Home Improvement

it's a mystery

This past weekend, we moved 4 cubic yards of dirt from a pile on our front driveway to the backyard and dumped 700 pounds of rock into our window wells. I blame all that physical labor on Rhiannon's desire to have more flowers in the yard. (After the dirt was moved, we also planted around 150 bulbs.) I think we've planted bulbs of some kind at least in either spring or fall almost every year since we've lived in the house, and, after a while, it all seems to blur together. So, Rhiannon doesn't remember what types of flowers she put in last fall. I bought them and don't remember either.

She thinks tulips. I think they look closer to daffodils. Whatever they are, they're blooming.

The mystery flower

Anyone know for sure?

special delivery

Tyler has a truck. We do not. We wanted to plant some trees in our yard this past weekend and not pay delivery fees. I don't think planting trees was high on his original priority list, but it's nice to know that we have friends who will help us out.

I'm sure the offer of dinner and some beer on a nice afternoon didn't hurt either.

Thanks, Tyler.

Arbor Man

Don't worry. I did turn put down the camera and help out at times as well.

the mobility in the house is getting serious

Brooklynn on the Move from Chris&Rhiannon on Vimeo.

Music: White Sky by Vampire Weekend

Last time, we saw Brooklynn walking behind a scooter. Well, she isn't walking on her own yet, but she's getting more mobile all the time, which means she's getting in to more things than ever.

It also leads to many an instance where I turn around for a minute, look back, and wonder, "Hey, where's the baby? I swore she was just right here."

We actually got serious enough to buy some childproofing supplies for the house this weekend and we now have some of our cabinets containing hazardous chemicals a little better protected.

Now, I just have to figure out how to get in the cabinets myself and life will be ok.

just when your work is done

Our toilet broke. In the tank, for those of you familiar with the inner workings of toilets, the connector from the level arm to the flapper snapped. The flapper was made of rubber and the connector was made of the same rubber. In fact, it was all one piece and when the thin connector string snapped off the flapper, there was nothing to even attempt to hook it to again. So the toilet in our master bedroom was out of commission. This isn't the end of the world for anyone in the house - we have four toilets for three people and one of us isn't even toilet trained. It seems like we should easily be able to find an available bathroom when the need arises.

The issue comes is that it's the toilet in the master bathroom which also happens to be attached to the master bedroom, which just so happens to be where we spend our nights and mornings. And trust me, at 5:30am just after the alarm has gone off is not the best time to be remembering that the toilet we've used almost every day for the past four years shouldn't be used.

I only had to reach into the tank and pull the flapper up by hand once.

After one day of forgetting about it, I stopped by the hardware store last night and found a new flapper, one with a metal chain and guaranteed to withstand harsh water and be adjustable to control how fast the toilet flushes. For those of you who haven't shopped for toilets recently, I honestly suggest going to a store and looking at the toilet repair section. It's amazing how many products and gadgets that will reduce water use and make the tank quieter and improve the clockwise flow to correspond with the hemisphere's Coriolis effect, etc.

Ok, I made the last one up, but still. I learned more than I ever wanted to know about flushing mechanisms in a quick 5 minutes.

I got home, took Brooklynn up to the bathroom with me, set her on the floor out in the main part of the room, and got to work. Brooklynn likes to hang out in different places in the house, and as long as she can see you and you talk to her a little bit, she's a good little helper.

I turned off the water, drained the tank, and changed out the flapper. Added in the new one, hooked up the new metal chain version that won't break like the old one, and turned the water back on. I still had to adjust the chain length to fine tune the flushing action, and while I was doing this, Brooklynn came sliding into the small room with the toilet to join me.

She starting to flip on her stomach much more often, and when she gets there, she moves. Backwards.

She still doesn't seem to know where she's going or head toward anything in particular. More often than not, she moves directly away from whatever she really wants to reach for, but as long as she isn't against something that doesn't move she's usually ok with it.

Yesterday, I looked down at her as she slid into the room, smiled, and waved.

She looked up at me with a look that seemed to say "What are you doing in here? And how did I get here with you anyway? And have I mentioned how excited I am to see you?!"

It seems like she's developing so fast. Her expressions and mannerisms are exploding and we can see more and more of her personality and intelligence coming out every day.

And then she leaned over and tried to chew on the bottom of the toilet.

This is our daughter. We hope that intelligence keeps kicking in, because we're not quite there yet.

keeping clean

New Hand Soap You may think that having something like this in the house is a product of being parents and buying fun things for the baby, but you would be mistaken.

We ran out of hand soap in our guest bathroom and moved the bottle that was next to my sink in the bathroom, leaving me soapless. Last weekend, while standing in next to the shelves of soap in Target, Rhiannon asked me what kind I wanted.

Now, there are way too many options, but I knew that I didn't want anything with fish or flowers or anything. Something simple, modern, and understated would do nicely.

And then I saw the SpongeBob bottle. Decision making process over.

when it rains, it pours

The obligatory baby in the hospital photo: Same Sized Friend

Now then...

Yesterday, when I stopped at home, I had noticed that the fan on our freezer in the kitchen was running. I looked inside and found that the food was starting to thaw out, so I assumed that Rhiannon had opened the freezer and failed to make sure the door was shut tight before she left.

I would like to take this opportunity to publicly apologize to my wife for my incorrect assumption.

I'm sorry. What I should have noticed when I was home yesterday is that the fan was running but the compressor was not. Our fridge at home decided to stop working when we weren't at home to notice. I have no idea what we have done to neglect it, but it seems kind of spiteful to me.

I moved all of the food in the freezer downstairs to our chest freezer and all of the food in the fridge that wasn't past its expiration date got moved into the mini fridges. Yes, plural mini fridges. We have multiple leftover pint size refrigerators that we have said we need to get rid of because we don't use them enough to justify the electricity they consume.

Well, they are both post-Thanksgiving dinner level stuffed right now, so I think that the expense has just been justified.

And not to scare anyone away from visiting us, but I did find some food that had expiration dates in the middle of 2008. And with he recent year change to 2010, I think we were this close to having one of the first refrigerator towns colonized by the life that sprang up from the out-of-date leftovers lurking in the dark corners.

Maybe it's not so much that the fridge stopped working but that this was more of a protest of the working conditions. Picket lines and unions and protesters galore. One of us is heading back home tomorrow to see if anything has changed, and if there is a rally with bullhorns, tagboard signs, and kitchen appliances marching around in circles on our driveway, I'm calling the authorities.

Or at least one of those places with the offers for free appliance haul away.

Anybody want a disgruntled food processor?

is it too early?

Last year, we almost didn't do anything for Christmas outside of put lights on the house. Kind of at the last moment, we put our fake, pre-lit tree without any decorations on it. This year, we have a baby to take pictures of by the decorations, so we're getting on it just a little bit earlier. I figure if all the stores can be in full decoration mode, so can we. We just put light strands on the back deck this evening as it was getting dark.  It was a nice day (rather than two feet of snow), so we figured we better get to it while we could.

Yep. We're Those People

I guess nobody really waits for Santa at the end of the Macy's parade anymore to ring in the season, do they?

finishing touches

We had come cushions and curtains made for Brooklynn's room with fabric that we picked out. At one point, we had fabric selected in the store and just didn't feel the need to buy it. We went back later to look for the reams and changed three of the four fabrics (some because we couldn't find what we wanted and some because we liked it better). It's the same thing that happened when we had the paint colors for her room picked out and changed them all when we went to the store to get paint. I'm starting to think that we really need to visit the store at least twice for all home improvement projects from now on.  Either that, or never go back again after the first time because we seem destined to find something better.

Curtains Cushions

a whole new solar system

Since we seem to be focusing a lot on the basement (which needs some focus), we've been falling behind were we want to be in the nursery.  Beta is moving closer to release candidate all the time, so tonight we dedicated a little time to some of the finishing touches. Paper Lanterns

All I can say is I hope she likes colors.

Paper Lanterns

We have a little painting circles and canvases and a bookshelf to move back in, but other than that, we're pretty happy with where things are.  And yes, I guess if she decides to visit early, we could feel like were ready.  The cozy corner is waiting.

The Cozy Corner

how does your garden grow

I don't know that I would call it a full-fledged throwback victory garden, but we are doing the best we can in suburbia without actually ripping up any of our already limited yard.  Considering we just endured about 48 hours of rain, which is a monsoon in Colorado, I'd say our raised bed garden is draining well and staying green.   Garden

Both Rhiannon and I grew up out of town with decent sized gardens, so it isn't something completely foreign to us, but I admit that I am very uneducated when it comes to actually producing edible food in my own backyard.  Rhiannon has dubbed the garden my project, and I have been quite happy to see most of the plants coming up right on schedule.  It's almost like having many small green children before Beta gets here.  (Don't get used to the attention plants; you'll be bumped down on the priority list before too long.)

Strawberries  Banana Pepper

Ok, I don't know much, but I do know that the strawberries and peppers are not quite ready yet.  They still need to incubate a little longer, kind of like Beta.


We are attempting to produce strawberries, green and red bell peppers, banana peppers, zucchini, sugar snap peas, beans, carrots, lettuce, tomatoes (4 kinds), basil, cilantro, and cantaloupe.  The garden is divided into approximate 1 foot square plots just to help me keep it organized and the tomatoes and herbs are in their own separate large container pot.  I have no idea how it will go, but I'll keep you posted as long as the birth of a small child doesn't completely fry my brain and reduce me to scavenging my next meal off the back deck.

And if the garden is my project, Rhiannon has a few flowers of her own to tend to.  Judging by how well we now care for plants, I'd say we're about as ready for a kid as we're going to get.

Flowers  Flowers

that's some serious edging

Lawn Edging Along with overseeing project guestroom in the basement, we have our own list of home projects to tackle and check off the to-do list before Beta comes.  For the first time in the past 8 weeks, we had a Saturday free from rain or snow, and most of Sunday was decent as well, so we got some of the outside work done.

One of these projects was edging our front lawn along the sidewalk.  We live on a hill that slopes toward the front of the house, so the soil creeps over a period of time.  I can’t speak for the previous homeowners, but we have never fought back the grass or prevented its slow march along with gravity.

We may have patches in the lawn that are thing or a little brown, but we can grow grass on top of concrete like nobody’s business.  Three inches worth of thick healthy grass and sod extended over the sidewalk – just a little more than our string trimmer “with edging capabilities” could handle.

We got a real electric edger and I make some sparks repeatedly running the blade into the sidewalk, mostly because I had no idea where the sidewalk might be. At one point, I told Rhiannon not to stand in front of the edger while I was using it because the instruction manual said to clear at least 100 feet because of possible dangerous projectiles.  It this machine great or what?  As I used it in short and flip-flops, I realized I neglected to heed the section where it recommends eye protection, boots, and long pants, but I was really just trying to make sure Beta didn't get scared by the noise.

Our neighbor came home about the time I finished pulling an eight foot chunk away from the lawn and commented that it looked good and said something about how ambitious we always seemed to be, especially with Rhiannon being pregnant and all.

I don’t know that I call it being ambitious – I just like a good excuse to play with power tools in the dirt.


kind of blue

And I don't mean the Miles Davis album. Painted Basement

We wanted bold.  I think we got it.

Painted Basement  Painted Basement

It's a race between Beta and the basement, and I'm really hoping the basement wins.

[Edit: Since we've had a few questions, the column in the picture on the top is closer to the actual blue in the basement.  The second picture is a little brighter than real life.  We like bold, just not neon.]

project guest room

As if we didn't have enough going on with something about a new baby and project family 2.1.whatever week we're in and the due date is RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER!!, we figured that whole basement thing we've been talking about doing for a couple of years? Now would probably be a good time to get that done if we ever want any hope of it happening.  And let's all be honest - could I have done the basement myself?  Probably, with a little help from Rhiannon if she wasn't quite as round and tired as she seems to be.  We could have done it, but it wouldn't have been done this fast or this well.  It would have been, well, it would have been finished.  Simply.  Barebones.  But finished.

We are short on time and manpower, so we contracted it out.  Yes, it cost more, but two weeks accomplished what would have been months of my evening and weekends.  And when Rhiannon asks when it will be done, I simply reply, "Honey, I can't write checks any faster."

Basement Status from Chris&Rhiannon on Vimeo.

I realize after watching this video that I don't mind the sound of my own voice as much I don't like listening to myself ramble on without any script.  Protrusion?  Hmmm, try column and leave it at that.  And the thing in the window well - it's called a ladder.  Kind of an everyday term, but put me behind a rolling camera without any plan of what to say and watch my vocabulary disappear.  Really, how many times do I say "awesome"?  Anything more than once is too many.

Also, you can check out pictures that aren't as narrated or shaky at our Flickr photoset for the basement.  I'll probably be updated pictures there more often than I put pictures here.

just a little more for good measure

Blue We are getting dangerously close to 3 months to Beta's due date, and all of those tasks that we put on the "to get done before the baby list" are becoming a little more urgent.  So the weekend work continues.  I said last time that we didn't have the fourth wall done.  It makes it easy to decide what to work on.

Corner Corner

We like color.  That much is obvious.  And colors in stripes too!  Our weather has been nice enough that we actually left the windows open in the nursery all week long and it didn't really help at all.  Still smells like paint, which is somewhat expected since we just painted.

So if you've ever taken advice from the people behind the paint counter at a store like Home Depot, they will tell you that painting over a strong color should require a primer.  The orange and green paint would agree.  They would also say that if we had figured things out a little sooner, we could have masked off the stripe area rather than wasting paint that was just going to be painted over.

I would tell orange and green to watch it, or we'll stick you in the closet like we did to yellow.


Yeah, that's what I thought.

a splash of color

You'd think after all of the painting in the house that we've done over the past three years, I would remember how long it actually takes. Yellow Green Orange Yellow and Green

You'd think that I would, but you'd be wrong.  Especially when each wall is a different color.  Beta can choose what she wants to look at.

Three Walls

This doesn't even show the fourth wall that isn't painted yet, mainly because it isn't painted yet; we have a nice bright blue in mind.  I think I read somewhere that babies like bright colors.  I sure hope that's true...

Closet DSC_4434

the bag has released the cat…

… or the cat is out of the bag, depending on how you like your colloquialisms. I’d just like to take this opportunity to say, now that all relevant parties are aware of this fact, that we think Beta is going to be a girl.  Let the avoidance dancing around gender specific pronouns cease.

I happen to have a mother-in-law who didn’t want to know what we were having, so Rhiannon and I decided to humor her.  We didn’t tell her.

We told pretty much everyone else that we could think of that would see her on a regular basis, but we were not the ones who slipped up.  As it turns out (and as I have been told), it was mostly due to a three-year old granddaughter, which works out well because it’s hard to be mad a small child for not really understanding the difference between a new baby sister and a new baby girl cousin when all she knows is that the little boy in their house is a brother.

We have colors picked out for the nursery after a late night trip to Home Depot.  We’ve had colors picked out for a few months now and chose new ones last night.  Blue, green, yellow, and orange.

Yes, girl’s room with blue and without pink.

I figure any child of mine is going to have some issues as they grow up; I might as well get started early.

flower power

Rhiannon likes color in the yard. Asiatic Lillies

I think we have a little of that going on right now. I don't really care all that much about flowers - I had to ask her what the names of them were to name the images. I know the basics - daisies and roses and that pink one over there and oops, I though that was a weed...

Petunias Daisies Bee by Delphiniums Flower Bed

I just try to keep away from the bees and take some pictures from time to time.

Cone Flower

Yes, Dad, I now enjoy the very thing I ridiculed you for so long ago. Only, these aren't even vacation photos. This is just plain old around the house type stuff. I don't know if that's better or worse.

have you seen our rug? it’s GINORMOUS!

One of the main reasons I haven’t wrote about our bamboo floor install in more detail was that we had ordered an area rug to go in the bedroom and I wanted to wait for it to arrive and get a picture of everything completed. Well, it came.

We ordered the rug off of an outlet version of a store we like. It was a big rug for substantially less than we had ever seen anywhere else and it seemed too good to pass up. What could be wrong with that?

If you ever order a large rug without actually seeing in it person, there might be a few steps to take first.

Step one: Measure the room the rug will go in. Is the room actually bigger than the rug itself? This is kind of important, and even though we didn’t do this, we got it right.

Step two: Consider the purpose of the rug. Are you trying to completely cover the floor, like hiding a stained carpet, or are you merely trying to add some color and interest in an accenting type fashion? In our case, we just spent good time and money on the floor and we’re really pleased with the result so far, so we aren’t looking to hide everything we just did.

Step three: With everything else in place in the room, lay out the actual dimensions and space your rug will occupy. If you are ordering it with someone else, maybe the two of you should discuss what your expectations of actual floor coverage are. We didn’t do this either – at the time we were ordering, our furniture was piled in a guest room and there was a half finished floor in the bedroom. We skipped step one and were fine, how bad could it be?

Step four: If you just asked “How bad could it be?” at the end of step three and have exhibited a shocking lack of common sense, prepare yourself for a shocking result upon the delivery of the rug in question.

I think of the steps listed above, the odd numbered ones are the ones to concentrate on. Step three kind of takes care of step two and prevents step four. Luckily, we skipped the odd steps and concentrated on the evens.

I mention a lack of common sense because our bedroom is roughly 15 x 12 feet. The rug we ordered is 12 x 9 feet.

I’ll wait while the dimensions sink in.

Yep, you just figured out what we completely missed. That gives us around a foot and a half around the edge of the room, a foot and a half that is covered by a bed, dresser, armoire, and night stands. So, the rug would have pretty much covered the entire floor we just spent all that time putting in. We missed it when we looked online, when we discussed how nice it would look, and even up to the point where we had it unwrapped and unrolled sitting in the bedroom. Right around the time we started discussing how to get the rug underneath furniture I finally realized that it was going to go under every piece of furniture in the room.

As the enormity of the situation became apparent, Rhiannon asked “Where did we go wrong?”

I’d say it was about the time we clicked “Add to cart” on the website. It turns out Rhiannon has no sense of size (she guessed our bed to be eight feet wide) and I never paid enough attention to the actual dimensions to reach any logical conclusion about the outcome.

We haven’t quite decided what we’re going to do with the thing. It looks good – we’re happy with the color and quality. It’s just the size that’s a little off.

Magic Carpet... for 20

Yep, just a little off.  Unfortunately, it's hard to show exactly how big this thing is in a photo, so I've included people for scale.

I’m glad we can provide comic relief for Sarah and Mike.