for our house, after changing my mind only 17 times. I went snow-shoeing with my mother-in-law, got lost in the wilderness, and didn’t die. I completed almost half of a Sudoku puzzle book, in ink, and only totally messed up about 5 puzzles. There was the aforementioned pressure-cooker adventure (and now I have canned green beans!). I helped my mom bake 100 loaves of bread in one day. I’ve broken the power button on two iPhones… the first one got replaced, but I’m still waiting on the second. As I said before, I’ve lived almost four months now without caffeine.

The Puppy

Our family grew a little bit this winter, with the addition of Ramona the Chocolate Lab. She is an energetic ball of fur with one droopy eye that won’t develop properly. This means she has almost no peripheral vision on that side and she crashes into things sometimes. Not funny for her, hilarious for us.

blog3She is going to be an outside dog, but right now she’s tiny and it’s cold outside, so she spends nights and some parts of the day inside. She only recently learned to entertain herself in the yard, running through piles of leaves and destroying her little chewing rope. Before, she liked to stand at the gate and peer out through the cracks in the boards, or hang out under the dining room window and voice her displeasure at being left alone. Jonathan has her pretty well trained that when she is inside,

she stays in the mudroom. No crossing the line into the rest of the house, period. So, anytime she is in there, she gathers her towel (she has her own special blue towel to snuggle with), her bone, her teddy bear, and her rope, and lays right in the doorway, chewing or sleeping or pouting. She does whatever she can to be as close to us as she can get. Oh… and she uses her teddy bear for a pillow. Every time.

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The Ultrasound: What’s coming in 2014

Possibly the #1 greatest highlight of this year?

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Seeing this picture on a screen in a doctor’s office… and knowing that it’s going to be a baby soon!
Yup… our family is still growing. This ultrasound was taken in mid-November, so fingers crossed Peanut looks more like a baby and less like a blob by now.
To quickly answer the top “Oh my goodness you’re pregnant!” questions:
We are due July 3. I have been VERY sick, but thanks to some miracle medicine, I’m able to function. We do plan on finding out the gender, and yes, we’ll share it… but no names until baby is born. =) I’m craving orange juice and Thai spring rolls (which you can’t buy in our town, booo).

Here’s hoping you all have a fabulous 2014!

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Cracks & Consequences: a kitchen building adventure

Last night I got to play construction worker. I didn’t have a hard hat, but I got to play with tools and wood and stuff.

It was kitchen building time! Our house is humming right along (I really want to remember to take pictures and post them, but my rememberer is broken). We’re to the point where flooring and cabinets are happening (eeeek!). I hunted and hunted and spent hours on the internet trying to find a decent cabinet man, and finally settled on one that I’ve known for a few years and typically does fairly decent work. I call him “Dad.”*

In order to get the “family discount,” we get to help with the building process. Which is fun and scary. Fun because I get to use tools and see all these plain, flat pieces of wood turn into a beautiful blue kitchen, and scary because I’m afraid if the cabinets fall off the walls in two weeks it can be blamed on me.

I helped put the first few cabinets together. By “helped” I mean I held things while Dad clamped them into place. Then he handed me a staple gun and said, “put a staple right here!”

I froze and panicked. His hand was right beside “right here.” And he doesn’t usually let me use things that are sharp or loud, so I was afraid his mind was finally going. But he appeared to be serious, so I took the gun from him, aimed, closed my eyes, realized closing my eyes was a bad idea, opened my eyes, and pulled the trigger. Nothing. “I think it’s on safety,” I told Dad.

“It doesn’t have a safety,” he said. Then he took it and shook it violently, wiggled a button, spoke some sort of voodoo magic charm over it, and gave it back. I repeated the whole aiming-closing-and-opening eyes process, then shot again. BAM.
IMG_1072It was frighteningly satisfying. So, we worked our way down that cabinet and down the next one, stapling and shooting and lining up and whatnot. Jonathan followed with a screwdriver, and my mother watched and gave helpful advice.

After a few cabinets had been assembled (I think it should be called “scrapling” because of the screwdriver-staple combo), it was time to fill gaps and cracks and chips with wood putty. Which became my job. Here is what you need to know about this process:

  1. 1. We had put “edge banding” (?) on the cabinets the night before. Jonathan glued it; I trimmed it. In the trimming process, a lot of it chipped and cracked and broke. We had to fix those spots with putty.
    2. The putty looks like peanut butter. It feels like peanut butter. I was told it would not taste like peanut butter.
    3. The putty looks very easy and fun to do when Dad does it. It is a hot mess and ended up all over the floor when I tried.
    4. You have to see small things (like chips and cracks) when doing this job, so you don’t miss anything. It is a job for a very detail-oriented person.
    5. I am NOT a detail-oriented person.

We created an assembly line. Dad and Jonathan scrapled the cabinets together. I delicately spread smeared, smashed, and crammed the peanut butter-putty into cracks and gaps in the wood. Mom sanded the sides of the cabinets. Then they came back to me, and I sanded the fronts. My instructions for sanding the fronts sounded like this:

“Run the sander over all the fronts, like this, until they are smooth. Then go over the edges so they are smooth. Do the inside and outside edges of the tops and bottoms, but ONLY the inside edge of the sides. Do NOT sand the outside edges of the sides. I repeat, DO NOT sand these edges! Don’t sand them! Sand only these edges… NOT THESE.”

I was afraid for my life (and the lives of my cabinets) for the first few minutes of sanding. But then I got a system going. I was rolling right along, sanding and smoothing and having a good old time, cranking them out at a decent pace. Then, about halfway through my 4th or 5th cabinet, I realized I had sanded the DO NOT SAND edge.

I looked across the room at Dad. He was busy scrapling. He hadn’t seen anything. I looked at Mom. She was sanding, too. I waved my arms at her and she looked up. “I SANDED THE WRONG EDGE!” I mouthed to her, pointing at the rounded corner that wasn’t supposed to be round.

Her eyes got wide. Her mouth dropped open. She looked at dad. “Just don’t tell him!” she mouthed back. I nodded and went back to sanding.

As the evening wore on, I began to worry about the consequences of sanding the wrong edge. What if THAT led to my kitchen cabinets falling off my wall in two weeks? When the scrapling was done, I spoke up in the most non-committal way possible.

“Hey dad.”
“Yeah.”
“Say… hypothetically speaking… if I DID sand the wrong edge… what would happen?”
“You’d have a hypothetical crack between two of your cabinets.”
“Hmm. That would just give it some character, right? Nothing too bad would happen.”
“I suppose. Why? Did you sand a wrong edge?”
“Maybe. Hypothetically, of course.”

Then mom spoke up.

“Why don’t you look and see if you can find an edge that wasn’t supposed to be sanded but is?” she pointed to our growing pile of finished cabinets.

So dad dove in and hunted. And he found one. Then he told me that that one actually needed to be sanded anyway, for some reason.
“Right!” I told him. “I knew that. I did it on purpose, to save you some work later.”
“Right,” he said.

Man, my instincts as a kitchen-builder are spot-on. I think I’ve missed my calling.

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*P.S. – kidding about the whole “hunting for a cabinet man” thing. Dad really builds cabinets, and does a darn good job. Click here to see his website.

Don’t bother packing, spiders… you are not invited.

Spiders started to take over the trailer a few months ago.

I was home alone one day, when I got a phone call. It was from someone who needed to discuss something that was actually important… but I didn’t hear most of the conversation, because when I stood up to answer the phone, I saw a huge spider in my window. It was one of those very fat, black ones that moves way too quickly for how fat it is. When I got off the phone, I called Jonathan to see if he’d be home soon. He wouldn’t. Then I text my brother to see if he was nearby. He wasn’t. I was on my own. I determined that the spider was outside (THANK. GOODNESS.) but I still felt like it could easily make it’s way inside… this trailer is anything but airtight, after all. I know that for a fact because my bread molds in like 24 hours if I don’t keep it in the fridge.

I went outside to try to find the spider, but it had vanished. Throughout the rest of the day, it would appear and disappear every few minutes… and I couldn’t figure out where it went.

It happened several more times over the next few weeks… spiders of various sizes running around outside my windows… but I could never find them outside. Until last week. A particularly large one was running along the outside of the house when I got home from work… and when he saw ME, he ran to his hiding spot… UNDERNEATH the siding on the outside of the trailer. Which leads me to believe… there is a WHOLE spider world living and working all along the outside of this trailer, between the walls and the siding. There may be a whole spider New York City just a few inches from me right now! (That spider, by the way, got an entire bucket of mop water thrown at him a little later when he showed himself again… I hope he didn’t survive that, but who knows. They are freakishly resilient).

I can live with spiders outside my house. I do NOT like it, but I can live with it. Just so they don’t come inside for a visit. But then a few days ago, one jumped into my purse just as I was reaching to pick it up. And then another one was on my kitchen sponge when I picked it up to wash some dishes. In both cases, Jonathan was home and I frantically calmly alerted him by flinging waving my arms around, leaping in circles doing a graceful dance, and screaming singing, “THERE IS A SPI- A SPI- A SPIDER! A SPIDER! IT’S THERE! IT RAN! A SPIDER! A BIG ONE! A SPI-SPI-SPIDER!”

Just so you know, the purse spider got smashed (there are spider guts on the outside of my purse now) and the sponge spider experienced a violent being-flung-across-the-sink-and-drowning death.

But those spiders have FAMILIES, and the families are living in Spider NYC and Spider Boston and Spider Chicago outside the walls of our trailer, and I’m sure they’re coming for me. It’s SO uncomfortable.

So, it’s a good thing that we are going to be moving soon. YESS, moving. Into our new house, which is not so new, but we are making new!

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This is our living room! I have “before” pictures to share now… of course, “after” pictures will come later.

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Hallway

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Master bedroom

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2nd bedroom

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Bathroom

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3rd bathroom – we are turning this into a laundry room/small bathroom

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Entry way/mudroom

blog-006Dining room & kitchen!

Woohoo! We have already done a lot of electrical work (and when I say “we,” I mean a lot of people OTHER than me) and we have some plumbing to do. We are replacing ALL floors, painting everything, totally replacing the kitchen, and lots more. Some “in-progress” pics:

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Tearing up flooring

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Tearing up the kitchen

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The best part is that the house is about 6 minutes from where we live now. So there are no major additions to driving time ANYWHERE. It actually has 3 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms, but we are making one bedroom into an office. It has a nice, big backyard… with a LIME TREE.

So! Hopefully I can update as we go on. Obviously, I have not been blogging much……. let’s see if this gives me motivation to fix that. =)

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