Thursday, August 9, 2012

Good Story: Manual Can Opener!

Tonight, while Little Man patiently waited to ask me a question, Eric decided to tell me the story of how he came to own our manual can opener.

The story was so riveting, I suggested he blog about it. When he declined - he doesn't have a blog - I told him he should write a "guest blog" on my blog. He said, "I think you should tell the story for me. It is a weighty subject."

Ok, he didn't really say that last part.

Here is the story, as close as I can get to remembering what he said:

"Do you know the story of how I got this green handled can opener? My mom gave me this can opener right before I left for college..."

At this point I lost interest and stopped paying attention.

"And then I lived in an apartment at Valpo..."

Why did I suggest he should blog about this?

[Little Man interrupts and actually says, "Will you just stop talking now?"]

"And then I went to grad school at Valpo, but I accidentally left the can opener in my apartment. Maybe I knew someone who lived in the apartment? Or it was one of my friends? Or I went back there? So I went and asked them if they had a green handled can opener. And I found it in the drawer and was like, 'THIS. IS. MY. CAN. OPENER... and I'm going to take it!'" (Raises can opener in his fist triumphantly.)  "And they were disappointed and like 'What just happened?'"

"And now we still have my can opener that my mom gave me when I went to college."

The End.

And now YOU know why Eric doesn't have a blog. And why he has sweatshirts that are half as old as he is. And why if something he owns breaks or wears out, he attempts to buy the exact same item.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

What the What? Toilet Blockage!

I wrote awhile back about having some issues with anxiety, and the last few days have been days like that. The cause: our stupid toilet.


In April 2011, our downstairs toilet was all weird and then while Eric was showering, I was getting dressed and smelled poop. Naturally, I assumed our dog pooped in the living room, but when I went downstairs I instead found our toilet overflowing with sewage all over the place. It was... not awesome. Eric had to leave for work, so I was alone (thankfully the kids went to school) trying to minimize the damage and get someone to come help us fix the sewage spewing toilet problem. It was a half day problem that cost us around $300, but then the stress lingered until we were able to determine that we didn't have sewage in our walls or any other place it shouldn't be. The problem, according to the plumbing guy at the time, was a blockage in the sewer main line about 80ft from our house. A blockage that looked like concrete or cement.

So for the past week or so, I noticed some tell tale bubbling in the scary toilet. The rational part of me reassured the rest of myself (the irrational part, also known as most of me) that I was imagining things. That a sewage flood of our downstairs was not imminent or inevitable. But part of me has been eyeing all things water related with suspicion.

A few nights ago, I had trouble falling asleep, and ended up getting about 2 hours of sleep because of fears that the toilet would start going crazy while we were sleeping upstairs, and that I wouldn't know about it so there would be tons of damage. I ended up watching Olympics reruns on the couch, and all toilets continued to function mostly properly.

The next day, exhausted, I suggested to Eric that perhaps we should call the plumber now. Before our house floods with sewage. But that would require a) money, and also b) trusting my anxiety voice. Seriously though, at that point, I was reaching my limit of the anxiety I could handle related to the toilet situation and just wanted it to be over.

So 2 days ago, sleepless again, I decided to do some research. I ended up emailing our city water & sewer customer service explaining about the supposed concrete 80 feet from our house into the area under the street (conveniently the same area of the street where the road was fixed after the water main exploded a few weeks after we moved in to our house. I couldn't even make this up!), and asking for someone to come out and check the city's part of the sewer main for blockages.

And, of course, I didn't hear back.

But this morning, while Eric was showering again (creepy!) the toilet started bubbling like crazy. Like a crazy, toilet bubbler. I stood there watching like a statue of a person having a panic attack. And then the water sucked down the drain. All of it. For no reason. And the panic attack started. I started crying, my skin was tingling, my stomach got upset, I started pacing. I got Eric who basically told me to snap out of it. "It's a problem to be SOLVED" were his exact words.

Ahh.. the irony.

I called the city sewer line at 8am and didn't go into details other than to say I suspected a blockage in the sewer main, and they actually sent someone to our house!! The city people looked at... some stuff near the street (??), and then looked in the little tunnel out in front of our house where our house line comes out from the crawl space. After doing some fun experiments like turning on all of the water sources in the house, and flushing a big wad of toilet paper down the toilet that will likely be the one to flood, they determined that the blockage is probably under the house.  But supposedly they will also be checking the city part of the line.

The city guy gave me instructions on what to tell Eric he should do if he wanted to try to fix the block on his own. Normally I would have felt a little "Why do you assume I can't do this myself?" but his instructions involved going into the crawl space and actually opening the line, at which point I imagined sewage would just start flowing out, so I didn't even pretend like that job might be mine. Then I got to go to school and tell Eric about his fun evening DIY project!

I was a little crazy all day. I'm blaming it on the anxiety. Literally my thoughts almost all day were on whether our house was flooding with sewage AT THAT VERY MOMENT. That is not a fun way to live.

Tonight was project night. Eric did some research, bought some supplies, got dressed in his paint clothes and headed down into the crawl space looking like a strange miner/surgeon.
He had 2 jobs under the house. First, city guy told me, and Eric read online, that the line under the house should start high and angle down so that gravity would work to pull the sewage from the house. Only the ties that were supposed to establish that were laying on the ground, and there were a few low spots in the pipe where blockages could loiter. Fixed.  Then he ran a pipe snake through the line as far as it would go (25 feet).  He came out all dusty and disgusting, but confident that the toilet would be better.

Only instead it was worse. Lots of bubbles. At first we thought "Well, he did just open the line, so there is air in there that needs to work it's way out." Only then we flushed the toilet and it started to fill. And fill.
No joke, when the toilet started to fill, I immediately went into crisis. Shaking, crying, basically being a freak. I just cannot deal with a poop bathroom again.

So now it is 3am, and I am awake on the couch with a view of the bathroom. Light on, toilet seat up, every towel we own, plus some of my moms (who is out of town. Welcome back, Mom! I got some poop on your towels while you were gone.) covering the bathroom floor. JUST. IN. CASE. The water level in the toilet is slowly rising, so I decided to attempt to stay up most of the night to check it and plunge when needed, which is working out to about every 2 hours.

Tomorrow I get to call the city again to see if they checked the city line yet. And then, hopefully, the plumber. While spending the money on the repair is painful during the month we are paying for our recent 2 week trip to Denver, at least then the anxiety part will be over. Until I start worrying about our credit card bill with the repair on it.


Plumbing man was just here. One of the best parts of this experience was the text I got from Eric saying, "If he pulls Lamby out of there, I will be royally pissed." [Lamby = Big Girl's lost bedtime stuffed animal.] Maybe it isn't that funny, but I didn't sleep last night.

The culprit: DISHWASHER DETERGENT! In addition to the normal stuff you would find in a sewer, there was "some grease" - my bad - and "a lot of chalky powder". Based on the location of the blockage (directly under the dishwasher) and the fact that our dishwasher is the only thing in the house that we put powder in, I was able to deduce that the dishwasher detergent is the chalky powder. Yes, this is the same mind that got a perfect score on the logic section of the GRE back in 1999.

And, to redeem Eric and his plumbing skillz, the plumber ended up needing to use 75 feet of pipe snake to get to the blockage, so really there is nothing Eric could have done about that, short of spending $300 at Home Depot. We got piece of mind for 45 minutes of plumber time and half the price!

Lesson learned: when you have a fairly crappy dishwasher and a sewer main line with no room for significant angling, use liquid dishwasher detergent. Bye bye pre-packaged powder detergent. You were so convenient and cheap (at Costco) until you cost us about $200 and a week of stress that probably shortened my life.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Thoughts on Reading a Book That Is Almost About Me

I just finished reading Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess, who I first stumbled upon because of this post about Beyonce' the Giant Metal Chicken.

I have to say that initially I was wary. Lot of swearing and some of the sarcasm struck me as "striving for alternativism".

But then, the book really started to freak me out because apparently Jenny Lawson and I are bizarro twins!

Some things we have in common...

* Generalized Anxiety -- I could totally relate to not only her specific thoughts about GAD, but also about feeling socially awkward. I don't think I usually share such inappropriate info in such cases, but it isn't uncommon for people to call me quirky or to comment about my "interesting" thought/observations. But her writing on this topic was like reading my own thoughts. Very weird, and where the similarities begin.

* Love of cheese!! -- Enough said

* Dressed with her husband as the cheerleaders from Saturday Night Live for a Halloween party -- No joke, we had the EXACT SAME COSTUMES. Only instead of no underwear, I solved the polyester problem by wearing Spanx tights under mine (clingy, and also the skirt wasn't cut to an appropriate length for someone who is 5'10 - apparently Jenny and I are not the same height). I have access to a picture of us in costume, but it is 2:30am and I am too lazy to get up and take a picture of it with my phone.

* Fear of her house having serious issues -- Scorpions, snakes, dead animals in the walls, built over a cemetery (?). My fears are more mundane: flooding toilets, settling foundation, termites.

* Makes money blogging. -- I don't make money blogging, but my dad thinks I could!

* "From you, Dad! I learned it from watching you!" -- 80s pop culture references from someone who is, like me, borderline too young to really remember this but somehow has a photographic memory about random bits of info like this

* Once lived in a house with a serious bug infestation problem -- In my case, we called the bugs "Many Leggeds". I have no idea what they really were. But Eric was there, and he will back me up on this. The first night in the house, I turned off my light, then remembered something so got back up and turned the light back on and about 20 MANY LEGGEDS HAD COME OUT OF THE CEILING LIGHT AND WERE ABOVE ME ON THE CEILING! And once, Eric lunged at me and slapped me because there was a Many Legged on my coat. Yes, and there were also mice.

* Making up words that aren't really words -- Did you notice I did that at the start of this post? BAM!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Ladies Tea 2012

Just to be clear how absolutely behind in blogging I am, today's post is about an event that happened in APRIL. Blah! 

Last fall, I naively pitched the idea of having a ladies tea at our church to benefit LWML missions grants.  And then somehow I was in charge of it! (Doesn't it always happen that way?) So, I found myself a committee of 6 women who agreed to help me organize and pull off a ladies tea.

The catch -- we didn't want to plan the ladies tea that you probably picture when I say "ladies tea".  We wanted something that could be a mother-daughter, grandmother-mother-daughter, friends tea. With an interesting speaker. And a little bit of fancy. 

Our committee first met in November to choose a theme and get started on planning.  We each took responsibility for one aspect of the event. Our jobs were:

* food & hostesses 
* entertainment & program
* advertising & photo booth
* facilities (tables and chairs, manpower to help transform the church into the tea area)
* decorations
* tickets & name tags

We met approximately once a month to check in on progress, get feedback and make decisions.  

We decided to call the tea, "You, Me, the LORD and Tea".

One of our first decisions was to make the children's tickets free and plan an activity for the kids.  We wanted to encourage families from our church and school to attend.  

We had a little discussion about how large the tea might be. It had been a few years since there was a tea at our church, so it was really a guess how people would respond.  Our monthly LWML meetings usually have 20 women, and at one point someone actually said, "If our members come and bring a friend or relative, we'll have 40." We decided to plan for 12 tables and approximately 100 women.  

One cool thing that happened right away was we found out a family from our school had banquet type supplies in storage, so we were able to get the tables, white tablecloths and chairs as a donation. Awesome! 

We decided since we would have 12 tables that we would find 12 hostesses and have each hostess decorate their table to correspond with a month of the year.  Hostesses were not asked to provide food, but were responsible for table settings and decor.  In return, they received their ticket to the tea for free.

Our food and hostesses woman made a small food committee to make finger sandwiches, scones and fruit salad, and our LWML was asked to donate boxes of individual tea bags.  We prepared the hot water in the church kitchen and then had our servers replace the water at the tables when needed.

Our servers? Fancy, dressed up husbands and sons! They all wore white dress shirts and tan pants.  (This was actually one of the things people commented on the most following the event.) 

We advertised the event at both the church and school and tickets sold quickly.  After capping the ticket sales at 100, we actually ended up selling, I think, 106 tickets.  I think we probably could have filled another table to two if we had not limited the seating. 

We had an AWESOME decorations person.  I have a super talented friend who has done event planning before who took over for our first, very lame decorations person (me!).  She came up with amazing decoration ideas that were inexpensive.  There were a couple of decoration "work parties" to get things made, but that was actually pretty fun! 

We set up a photo area so that we could take pictures of ladies in attendance.  We decided that those would be mailed or emailed, whatever the photo subject wanted. And then, the idea grew and we had someone make photobox type props.  (We weren't sure how some of the more seasoned ladies would feel about the photo props but they seemed to have fun with it!) 

Photo booth backdrop
We were able to line up a great speaker, a Deaconess in training that I met and got to know at a women's retreat last fall.  But we thought we needed an alternate plan for our young lady tea attendees.  We recruited 2 of the cool, gifted-with-young-kids men from church to run the craft activity.  We planned for a craft, and then thought whatever the girls made could be modeled in a short fashion show.  I was looking for a hat or pin or basket or something that could be modeled. And I didn't want glue to be involved. And it needed to work for girls as young as 3. And for a ratio of 2 adults to approximately 20 kids. 

Thank goodness for Pinterest!
Craft room ready for hat making
And I found: this. It worked perfectly and I actually had a lot of the fun crafty stuff already in my kids art tubs.  So, during the speaker, the kids went and made funky hats, and then they modeled them at the end to the Mandisa song, "Good Morning"

Setting up
The event went like this...

Friday afternoon, our committee and a few helpers arrived and worked on decorations. Then we, along with recruited "muscle", stage the sanctuary for the ladies tea.  That was a hard 5 or so hours of work that thankfully was shared by about 15 people. 

Tables and chairs arrived. Decor was being put up. Hostesses showed up when they could to set up their tables. 

The Tea Table (glass bowl for donations went on top)
In addition to the tables, we had a central table with additional tea bags (each table had a bowl with a variety of tea bags), sugar, and a donation box for missions.  We also had a large check in table with programs (with the schedule, some facts about tea I found online, and information about LWML and our speaker) and name tags.  From there, we encouraged people to head to the photo area.  

Check in table

We had about 30 minutes of fellowship time before tea was served.  Ladies also looked around at the different themed tables, and had their picture taken at the photo booth. We had tea and snacks, then heard our speaker while the kids did their crafts.

One of the highlights of the event for everyone was the fashion show.  The kids were so cute and most really got into being fancy and showing off the hats they made.

Overall it was a really fun event.  Our committee members received a lot of feedback. Many said we should have charged more money, while some said we charged too much.  Most ladies commented that they would have liked more fellowship time.  And all agreed that the decorations were very beautiful.  

And now, some more pictures!!!

Tea-ing ladies

More tea-ing ladies with one of the gentleman servers


Hat craft!!

Our craft helpers ended up in hats too!

And, some fun photo booth pictures!

Our craft guys (Eric is on the left) and Little Man

Me, my mom and Big Girl

And last, the tea committee!! We were INSANE by the time the tea was over, but it was so fun.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

She's Got the Moves Like Gadget

This morning on the way to school, we heard "Moves Like Jagger" by Maroon 5.  The kids are familiar with the part of the chorus with the title, the song is on my IPod workout playlist. So they sang along "I got the moves like Jagger, I got the moves like Jagger..."

And, of course, an argument had to ensue over the proper pronunciation and words to that line of the song. They settled, upon Big Girl's insistence, on:

"I've got the moves like Gadget, I've got the moves like Gadget..."

By this time, the song had been changed on the radio, but they kept up singing the chorus. Their version.

I asked Big Girl, "Who is Gadget?" You know, because if you are going to move like Gadget, you should probably know who/what that is.

Her answer: "I don't know. I think Gadget is probably a cool person with cool moves. Like this." (Insert Big Girl's weird dance style here.)

Monday, April 30, 2012

A Year of Dates: April

Man, the wheels really fell off my blogging wagon last month!! As usual, I blame life.

I didn't blog about it, but we did our April date.  (Want more details about The Year of Dates?)

April 2012

The Date: This was our first date of the year that wasn't date specific. So of course we waited until the last Sunday of April to squeeze it in! We went out for frozen yogurt at a new "local and organic" fro-yo place we had heard a lot about.  Then we headed to the park for a walk and a little friendly game of "Do you know your husband/wife?"

The Envelope: Along with the ever-present "witty note on blue stationary", the envelope contained 2 small booklets...

Do You Know Your Wife?Do You Know Your Husband?

And it went a little something like this...

Honestly, it was just nice to get to spend a little time with Eric. April was a BUSY month!! We had been hearing great things about the new, "we only serve local, fresh ingredients" frozen yogurt place in town.  I was even prepared for the fact that they don't have any candy or other refined sugary goodness to put on their organic, clean eating fro-yo.

Here's Eric, with the mandatory "Me and my envelope" photo

He has obviously practiced being "thrilled", but this is still a weird picture of him. Sorry, Eric. But, look at the beautiful farmstyle frozen yogurt.  I can't remember what flavors he got, but I was crazy and got chocolate and... vanilla!!  (I have since heard from my fro-yo connoisseur friends that the chocolate is not a favorite.) I had 2 initial reactions to the healthy frozen yogurt. First, it was yogurty. Clearly NOT ice cream. Second, I accidentally chose a spoon of recycled wood or bamboo or something ("accidentally" because I did it on purpose but only because I didn't realize there was some other option that was also environmentally friendly but more like plastic).  The woody stubble feeling on my tongue was not a good chaser to the frozen yogurt. I got used to the yogurt, but not to the spoon. Eric, who had the plastic-ish spoon, made fun of me, but did attempt to use my spoon once too.

Then we headed off to the park.  We went for a walk along the river, which was nice. Quiet and peaceful. Except for that couple being inappropriate together on a blanket in the grass.

Our couples quiz books were pretty cute. 100 questions ranging from the very difficult (what is his mom's phone number? who were 3 of his childhood friends?) to simple (what color is her purse - which was right next to me? who cuts his hair?). We did 25 questions at a time, and then read our answers and mercilessly teased each other when we got one wrong.

Then it got cold, so we moved to the sun about 200 yards away. Guess who also moved there? Yes! Inappropriate blanket couple! So we joked that they probably thought we were following them to watch the show. Only, we really weren't. Not attractive people, the blanket couple. 

I got a bonus shot of the envelope and quiz book!!! 

So, if you know me, you do not even need to ask who "won" the quiz book "game". Because I refuse to lose!!! =)

On our way back to the car, we walked past the marina and saw some super tiny baby geese. Those Mamas were keeping the babies in line! Hello spring!

Next Month: Since I am posting this on the day of our May date (yes, I am cheating and back dating to April so it will be easier for me to find later), I can tell you what we are doing. Dinner out and... Third Day concert!! Hooray!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Hey! It's (the middle of) April!

Welcomed back into the open, waiting arms of my blog.

Things here are as they were. Office still isn't re-done. Backyard still doesn't have raised planter beds. I still intend to do those things, someday.

The last few weeks, and the next few weeks, are going to be BUSY. And, hopefully, fun.

It's nice enough to play outside!! I cleaned out the disgusting backyard toy storage container and threw away the empty/broken/gnawed on junk inside and replaced it with cool, new outside toys for Pippin to chew on.

**Interruption by Little Man, who refuses to wear shoes in the backyyard and now has a splinter in his foot. Cool Snoopy bandaid to the rescue!**

It's also softball season! Normally this means coaching the middle school girls softball team. This year, it means that + me playing on a women's church softball team.  I admit I am a little skeptical about the whole thing. I have never played slow pitch softball, or on a "women's team", and I am having flashbacks to high school PE. But, first practice is Monday and I am looking forward to it. Eric and the kids have never seen me actually play softball, so even though this will be a far cry from my college softball days, it will be something new for all of us!

I have been in a workout funk.  I had a mystery ailment for a few weeks that left me nauseous and really tired (and, no, I am not pregnant), and I lost all exercise momentum. Truly, ALL. EXERCISE. MOMENTUM.  I combined that with truly horrible eating habits, with the lovely result of having pants that are almost too tight! High five!

So, that is my new news. I am more consistent with exercise when I have a goal, and a plan. So I now have a goal and a plan.

The goal: the Tough Rhino Mud Run on June 9th

(I guess that means I have some characteristic in common with a rhinoceros? My aggressive disposition? Scaly skin? Large size? Actually, I am not sure if rhinos have scaly skin. But I sure do!!)

The plan: Jamie Eason's LiveFit Trainer

The first 4 weeks of this 12 week training program actually specifies NO CARDIO. It's all about weight training.  I actually started with the training program first, and then decided the mud run would be a good goal because it is a 5K but also will require strength.

I am finishing up week 1 this weekend. It's pretty rough: "rest days". I do have "before" pictures, but trust me, those will never see the light of day until the "after" shows some serious change. Or unless I become a celebrity, and my dino-computer gets hacked.

Happy spring everybody! I hope you are enjoying beautiful, get your booty outside, weather!