Thursday, June 27, 2013

We're a bit tired

I worked for about 10 hours the other day, stopped to spend a half hour okaying FEMA paperwork for the city I live in (I’m a council member), then went home to spend about four hours sitting on a hardwood floor with a hot air gun, scraping ancient glue off an oak floor that’s about 130 years old. Luckily it was only about 87 degrees out, so the bazillion degrees of heat coming off the air gun was refreshing.

After taking a quick detour to clean out the fridge (it was garbage night), I whipped up an inspiring supper of lunch meat sandwiches. I used the week-old Hawaiian bread to make it seem festive. With a handful of potato chips and some Top the Tator, I had a meal fit for kings. Or two really hungry, tired people.
By now it was about 9 p.m., and I’d been up since 4 a.m.

I grabbed a book I’d been trying to read and was taking a moment to relax, when something caught my attention. 

“There’s a small herd of kids in the backyard,” I told my husband, who had just experienced a day very similar to mine and was just as exhausted.

He looked up from a baseball game on TV and tried to focus on the yard. From his chair, it is virtually impossible to see the back yard, but he gets points for trying.

“They aren’t ours, are they?” he asked.

Since we haven’t has a child living at home for several years, I didn’t have to look very close to answer his question.

“Nope, not ours,” I responded. “One looks like a miniature Adelia (kid across the street), and the other is blonde.

He thought it over.

“That’s only two,” he said. “Not really a herd.”

“I told you it was a small herd. They moved fast,” I replied. “Maybe chasing a dog.”

Since our neighbors across the street with the previously mentioned Adelia have about 54 dogs to go with their 26 daughters, this wasn’t a shocking piece of information.

“Must have been Boo,” I said, referring to the neighbor’s granddaughter. Her real name is Serena, I think, but when we lost track of which kid was which, we started giving them names of our own. Boo used to talk just like the little girl from the movie “Monsters, Inc.” Hence the nickname.

Eric didn’t even get up.

“They’ll probably go over to Tom’s yard,” he stated, turning his attention back to the game.

A few minutes later, the sound of shrieking kids died out, and all was quiet again. We went back to being blobs of tired, sweaty, exhausted people.

It made me think of a time, about five years ago, when a little blonde mophead of a girl came barreling into the back yard in pursuit of a shaggy mutt. We spent 20 minutes capturing the wayward pup, gathered up the girly and the doggy and hustled them back to their parents. Then spent another half hour chitchatting.

Not so much, this time around.
I think we’re officially old and used up right now. Maybe I’ll feel younger tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Starlings down?

I got a mysterious email from my husband this morning.

“FYI- The starlings are no longer in the water tower,” the message states. “I repeat, the starlings have left the water tower. That is all.”

As you’ve probably guessed, there’s a bit of a backstory here. First, I have to explain the water tower. You see, there’s one in my yard.

It’s not a real water tower – it’s more like a lawn decoration. A rather large one. Back when my youngest son Matthew was little, he was fascinated by water towers and rather annoyed that the city of Avoca didn’t have one. He would point them out everywhere we went.

As he started to outgrow that habit, we kept it up, always with a bit of teasing.

“Wow, look at that, Matthew! This town has TWO water towers! Too bad we can’t have one at home.”

And no one on else can do the ‘you guys are jerks’ look like a perturbed 10-year-old. Having fun at his expense a couple years later, my husband Eric decided to build Matt a water tower using a 55-gallon drum. He welded legs onto the thing and painted it, having me letter “Welcome to Avoca” on the front. The fact that all of this was happening just days before our daughter’s graduation party was irrelevant. To Eric, anyway. Recognizing the exhaustion that comes with swimming upstream against him, I found it easier to pick up a paintbrush.

We unveiled the project one morning as Matt wandered outside. Eric had set it up on the lawn, and when a 12-year-old Matt walked out the backdoor, he couldn’t help but notice it. He gave us a glare and mumbled something about us being jerks.

So, the water tower still exists. It’s moved around the yard a few times, and once had an Avoca native’s ashes sprinkled under it (that’s a whole ‘nother story). Currently, it is in the side yard by the driveway. Underneath, Eric and I put in landscaping bricks and planted strawberries.

Despite the evil weather this spring, the plants were growing well. Then I wandered over to look at them last week and noticed there seemed to be an inordinate amount of bird, uh, waste in the center of the strawberry patch. While pondering the oddness of that discovery, I was rudely squawked at by a starling who seemed quite perturbed to see me so close to the tower.

Since I was killing time waiting for Eric to shingle around vents before he’d let me back up on the roof (yet another story for another day), I obligingly moved away and watched the loud little chirpy. As I stood by, the bird landed on the railing of the tower and squawked a bit more.

And a bunch of tiny chirps answered her, and a crop of little heads peeked out. You have to get underneath and look up to see it, but the original opening of the barrel is still there. Mommy starling built a nest in my water tower, and the whole gang is dropping bird bombs on my strawberries.

So, ethically, do you plug up the hole? No! The babies would die. Sure, they’re annoying poopy starlings, but they’re babies. So my master plan was to wait a bit longer until they start flying, then go bang on the sides of the tower until they get a headache and leave.

Eric was more impatient. He said he doesn‘t like starlings because they don’t make pretty noise and they’re mean to other birds. He said he was going to evict them or plug the hole. He’s mean.

So, after I got to work today, I got the mysterious email. Even more so if you are aware he actually left for work about 15 minutes before I did today.

Right now I’m going to assume something bad happened during the storm last night, because I’m trying to give my husband the benefit of the doubt.

I’ll let you know how this turns out. Maybe by then I'll find a darned photo of the water tower, which I just spent a silly amount of time looking for.

Monday, June 3, 2013

This old house...

 I’ve always known that my house has a bit of a past, but it took a tree falling on it to get my curiosity flowing. Maybe that’s because the incident led to pulling the carpet out of the dining room in a round-about way.

During the April ice storm, a tree fell on the dormer of the house, cracking the ceiling of the dining room below. It then proceeded to tumble to the main roof, dragging facia and soffet along for the ride and popping holes in the roof as it went.

So, not too bad of a list of stuff to fix, right? Fix ceiling, replace facia and reshingle roof. Tada! 

Or not.

It’s hard to roof when it either snows or rains for 6 weeks straight. And then there was the whole navigation of the insurance system, which I find nerve-wrecking. Especially since when they want money from me, I get an envelope with a window in it and have to pony up cash. It doesn’t work the same way when they’re supposed to give you money.

We had to rip down the dining room ceiling to see if the rafters above were cracked. As it turns out, that particular part of the house was insulated with something my husband referred to as vermiculite. It is messy, dusty and basically rains down from above when you pull out the ceiling. Which totally trashed the carpeting.

We headed for a home improvement store, and while my husband looked at boring things like insulation and drywall, I checked out vinyl flooring. My intention was to put a wood pattern in the dining room. I put off making a decision about the flooring, but just because we were busy getting sheet rock and shingles and other weird things.

Then I took a close look at the floor that had been hiding under the carpet. Oh my. They need to be refinished, but the floors in my house are hardwood. As far as I can tell, they are oak. And original.

My house used to be Bondin Township Schoolhouse No. 43 in Murray County. The school was moved to its current site in Avoca in 1955. I did a bit of quick research, and according to paperwork I found in the Murray County Historical Society Museum, the township made the decision to build the schoolhouse in March of 1880. Assuming it was built within a reasonably short time after that decision was made, this means my house is roughly 133 years old.

The floors will not be perfect when they are refinished. There will be a few spots where boards were replaced over the years. To me, that just makes them more interesting.

I’ve always known the house used to be a school and knew roughly where it was located. We’ve lived there for almost 18 years, and I don’t know why it has never occurred to me to look more into its history. But if it took a cantankerous tree during a terrible storm to make me look into it, then I have to appreciate that crazy storm.

Now all my husband and I need to do is learn how to refinish a hardwood floor. After building new walls, putting up ceilings, roofing and doing all the other crazy things we’ve done to the place since we moved in, how hard can it be? 

Well, maybe I'm not ready for the honest answer to that just yet. But I'm sure it will be fine.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Mom clothes

Recently, two of my kids headed home to join me on a trip to Sioux Falls, SD. My daughter Maggie left Rochester with her 17-month-old daughter and stopped in Tracy to pick up her brother Nick, all so we could go watch their little brother Matt’s band Some Peoples Kids open for the group Red Jumpsuit Apparatus.

While I absolutely love the fact that my kids are so supportive of each other, it also caused the usual chaos and mayhem I associate with having all three of them in the same place.

This time, however, it was my wardrobe that caused the problem.

“Don’t you have anything besides Mom clothes?” Maggie asked, digging through my closet.

Um…. No. I guess I don’t. Maybe because I’ve been a Mom for almost 28 years. When I answered, she didn’t like the response.

“I’m a mom, but I still have clothes that don’t scream it,” she said. “I am so taking you shopping.”

She then proceeded to pick out an outfit for me, by trial and error, trying to find something that made me look… younger? Skinnier? Less mom?

Since my wardrobe basically covers work clothes and jeans and t-shirts, that was quite a challenge. I ended up in black capris pants, a black blouse and a pink belt I bought in a moment of silliness. I was allowed to wear my favorite tennies, but only because they are ‘cool’ DCs that the youngest kid talked me into buying from him when he worked at a shoe store. As it turns out, he used that to sell them to other “old ladies,” who thought they might be a little loud, telling them his mom had a pair.

During the process of Maggie trying to ‘cool’ me up a bit, my son Nick just sat there rolling his eyes, then gratefully bolted for the garage when his dad showed up.

Later, on the way to the club, Maggie asked Nick if she looked like she was trying too hard to look like a teenager trying to look like a grown-up.

“You look like an extra from ‘Scooby Doo,’” he replied.

I almost stomped on the brakes.

“And you let her dress me?” I yelled.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Beatles, moms and other errant thoughts

I’m not sure why, but I’ve been listening to the Beatles a lot lately. I think it’s because a phrase from the song “Let it Be” popped into my head early this week, and while perusing some files, I brought the album up on youtube for a little background music.

My husband is not a Beatles fan, so I rarely listen to them at home. My mother was (and still is) a fan, so I grew up with this stuff. I didn’t’ realize how many of their songs I can sing from beginning to end. Odd.

Speaking of my mom, just days away from Easter I’ve been seeing notices about a bunch of egg hunts, and they make my smile. I can’t think of an Easter egg hunt without thinking of my folks. Not because of hunts they staged for me and my brothers, but because a few years ago my youngest son hid eggs for his grandparents to find. My mom had mentioned that she had never hunted eggs as a child, so Matthew bought some eggs and loaded them with jelly beans and other goodies. Nice kid.

A sight I will never forget was watching Mom and Dad sprint from opposite sides of the lawn toward a bird bath that contained a blue plastic egg, racing to see who could get to it first. I don’t know when I’ve ever laughed so hard. They were swiping eggs from each other’s baskets when the other one wasn’t looking, and later on, my mom took all of her favorite candy from my dad’s eggs. He gave her a suspicious look when he spotted her sitting close to his basket chatting with the kids, then cautiously checked an egg.


She just gave him an innocent look.

Good stuff.

I sent a few goodies to my granddaughter Layla, just because it’s fun to get a package in the mail. A few hours after it arrived in Rochester, my daughter posted a video of Layla zooming around the house on a major sugar rush after eating a Peep. “Thanks a lot, Mom,” Maggie says as her hyped up 15-month-old flings herself around the room.

No problem, honey.

Have a great Easter, everyone, with plenty of smiles.