Monday, January 30, 2006

Finished with the wall

I finished building the retaining wall yesterday. It rainied hard on Saturday, so I was out of luck then, but yesterday afternoon it was dry enough to work outside. The only thing left to do is to finish moving pea gravel from the driveway.

And to post some pictures, to prove that I actually finished a project.

Plus, while working outside I decided what the next project will be. I am going to start up my veggie garden again. Last year I decided it was too much work with two little kids. But this year they are getting a garden space of their own. Maybe we will grow a bean teepee or something fun for them.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Halfway there. Now where was I going again?

The wooden retaining wall around the playscape is officially half finished. All that is left is one back side and a funky 45 degree corner that runs to the rock retaining wall. It looks pretty good so far, but I still have several days of work to do.

This afternoon The Talker helped me out for a few minutes. He wanted to saw, so we busted out the reciprocating saw and cut the scrap ends off of a couple of four by fours. Afterwards he told me he really likes the noise the saw makes. After one cut he was gone, off to swing some more. Big fun!

Hopefully I will get finished this weekend. Everything looks pretty well done, but lots of loose ends to tie up. But this is that point that I usually get distracted by some other project. Around here that is normal. I come from several generations of Starters. There is hardly a finisher in the whole family line.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Mmmmmmmm, math. Tasty

The kids and I just returned from our trip to the grocery store. The Talker wanted some Chex Mix. So we decided to buy a couple of boxes of cereal and to make some ourselves.

The Queen Mother made some for the kids during Christmas. OK, actually, Mom made me some spicy Chex mix and she had some of the mild stuff that she had just made. When we left, I stole it all. Anyways, the kids loved it.

The Talker helped count the ingredients and measure everything out. The Princess helped stir. And I am pretty sure that she drooled right into the pan...

The kids are chomping at the bit to get some home made Chex mix. But it has to cook for another half hour. That should kill whatever germs she drooled into our snack, right?

Playscape progress

Here are a couple of pictures from the playscape renovation.

The first picture was taken before we got a good start. The rocks are already under the climber, so it isn't a true 'BEFORE' shot.

And the next picture shows most of the low retaining wall that I have finished so far.

I finished the slide landing pit last night after dark, so the kids haven't even seen it finished yet. The weather should be good today, so we will be giving it a good trial run.

And finally, you can see that I have a ways to go with the wall. Then it is back to moving more rock, to finish up.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Precocious little fingers

When we took The Princess out of her baby bed, we quickly realized the need for another way to keep her contained at night. It only took her a couple of nights in the toddler bed to figure out how to open her door knob, giving unfettered access to the whole house while mommy and daddy slept.

So we bought the dreaded door knob covers. Little plastic clamshell looking things that go over the knob and spin freely, unless you grasp them just right. Kind of like child proof pill bottle lids for your doors. Especially in that kids usually master using them quicker than the adults.

The Talker has mastered the new door knobs, which is fine. The Princess? She can't make the covers work, BUT she has figured out how to take the covers off of the door knobs. She reaches inside and pries the plastic halves apart.

Guess it is time to break out the duct tape. Then, I can either tape the pieces shut and keep the knobs covered, or maybe I can just tape all of her fingers together and avoid the problem completely.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Dog run progress

I have finally grown tired of the mountain of pea gravel in my front yard. So yesterday I spent the bulk of the day moving barrows full of rocks to the side yard. I am setting up a dog run over there. I still have to build a gate, to actually keep Kodak in it, but that can wait a while. And sadly, it did not make a dent in the pile of rocks out front.

The dog does fine when our kids are playing in the yard, but some of the neighborhood kids are a little intimidated by the hairy beast. Which is understandable. He is only 18 months old, so he still acts like a puppy, but he weighs 95 pounds.

Plus, he likes to run right at the kids and turn at the last possible second. It is sort of worrisome when you are an adult and the beast is charging at you, much less if you are a kid and Kodak is way bigger. There is nothing like a game of "Chicken" between a 95 pound dog and a 25 pound toddler.

Anyways, I want to be able to put the dog into the run when kids are playing in the yard. But after he wears himself out, Kodak loves watching them on the playscape, so I set him up with a good view of most of the play area.

$90 MP3 Player review

As Rick reminded me, I never shared any more info about my newest toy.

I have really enjoyed having an MP3 player. In the last couple of weeks I have spent countless hours ripping my CD collection into Windows Media Player so that I can sync them to the player. But that has been cool, since I have listened to a lot of music lately that I haven't heard in years.

The Sansa m240 is small, lightweight and it has good sound quality. It fits easily in my pocket when I am out walking or working in the yard. And since I just got a good deal on rechargeable AAA batteries, it is nice that it runs for 15 hours or more on one AAA. The box said it would hold about 240 songs. I filled it up with about 200. And they were ALL George Strait songs! If I reduce the quality when I rip the music into my computer I can get a few more songs on it. But really, who needs more than 200 George Strait songs in their front pocket?

A couple of features I don't love about the player: There is no way to delete a song through the player controls. You have to remove songs when you sync with Windows Media Player. It also seems that some of the functions are harder to use when the battery gets low. For example the backlight won't kick on when you make a selection. And I am not wild about the earbuds. Maybe I have really big ears or something, but they seem to fall out a lot. Plus, if I don't put them in just right, they hurt my ears after a few minutes.

And music should not be about pain. Unless you are listening to me play guitar...

So there you have it. A quick run down of my new MP3 player. I don't think I did too bad for $90.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Weekend plans

Since it has not rained for real in more than two months, I assume that it won't rain this weekend either. Except that I am hoping to get some work done in the backyard on Saturday. My plans will surely bring on a thunderstorm, right?

I am about 25% done with the playscape fall zone. A lot of the pea gravel is in place and the general layout is decided. Now I just have to build the retaining walls. I dismantled a nice retaining wall when we brought the gravel over. So now I am cutting off the spikes to start assembling the new wall.

After getting all of the lumber cleaned up I am going to try and lay out the pieces to have minimum waste and the fewest number of cuts. I did not get this fat by not being a little lazy... Plus, I would like to end up with 12 uncut posts that I can use when I rebuild the fence on one side of our yard.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

That is really bad

When we walked in to the pharmacy at Costco, the receptionist called the kids by name. She likely remembers them from our three previous trips to the pharmacy in the last three days. But just the fact that we are known in the pharmacy is a little odd.

I swear I am not doping the kids just to get a good night's sleep. Besides, The Boss Lady would tell you that sleep plan does not work. Since the kids hardly sleep through the night, but her loving husband can snooze right through the chaos at 3:15 am. Didya know there IS a 3:15 am? I'll take your word for it.

And the worst part of the trip? The diaper blow out. Not so bad by itself, but the fact that we were out of diapers in two, TWO, 2, BOTH diaper bags meant that The Princess got to parade around the store free and easy. A little inspiration for the pharmacy. "I've got a juice-loaded toddler without a diaper and I'm not afraid to use her. Now hand over the amoxicillin."

In the end everything worked out fine. The drugs came quickly, The Princess stayed dry and we provided a lot of entertainment for the other people waiting for drugs. Plus, there are two diapers now hidden in the car to make sure we don't go without again.

I will tell The Boss Lady where one diaper is, just in case she gets stuck in a lurch, like we did today. But the other is hidden really well and it will remain my little secret. As long as I remember where it is when it is needed.

Another one bites the dust

The Talker is sick. He has a light case of the flu and an ear infection. But you would not know it if you saw him. He is bouncing off of the walls and the mouth is going 50 billionty miles an hour. Which is approximately 13 billionty times faster than normal. Even the pediatrician questioned if the boy was really sick.

If it were not for the fever, I would think he was fine, too. Except for the VOLUME! When this kid get sick, he gets LOUDER and more hyper! How in hell does that work? Every other human in the world gets sick and wants to rest. This child get ill and he is ready to party.

God, I just hopes he never get mono or anything else that will keep him home from school for a week...

Now we are off to Costco for prescriptions. And maybe an indutrial size bag of cotton balls for my ears.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Who wears the pants around here?

The Boss Lady just brought me some baby shower invitations she is preparing for a neighbor's party. Not only did she want me to see them, but she wanted my opinion about them.

"Are these girly enough?"

"How am I supposed to know if they are girly?"

"Aren't they pretty and froofy?"

"I think I am offended that you can trust my judgment about what is girly and froofy."

Now pardon me, while I go knit a new shower curtain.

Friday, January 13, 2006

This is party is going to be great

The kids and I ran to the grocery store this morning to get the birthday party goods. The Talker, wearing his Spiderman Halloween costume, was really excited while we were picking out candles and paper. At one point he started dancing in the aisle and yelled "This is gonna be GREAT!"

So Spiderman covered all the bases with his picks. He is having a Shrek birthday cake, King Kong hats, a Sponge Bob candle and Blockhead plates. We don't need no stinkin' theme birthday party.

That is just wrong

My allergies are killing me. I haven't been able to smell anything for days. But when The Princess opened her door this morning, the stench from her dirty diaper almost knocked me down. The dog ran for the yard and her brother ran for his room.

I'm surprised the smoke detector did not go off.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

They aren't all jerks

I was looking back at some of my recent past posts and I can see a trend that I did not intend. It seems that most days I blog about anyone other than the family, it is only because we have run into some jerk during the day.

So I was wondering why this is what I blog. And I came up with a couple of reasons. One is that I just tend to remember the jerks. And I can usually spin the funny side of those encounters pretty easily. Plus, there are lots of days that the kids and I only see a handful of people. We spend lots of time hanging out around the house. Sod on days that we don't get out much, if we do have an encounter with an idiot, it is usually pretty memorable. But my mom always told us if we did not have something nice to say, make sure the other guy can't hear you when you start talking behind his back.

So today I wanted to watch for people being nice and friendly to the kids. We really only dealt with 4 people all day. And they were all nice. A Home Depot electrical department guy was really helpful and he stood there talking to the boy for 5 minutes, when The Talker launched into a story. On the way home we stopped at the park. There was only one family there and the kids were well behaved and everyone played great together.

So there. Nice things about people. Betcha didn't see that coming, didya?

What a year...

Well, The Talker might not wear his pirate hat as often as he did last year, and he usually tells people his correct age, but I am a little sad to see him pass three years old. As of tomorrow we will have a 4 year old.

And since his birthday happens to fall on Friday the 13th, here is a little something to get you past your paraskevidekatriaphobia (Also known as triskaidekaphobia or friggatriskaidekaphobia), here are a few resources for you:
National Geographic

And a recipe for Absolutely Best Brownies, because brownies make everything better, right

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Lone Daddy Revisited

Adventures of Darth Daddy shared about a common experience for Stay at Home Dads: being the only male over 6 at the playscape. This morning we experienced the same situation, but with a little different result.

The Princess and The Talker wanted to go to the indoor playground at the mall this morning. So we headed over there right at 10. I was hoping that the kids would play hard for an hour and wear themselves out. Usually we are one of only a few families there that early. But this morning a mom's group had a playdate scheduled there.

When we walked in the gruesome twosome headed out to play. And everything was fine, until a mom arrived with a twerpy 5 year old. I don't know what he said to the Talker, but as soon as he walked in he told the boy something. The Talker looked really sad and came to tell me. He never would repeat what the kid said, but by the other boy's body language and his laughing when The Talker walked away, I knew it wasn't nice.

Every time the son would get within a few feet of the brat, he was told "Go away. You're Stupid." I quickly told The Talker to tell him "Quit being rude to me. I can play here, too." And The Talker did just that, loud and right in front of the twerp's mom. But she did not even bat an eyelash. Guess she is used to people calling her kid a brat.

When the twerp came running around a corner and slipped on a book that he had thrown on the ground, it took all I had not to laugh at him.

OK that is a lie, I was bad. I laughed. Out loud. It felt good. But my kids did not hear me, so it is OK.

He cried and pouted to his mom. She never batted an eyelash, then, either. I guess she is used to the little brat whining and pouting. I knew this was going no where good, and fast. And sure enough twerpy shoved The Talker off of a toy. I was standing right there. And I jumped on the brat.

"You will stop pushing him, NOW! You don't have to play with my son, but you have to stop calling him names and being rude to him."

Everything calmed down after that. The brat pouted, The Talker played with the other kids, and everyone had a great time. Except maybe the twerp, but I don't care. And it felt good. Still does, too.

We left pretty quickly after that. We headed out to cruise down to the Mickey Mouse store. And a different boy, maybe 15 months old, walked out right behind us.

We were almost round a corner, at least 50 feet from the playscape, so we just stopped. It took one of the play group moms two full minutes to notice that her son was missing. But of course she ran out and was really grateful that we had waited with her son.

Oh wait, that is what I would expect.
She walked over, griped at the kid and ignored the three of us. At least until I glared at her and grunted "Your Welcome."

"Excuse Me?"

"I waited for several minutes, with your son here, because no one was paying any attention when he walked out with us. So you are welcome."

Then we turned and headed for Mickey's house. I felt no need to wait for her to show any appreciation.


There might be dirty laundry in the kitchen. And the Christmas tree just came down last night. I still haven't gotten around to brushing the girl's hair. And this morning I have been in the kitchen checking email and reading the news online for longer than I should have.

But we must be doing something right. Just look at these kids. They have not killed each other while I have been distracted. In fact, they are sitting here reading in the kitchen. And being nice.


Of course, two minutes later the little demolition unit in pink decided to renovate the bookshelf. But at least she is reading. And now I can get started cleaning the kitchen. Or maybe I'll blog some more...

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Too much excitement before naptime?

The Talker is really excited. The truck just came to pick up our big trash. We only get to set out things that won't fit in the city garbage can every seven months. So it is a pretty big deal. Almost every house ends up with a pile in front of it. Kind of like mini monuments to the suburban consumer.

The best part of it all involves Racecar Man and I scouring the neighborhood, looking for treasures. This year I brought home a reel mower, a bunch of lumber and a couple of patio umbrellas that I scrapped for the canvas. And a little something for The Law Talking Guy, but you can read more about that over here.

But the best part for the boy is that they use old trucks to pick this stuff up. Our normal pickup is done by an automated truck. The driver operates the arm to unload the cans from inside the cab. But the trucks they use for bulky pickup are the old style trucks. The giant hydraulic hopper and two guys riding on the back. So The Talker gets to watch them crush all of our big stuff.

The highlight of today's pick up was watching an old wooden picnic table get smashed to bits. The plastic art easel was pretty exciting, too. And the fact that I picked both of these items up during previous bulky trash collections made it even more fun to watch. (I grabbed the easel at least two years ago. And the picnic table at least three years ago. Both from neighbor's piles.) Maybe next time I'll pick up a bunch of old TVs or computers, so that we can watch them crush something REALLY cool.

An Open Letter to the lady at the grocery store:

Yes. I did tell my 21 month old daughter that she has to wait until she is twelve to buy cigarettes. But I promise I will be really mad at her if she buys any smokes before she is 17, like the rest of us did.

Besides that, I only said it to see if I could get a reaction out of you. And the way you blurted out "Oh my god, what did he just tell that baby..." was exactly what I wanted to hear.

Thanks for following us around the grocery store. I still don't know if you were checking up on me or stalking me because I looked so fantastic in my 8 year old jeans and Birkenstocks with socks. Whatever your reasons, It was nice to know that wherever we went this morning, there you were, too. And your little side comments about the way the kids were acting and the things we bought? I enjoyed them very much.

Yes. The kids were acting like animals. It is called pretend play. They were pretending to pirates and baby jaguars. Kind of like when you pretend to be a nice human. And yes, kids are loud and messy. Especially two at a time. Which is almost exactly how I imagine you at dinner time.

And the beer aisle? Yes, I took my children down the beer aisle. Twice. The second time was only because you looked so disgusted the first time. But you'll be happy to know that I could not find what I was looking for, so the kids will be alcohol free at lunch. Unless I dig to back of the fridge. Then I might find some beers I hid the last time Sis came to visit.

If I do find any booze in the house, I'll let you know. You can come over and monitor meal time, too. Besides, you need a stiff drink to lighten up, lady.

Creepy lady, the next time you see us at the grocery store, just walk away. Or I might have to take you out with my racecar basket full of screaming baby jaguars and pirates.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Daddy's Toy

Well, it isn't an iPod, but I finally bought an MP3 player today. Now I just have to wait 10 days or so for my new toy to arrive.

Since I ordered it through, I had to pay shipping and sales tax, but it was still a few bucks cheaper than any other site I found.

I was ready to spend $100 for an MP3 player with half of the memory, so I am excited to find this deal. I hope it works out.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

The parents are always the last to know

I need to add a new character to the cast.

But for now, let me introduce The Talker's imaginary friend, Pablo.

Pablo started out as a character from The Backyardigans. But I guess a blue penguin needs to stretch his wings once in a while. Pablo is pretty much involved in every aspect of The Talker's life right now.

Pablo helps decide what the boy should wear in the mornings and what games they should play in the yard. And the wife and I just realized how involved The Talker is in this imaginary play time. Evidently the neighbors knew. When I mentioned it to one of the moms, she just said something like "Uh. Yeah. Haven't you noticed before?"

Nope. Not until today at lunch. While Pablo was eating tater tots.

But maybe it is because I like Pablo hanging around. He never yells in the house and he always cleans up after himself. He does not eat much and he never pees on the potty seat.

So I think we are all OK with having Pablo around. After all, the kids and I all need a good influence like Pablo once in a while.

But if Pablo cuts The Talker's hair, he is out of here.

I was going to end right there, but I'll explain. Every time we cut The Talker's hair he talks about Pablo trying to cut his hair for a couple of days. Which is totally unacceptable behavior from an imaginary friend. Especially one who may or may not be a penguin

Saturday, January 07, 2006

15 hours and two clean machines

Yesterday afternoon I tried to get a few lingering projects out of the way. I repaired some of the kid's toys, I worked on the playscape and I decided to install a WinTV card that has been laying around here for a few weeks.

I got it installed in the family computer fairly painlessly. But I really wanted it in the computer I keep in the garage, since my tv out there died last fall. Before the card would work I needed to upgrade to a newer operating system. But I also had a hard drive sitting around, with a newer OS on it. The trick would be getting it all to cooperate.

I decided to start with a clean garage computer and I formatted the harddrive and reinstalled XP. But I did all of this through the family computer. And then afterwards I could not get the main hard drive to boot back up. It wanted a password before XP would start, but I never set it up with a password.

I finally gave up, borrowed some installation disks, and followed Rick's advice. I backed up a few files, formatted the hard drive, reinstalled XP and got back under way.

Since then I have spent the rest of the day getting
everything up to date and running again. And I got my garage computer cleaned out, too. Now XP has a home inside the house and out in the garage, too.

But my TV card still won't work.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Flu season is upon us

The wife and I are both sick today. She has the flu and came home early from work yesterday. Last night she was up most of the night, so she is trying to nap a little today.

Allergy season has started for me. So I feel like I have the flu, but I get the benefits of no fever and a lot more snot.

I have worried about this problem since I started staying home, 3 1/2 years ago. What would we do if both adults get sick at once? The answer? I'll let you know when we find one that works. For now I am just trying to keep the kids content and quiet and breathe at the same time.

Because they are fine and dandy as strawberry candy. They both feel great and are full of energy. Which just makes it a lot harder to keep up today.

Think if The Boss Lady coughs on the the kids it might slow them down? Or would that just cause the neighbors to call Child Welfare?

Thursday, January 05, 2006

How to Spend $40 at 11:15pm...

The game has only been over for 45 minutes, but I am already home with my National Championship t-shirts. It pays to live right behind the spoting goods store. Still, I was about the 50th person in line even though I left the house within 5 minutes of the end of the game. They would only let each person buy two shirts. So no, I did not get you one.

University of Texas National Champs

Monday, January 02, 2006

On the 8th day, God created pea gravel

And then he laughed his butt off, knowing that someday AtHomeDaddy would spend a week moving about 25 tons of the stuff into his own driveway.

After 8 days of work, we have moved the pea gravel from across town. Most of it is in the driveway, waiting to be hauled to the playscape. And it might wait a while for it's final ride!

Today we rented a UHaul truck and we abused and misused that truck nearly to death. We loaded about 4 or 5 yards of gravel into it, to make our final run.

So the final cost of our free gravel?

$95 for the truck
$25 for gas for the truck
$54 for a new wheel barrow
$20 for a wheel for a borrowed wheel barrow
$65 for gas for dad's truck
$25 for snow shovels
$50 for the teenager who helped load and
$75 for takeout food all week, since we have been too tired to cook

I bet we got $500 worth of pea gravel and $1000 worth of lumber out of the deal. Still, you can do the math. I am afraid that if I run the numbers on this free project, I might cry.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

It might be a long year...

I hope this is not a sign of things to come for 2006.

I just spilled my very first Dr Pepper of the year. Right into the dishwasher. That I was still emptying of last year's clean dishes. And since all of those dishes are now dirty again, the dirty dishes in the sink won't fit in this load.

Starting the year with a sink full of dirty dishes... Sigh.

I am thinking I should copyright that phrase. It might make a good blues album title or it could become the title of Dr Phil's next book.