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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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Anna Grace

So… the best laid plans don’t always work out…

Yesterday morning when we woke up we had emails saying that Misty was at the hospital, and Anna was on the way. That afternoon J and I pulled up in the parking lot of a hotel in Watson Lake, YT. They had wifi, so we hooked up and called a couple members of J’s family for updates.

Anna Grace McMath was born yesterday morning between 10:00 and 10:30 a.m. She was 4 lbs, 11 oz, and from the picture we saw, she looked like her older sister, Abby. She was beautiful. She lived for a few hours, and it seems like the family was able to spend some really good time with her.

We hit the road hard, somehow thinking that if we drove faster we would be able to make it back in time for something. We canceled our hotel for that night in Ft. Nelson to one in Ft. St. John, adding about 3 1/2 hours to our trip in order to get just a little bit closer. We figured out that if we drove 15-16 hour days, we could be home by Saturday afternoon… but that is pretty much the earliest we could realistically make it.

This morning we learned that the funeral for Anna is going to be the end of this week, and there is just absolutely no possible way for us to make it. Quite frankly, the long days we’ve been doing aren’t safe to keep up… not in these conditions. The roads are pretty bad, they are randomly slick because of melting snow and ice, and, as strange as this sounds to us Alabamians… there are buffalo everywhere and they are hard to see at night in the middle of the highway.

So, for now (since our plans seem to change every single day, I think “for now” is a good disclaimer to use), our plan is to go back to our semi-original plan. We are going to slow down a bit and make the trip a little bit longer and safer. We should be home around April 3rd, still.

J and I definitely feel a big loss at not being able to meet Anna during the little window she was with us on earth. Members of the family keep referring to the book Heaven is For Real. The book circulated our ranks last summer, and there were a lot of laughs and tears as we all made our way through it. It’s definitely helping to give us all some kind of an image of Anna in heaven, with the other members of the family that are already there.

Please keep the whole family in your prayers, still.

(Almost) on the road again…

The countdown has begun!

17 days until we hit the road for Sweet Home Alabama… and something like 28 days until we get there. Not too bad, eh? (I’m practicing for the drive through Canada…)

For a while I thought I may have to pack some tissues to help pick up the pieces of my husband as we drove out of Glennallen… or at least a cooler of snow to help him feel better as we approached the south. He has gotten awfully attached to the stuff. But yesterday morning he woke up to a temperature of 28 below (“outrageous, temperatures like this in March!”), and then he had to drive to work in a freezing cold car. He was told tales of people wearing shorts and sweating in south Alabama… and suddenly, I think he will be just fine as we head that way.

Last week (or the week before that, I’m not really sure when), we sent a Really Big Box ahead of us. It weighs a lot, and it is rather large. Hopefully it will help our car have some extra wiggle room in it for the drive home… the journey up here was just a little cramped; enough to make any sane person want to live in the middle of an open field for about a week. The Really Big Box should make it to my parents’ house a couple weeks before us (I wrote a poem on the side for you guys!). Packing it up made me realize that we really are going back… really, for real! And then I realized that we will be leaving the perfect little house that we’ve been living in for our first six months of marriage, and I got a little sad.

But THEN, my father-in-law sent us a picture of our nephew with his cheesy little grin, and I decided that hanging out with him is much more important than this house.

Alabama, here we come!