February 16, 2018

snow day

I even bought a pair of half price snow boots
for Curly.  She has a hand me down
pair of Uggs from a friend.  I am not a fan
of Uggs and it took awhile for me to
grasp that they are crazy expensive winter
 boots that aren't meant to be worn in the snow. 
I almost escaped the mall on Wednesday without spending a dime.  Almost.  

I usually frequent my favorite department store after I drop the girls off at dancing Wednesday nights.  This week I only had a few things to return and something to exchange.  With no upcoming birthday invitations and no one desperate for some wardrobe item, there was nothing else on my shopping agenda.  

Then it hit me.  Boots.  

There was a time when we tucked
all of our patio furniture under a big cover to
 protect it.  Ah, the good ole days
 when we had time to take care of our things.
I used to have a bin full of boots that we would haul out of the basement storage room every year.  Apparently everyone outgrew the boots in the bin, and I stopped purchasing replacements for the 'big kids.'  I blame this in part on the fact that as the teens got older, they stopped running out to play in the snow.  Coach had a pair of construction type boots that one of the older boys might wear if he was commissioned to shovel our driveway.  There was also a lone size pair of nines that a big boy might squish his toes into, if he was desperate.  

Since Tank mows lawns in the summer, he handles snow removal for several houses during the winter months.  If you aren't from Chicago, then you might not know that a huge snowstorm was headed our way starting Thursday night (Feb. 8th . . I know this is old news.  I had to update all of you on our leaking ceiling and Coach's transformation around home improvement projects).

'What is the biggest size men's winter boot you have on sale?' I asked the salesman in the men's shoe department.  Of course they were Uggs.  The price was reasonable, considering the brand: $195 reduced to $90.  Tank wears a size 15 and the largest size they had was a 14.  I took it.  Beggars, and mothers of big footed teens, can't be choosy.  

I called home and tried to get Reg to tell me what size he would need.  I was still in denial that we had no boots stashed in the basement.  He insisted that the only pair he could find (the 9s) were too big for him.  

This kid has some kind of disorder.  He insists that his feet are several sizes larger than they really are, so it was odd for him to admit that he slid back and forth in the 9s.  I equate his issue to his belief that he will be a better basketball player if he has huge feet.  

A few years ago he called a quick good-bye as he left the house for basketball.  Another mom was driving him.  I was busy making dinner and gave him a wave without really looking at him.  When he came home I noticed that we was wearing clown-shoe-sized high tops that he had scored from a bin in the basement.  I recognized that he had a problem.  I also quizzed him about how successful he had been playing basketball in shoes that were easily 3 sizes too big.  I mean, they were cool looking shoes, but seriously?
Tank likes to open brand new bags of
 marshmallows willy nilly.  It's fun to find stale
bags months later.  This
was a great opportunity to use up
 the many open bags.  And use them up they did!

Anyway, in addition to the skis Uggs I bought for Tank, I grabbed boots that I hoped would fit Reg and Eddie.  

Yes, there was a snow day.  On a Friday.  Friday is my day off.  Who needs a day to get things done?  So much more important to make several batches of grilled cheese and roughly a gallon of hot chocolate in several installments.  

Other exciting accomplishments included:  recycling several huge boot boxes from the awesome new boots, calling the store to see if they could hunt down a size 13 or 14 boot like Ed's or Tank's for Coach (who was jealous of his boys' new boots), digging up dry mittens and gloves every few hours for the snow worshiping younger set, and working as Tank's volunteer secretary as additional requests arrived for his shoveling services.  

Got boots?  Check.  

February 14, 2018


In honor of Valentine's Day, I will share with you something about the love of my life that I have been stewing about recently.  I am anxious to receive comments from those of you who can relate, and from those of you who are lucky enough not to relate.

While I find all of the blogging names I chose for my family members to be quite fitting, I am contemplating changing Coach's moniker to 'Manly.'

This is my original
set of 'Little House' books. 
A little worn,
but still on the girls' desk.
Did you read the 'Little House on the Prairie' books?  Spoiler alert.  Laura marries a man named 'Manly.'  If memory serves, his real name is Almanzo, and they call him Manly.  What an awful name!  Incredibly, Coach has lately been subconsciously begging me to call him that.

It started with the leaking kitchen ceiling.  I've witnessed the telltale fixer-upper behavior before.  It involves three components:
     1.  a look that makes me feel invisible as he stares straight through me while I assume he envisions the isles of Home Depot,
     2.  the infamous I-know-more-than-most-because-this-is-home-repair-conversation tone,
     3.  and lots of nodding when speaking to an expert about the issue like 'Yeah, you speak my language.'
It makes me cringe.  The man can focus on nothing else when a complicated or uncomplicated future-home-repair sight crops up.

Warning:  I think these
icicles could kill someone!
  Keep your distance, unless
 of course you know something
 about home maintenance and
 construction, and arrive bearing
Home Depot gift cards.
The audio think-out-loud-thought-process while we were navigating our current situation sounds like:  'When will it stop leaking?  Maybe I should cut more holes in the drywall.  I think I will go outside again and stare up at the roof.  What if it starts leaking over there?  Should I empty the buckets before we go to bed?  I wish it wasn't a Sunday, because I could ask my patients for roofer recommendations.'  Here is where I suggest we ask our equally-capable-of-sharing-roofer-recommendation friends in the area.

I don't mean to downplay the crappiness of the situation.  I just grasped early on that it was out of our control beyond calling someone to handle it.  But, uh, Manly can converse about nothing else.

I called a few roofers after I heard back from our friends.  Coach spoke to one said roofer when he returned my call.  He suggested that Coach toss some rock salt up into the gutters if possible.  This gave Coach a new focus.

Sunday night Coach reminded me several times to call that roofer back, because that was how they left it.  I grasped the 'call him and he said he will come over' concept the first time.  I know, I know, I am not a fixer-upper type and I don't own a tool belt, so it's hard to know if I have the skill set for phoning a roofer.

Monday morning I called first thing and the guy called me back just before I started my workout class.  He then called me in the middle of the class to let me know that he had cleared some snow from the roof and tossed some salt in the gutters.  He pointed out that we probably need to add insulation in the attic based on how the snow was melting off the roof.

When I finished my class, I stopped by Coach's physical therapy clinic that is attached to the health club.  I relayed the info I received from the roof guy.  Coach kept trying to interrupt me.  He was frustrated with me.  It's hard to pinpoint if it was the rate that I was sharing the information or the lack of details or my general incompetence.

Laura and the real 'Manly'
Fortunately when our contractor showed up on Monday, he pointed out that this save-the-day roofer had only removed snow from the lower roof, which was not the problem at all.  Of course he will send me an invoice regardless.  The contractor called a different guy who came out yesterday (Tuesday).  He had the equipment to remove snow from the upper roof and he dug a trench in the gutter where the water might be able to drain when it melts today in the 40 degree temperatures.

If that doesn't work, I can always put on a bonnet and holler to Coach when he comes home, 'Save us Manly!'

February 11, 2018

when it snows it pours?

Wait, why are there buckets on the floor
of your almost complete kitchen, you ask.
The kitchen is almost done.  We hope to meet with the contractor this week to iron out the details of the questionable billing.  I have little hope that it will end well.

Coach took the 3 youngest kids sledding yesterday.  Ah, sledding.  This was an activity we partook in regularly when the crew was younger.  Bundling them up.  Packing the sleds.  Driving to a hill that came highly recommended.  The last few years we haven't worked sledding into our busy lives.  I think part of the problem is not that we are so busy, but that the timing was all off.  It didn't snow enough last winter, and when we got any snow in recent history it was followed closely by freaky cold temperatures.  No fun!

Coach called to say they were on their way home.  I put some milk on the stove to warm for hot chocolate and returned to the study briefly.  I heard Mini walk in and a moment later she started to holler something about the kitchen. 

It is tough to see here, but
 if you look closely you
can see the water mark on
the drywall surrounding
the area where our recessed
light used to be.
Dear God, could I have burned down the BRAND NEW kitchen by abandoning the warming milk for a few minutes?  No.  Mini was alerting me to the water dripping from one of the recessed lights.  

I raced upstairs.  The kids have been known to leave standing water on the bathroom floor after a shower.  Like so many of their antics, I have no explanation.  

The floor was dry in both upstairs bathrooms.  No overflowing toilet either.  Hmm.

I texted the contractor.  I texted the plumber.  The plumber told us to stop using the toilet.  It hadn't been used in over an hour.  I texted to let him know that turning the water off to the toilet wasn't helping.  He said he would stop by.

Our plumber is the best.  He has bailed us out of many situations.  He has assisted us in non-plumbing issues too.  A regular MacGyver.  Are you aware that I plug up the kitchen sink every time we are leaving to go out of town?  It has happened so regularly, that is is now a thing.  A tradition.  

Now when I try to reach inside the fridge
I get the added pleasure of having
 drips of brownish water drip on my head. 
Anyone want to come over for dinner?
He determined that it was not our plumbing.  We had an ice dam.  Our second floor gutters were full of ice.  The snow that was melting was flowing inside our walls.  Our siding on the rear of the house is ruined.  I can only imagine what our insulation looks like, or smells like.  Have you ever gotten a whiff of wet insulation?  Puke.  And our brand new kitchen ceiling is destroyed.  And new leaks are springing up every few hours.  

When it snows it pours.

Now I notice all the other houses with crazy, over-sized icicles.  I'm wondering if that is a sign of things to come for them, because our icicles are dangerously huge.  Well, until Tank decided to start knocking them off the upstairs windows with a kiddie sized shovel from the comfort of his bedroom.  He was tossing them down to the younger siblings who were using them to enhance their igloos. 

It's official.  I am ready for winter to end.

February 9, 2018

next time: back away from the sale rack

My past-it's-prime vest.
Yesterday I wore a vest that I bought a few years ago.  Wearing this vest reminded me of a few things:

1.  It is time to clean out my closet.  

Vests that appeared to double as shrubbery suitable for hunters to wear as camouflage in thickly wooded forests WERE stylish . . . a few years ago.  I tend to gravitate towards classic styled wardrobe pieces that won't most likely appear outdated overnight.  (Thus my avoidance of the cold shoulder look- not to mention that it only accentuates my poor posture).  This vest is the exception to that rule.  It is the kind of thing that you can't wear too often, because it is just THAT memorable.  I wore it a few times - few and far between. 

I didn't realize that it had 'expired' until I wore it downstairs yesterday before the junior high kids left for school.  It was met with loud, dramatic moans . . . followed by a negative, unsolicited commentary.  'You aren't wearing that?  Are you?'  Curly didn't witness my wardrobe malfunction until after school.  She embraced it with gusto.  Go figure. 

This book, the inspiration for our
bear hunt, belonged to my kids. 
Making it practically an antique.
My shaggy vest did keep the tots I sit for entertained.  Earlier in the week I orchestrated a bear hunt in our family room.  I dug out a handful of bear stuffed toys/beanie babies and hid them in plain sight around the room.  Then I read them parts of one of their favorite board books:  'We're Going on a Bear Hunt'.  Each time we came to a new hurdle, like thick oozy mud, I urged them to walk into the family room making the appropriate squelch, squerch sounds as they hunted for the hidden bears.  In keeping with the bear hunt theme, I wandered around the table during breakfast in my vest and acted like I was a fluffy bear challenging them to hunt me.  Each kid got a turn having the stringy attachments shaken in his face.  My bear impersonation received rave reviews. 

baby enjoying my vest.
I do prefer the nicer weather for my sitting services.  Visiting a park takes a lot of the pressure off of me.  A park is a natural form of entertainment - not to mention instantly tiring.  Wearing out tots is always a goal of mine.  In lieu of outdoor time, I occasionally rise to the occasion with fun indoor activities.  Good to know I haven't lost my touch. 

I will note that when the baby arrived this week and her folks handed me the instructions for her cereal which included lacing it with peanut butter, I felt like a grandma.  New techniques like that remind me that my children were born forever ago.  I am old.  Damn it. 

I digress.  I have found recently that I am gravitating toward the same articles of clothing.  Meanwhile there are many other items that just sit there.  Occasionally I remember to work them into my rotation, so that I don't feel compelled to give them away.  A sign that it is time to purge.

2.  Some things should remain on the sale rack.

Oh, how I love a deal.  I remember that I paid $19 for the aforementioned vest.  If memory serves (and despite my advanced age -it usually does), I believe it was initially marked $79.  I quickly nicknamed it my 'Chewbacca vest'.  Despite the self-deprecating nickname, I still wore it out of the house. 

I think this time I probably should've slowly backed away from the sales rack.  Although, you never know when you might need to pretend you are a bear, Chewy, or a hunter. 

February 6, 2018

New math or contractor math?

A quick update from the resident Dumb Ass on the kitchen drama.

To be clear, I know we owe the kitchen crew the next payment.  They spread the payments out over the duration of the job.  They gave me a schedule.  The amount I would owe corresponded with various construction/remodel milestones.  Pretty standard. 

Exhibit A:  my calendar is positioned
 over the new built in bench
 by the mini island (I have nicknamed
this the snack bar).  Soon we will
have the option of sliding the
 barn doors in front of it.  As an aside,
Mini has repeatedly told me that she
can't believe I came up with the
idea for the little built in bench,
and mini island that houses the
 fridge drawers.  I may not be a
self-taught kitchen designer,
but I occasionally have a good idea!
Avoiding us for 3 weeks sent up a red flag that has me wondering how legit their bookkeeping is.  We definitely owe more than the designated payment on my handy-dandy schedule, because some things went over budget.  I totally accept that.  For instance, the little barn doors we are installing in front of the recessed, command-central calendar were an added expense.

KD (kitchen designer) emailed me on Thursday with the statement that I requested.  I almost fell over.  Now they are asking for a check for $6,000 more than the amount KD asked for the week prior.  AND they claim that this total includes the $5,000 credit that I was supposed to receive towards appliances.  Riddle me this:  how can my additional expenses INCREASE by $6,000 from one week to the next?

It seems like I'm being slapped on the wrist for asking for a statement.

First of all, the appliance credit changed to $3,600 from the originally discussed $5,000.  Supposedly this has something to do with the materials that I chose.  Interesting.  They never mentioned how materials would impact the 5 grand in the beginning?

I was shaking for the rest of the day on Thursday.  I was worried that they wouldn't come and do any of the electrical work they were supposed to do on Saturday, if I didn't give them a check on Friday.

No one bothered to show up on Friday, so dodged that 'give-us-a-check' bullet.  In good news, the electrician DID grace us with his presence on Saturday.  He installed the fridge drawers in the mini-island and light fixtures over the island.  Wonders never cease.

I want the owner to sit down and have a face to face with Coach and I before we write him a check.  Before I demand a face to face, I need to nail Coach down to an available time.  I tried for this last week.

Coach agreed to work late for one of his employees on Friday.  (Here is where I blew a gasket.  All the man does is work.  Let someone else cover for Joe Blow.  Damn it).  He taught a class on Saturday AND Sunday.  Monday he works from 5 am till about 9 pm.  Maybe Wednesday?

Someone suggested that I ask jerky kitchen people to send all invoices pertaining to our project to our accountant.  I like that idea.  We might owe them exactly what they claim we owe them, but they are just tossing me numbers about how much we owe for cute barn doors and over-budget counters, etc.  I am not seeing any invoices to back up their math.  Is this what we refer to as new math?

Do you vote for a sit down?  Do you vote that Coach should work less?  (ha - I crack myself up)  Do you vote for the invoices to go to my accountant?  Do you vote that I stop posting about my kitchen?  Vote now! 

February 4, 2018

Bad-ass to dumb-ass in minutes

Hey, I just found a photo from the
team pasta dinner that we hosted and
the original, ridiculous hood that I kept
knocking into with my noggin is
included in the pic.  I was kicking
 myself for not snapping a photo of it.
 Technically this picture should
 appear in my last post, but you can now 

flip back to it and get the whole picture. 
I sent the owner of the company (that is supposedly working on our kitchen) a strongly worded text message on January 17th.  I suggested that we begin to deduct money in $500 increments from our final bill for every week that no work was done.

No response.  None.  Zip.  No, seriously.

I sent similar messages inquiring as to where the heck everyone was to the contractor and the daughter.  Silence.  I seriously began to wonder if they had gone bankrupt or something.

Then January 27th, the kitchen designing daughter texted me.  She'd been sick with the flu.  I mean I know the flu can take a toll, but to lose all feeling in your fingers so that you are unable to send a text communicating something along the lines of:  'I am sick' - that strain of the flu was new to me.  Three weeks is a very long time to be out sick, can we agree there?  Not to mention, there are other members of the staff that could've stepped in.  Did every electrician in a 20 mile radius have an ill timed flu bug as well?

'I've been trying to get in touch with the contractor too,' read another freaky text from the 'self-taught' daughter that officially blew my mind.  What does that mean?  Why can't she communicate with the contractor and why is she sharing that with me, the customer?!
This is the glass tile I chose
 for the backsplash.
 I shared this with her when
she returned from her trip
 to Mexico.  Her boyfriend surprised
her for Christmas.  I was also surprised,
because no one communicated
that she was out of town. 
She didn't resurface until January 9th.
 I chose this tile around Dec. 18th.
  Still not on my walls. 
Not convinced that she has ordered it. 

She asked me via text what I had decided about a few kitchen related decisions.  The next day she stopped by to go over a few things.  Again she mentioned her flu deathbed.  She even said, 'We've all been so sick.'  I suppose I could've asked her who she was counting in the 'we've'  but I didn't bother.  Was it just her boyfriend, or was everyone that worked construction in the greater Chicagoland area?  It was fishy.

During her visit, she started asking me about what still needed to be done in the kitchen.  I thought some of what she wanted to know was more contractor related stuff.  I wondered to myself, if the contractor with the accent like the guy in Despicable Me was still employed by her father.

She pulled out a piece of paper and began to tally up a bill for me.  She asked for a check.

I thought I was being a bad-ass.  I told her that I wouldn't write a check until I saw a statement, because I suspected that they weren't giving me the $5,000 appliance credit that they had agreed to give me.

And that, I suspect, was when I should have held my cards closer to my chest.  Why did I mention the credit?  Let them produce a document without the credit and THEN call them out on the absence of the credit!

Bad-ass turned dumb-ass in a matter of minutes.

February 2, 2018

And she's self taught!

I had hoped to write about
my awesome new boots. 
Note: in the background of this photo
 there is a drawer missing . . . 

part of the charm of
my unfinished kitchen and
still no backsplash.  There
are other incomplete areas,
 but hey - aren't these
boots the bomb?
I had a few other things I wanted to write about, but I thought I'd share this breaking news . . .  our kitchen job has officially reached nightmare status.

No one showed up to work on ANYTHING for over 3 weeks.  Let me clarify that.  There has been very minimal progress made SINCE Christmas - so snail's pace for 5 weeks but NOTHING FOR 3 WEEKS.  A man hung some shelves in my pantry about a week after Christmas.  He started to construct a custom hood that was horrible.  I asked him to stop.

I can't believe it, but I neglected
 to take a photo of the early
construction of the horrible hood. 
They just finally removed it
 the other day.  I am so sorry
 I can't show it to you.  Take my
word for it:  low, twice as deep as the
 other cabinets, hazardous.  In the
weeks that it was left unfinished
there, I banged my noggin on it
countless times. 
Eddie and Coach, too.
This little mini-island is like a
snack bar between the kitchen and
 family room.  The fridge drawers have
 been sitting in a box since mid December. 
They finally have the cabinet fronts on them
 and I've been told an electrician
is coming in the morning to
install them inside the cabinet.
It was huge and boxy and was going to look like another cabinet - in a kitchen chock full of cabinets.  It promised to protrude into the space where my head would naturally glide each time I walked in front of the stove top, or perhaps when I cooked something.  In other words, this custom hood was threatening to knock me and the other tall members of our household unconscious each and every time one of us walked by it.

Oddly enough when the kitchen designer (aka the owner's daughter) asked me what kind of hood I wanted, my only specifications were:  not boxy, not resembling another cabinet, still shaped like a hood with an angled front.  Translation:  what he was building was all wrong.

This is one of the times - and there have been others - when the owner's words haunt me.  'And she's self taught.'  That is what the owner shared with me when he told me that his 20-something year old daughter was working as his kitchen designer.  The statement made me cringe.  Not a positive selling point.  I had already hired him.  I hoped for the best.  This is not where the story ends . . .
Full disclosure:  My kitchen is actually a mess.  I visited both the grocery store AND Costco today.  That sucked.  I didn't babysit today, so I would've preferred to accomplish something other than collecting provisions for the fam.  I finally sat down to post something even though all of this non-perishable food was heaped all over the table.  Priorities.  I felt guilty showing the first picture and not admitting to what was lingering just beyond.