Thursday, June 16, 2011

If You Give Your Wife a Washing Machine...

In a similar theme to Laura Numeroff's If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, I offer the following account of how this renovation evolved.

If you give your wife a new front loading washing machine, she’s going to ask for a new dryer to match.
And, if you give your wife that new dryer to match the new washing machine, she’s going to ask for a new ceramic tile floor for the new appliances to sit on. 

So, if you agree to lay a new ceramic tile floor, she’ll probably remind you how cold that laundry room floor slab is and ask for a new radiant heat floor to be placed before the new ceramic tile is laid.

While you’re installing the new electric radiant heat you remember how the house almost caught fire due to the old wiring.  So, you replace all the wiring behind the walls.

Once you start opening up walls to replace the old wiring, you find termite damage which explains why the exterior door does not open or shut properly. 


…you remove all the sheetrock from that wall to repair the termite damage you found while replacing the old wiring that almost burnt your wife’s house down - twice.

Naturally, while you’re doing all this demolition and reconstruction, your wife is searching every laundry room blog on the internet….
…getting ideas…..
….and redesigning….
….until finally, she has you agreeing to install new cabinets over the new countertop that has the new sink set into it – in the corner – where there’s no plumbing pipes – yet.

So, if your old washing machine starts to squeak and stops spinning, and your wife asks for a new front loading machine -  be prepared to build her a brand new laundry room. 

I will be following up with all the "boring" construction details for anyone interested.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Stressmas

Merry Stressmas, everyone. It’s the happiest time of year - yes, if you're 10 years old. For the rest of us, the holidays are the most stressful time of year - more so than all the other holidays combined. I'd put it up there with a tax audit or getting laid off.

Yesterday, the kids were off from school due to a blizzard that hit Long Island Saturday night. Naturally, I did what any responsible grown up would do on a Monday morning - I stayed home to take the kids sleigh riding. On the way to the park, Dawn gave me a few errands - return a rented movie and quick stop at the Post Office to drop off a package. No problem, it was not really on our way but life is all about the little detours we take - right?

So, I've got the three youngest with me as we head into town. The movie rental store and the Post Office are in close proximity but different shopping centers. Son #1 is old enough to jump out of the car and make the drops. This means no parking and everything else that goes along with getting three children in and out of a car in a busy parking lot right before Christmas. The first stop is the movie rental return which happens to be located in probably the busiest shopping center in town. The parking spaces seem to be tight and the driving isles are very narrow. I usually avoid this lot and park in a much smaller quieter lot behind the stores, but I have an assistant with me. As our first errand is complete, I head to our next stop before the slopes. I begin to maneuver slowly past the parked cars as one begins to back out of its spot. Not seeing that he is backing into the path of my vehicle I come to an abrupt stop. By this time, my vehicle was quite close to his car. Apparently too close because as we past each other the kids told me he was yelling - at me! “Really?” I said, “I don't hear a thing.” It's about 34 degrees outside, car windows are closed tight and the radio is on and believe it or not, the song playing was “It's the hap – hap - happiest time of year.....”! So I started to sing along and the kids start laughing.

Next stop was across the road - another tight parking lot. As we sat at the intersection, waiting for traffic to pass so we could cross the road and enter the parking lot, I saw that many had the same idea. Cars were trying to enter, cars were trying to leave but no one was moving - then the car horns started blowing. Son #2 thought they were intended for me and laughed "Everyone hates Daddy!" meanwhile, the song on the radio continued, 'It’s the merrrrriest season of all......”

Yes, Merry Stressmas. Less than a week to go, everyone is losing their minds and I’m going sleigh riding. Sure, there are still presents to buy and even more to wrap – the house needs cleaning, groceries to be bought and cookies to bake but the kids are home and there is snow on the ground – everything else can wait. That goes for projects at home as well. This year, I put my foot down and for once it didn’t wind up in my mouth. Sometime around Thanksgiving, I proclaimed - “No renovation projects will be started before Christmas.” I’ve learned my lesson. Last year, in an attempt to complete a basement renovation, I spent over 12 hours on my butt laying a floating wood floor on Christmas Eve. The year before was the dining room renovation started and completed the week immediately prior to Christmas. No, I’m not complaining about the work – the problem is not being able to help prepare for the big day - so, everything is on Dawn – shopping, wrapping, cooking, cleaning…. (not that I would actually do any of that but there’s always a first.) Actually, I took off last Friday just to wrap gifts – putting a mere dent in the pile.
I’ve also learned that nothing makes my wife happier than the sound of a running vacuum that she’s not steering. So, instead of making a mess with sheetrock and saw dust, I’m cleaning. Instead of working late into the night on another renovation before the company arrives on Christmas day, Dawn and I went shopping together and had lunch out – alone.

So, I’ve done my part to take the stress out of our holiday this year. I’m staying away from the malls and the shopping centers in town, I drive 5 mph slower than the speed limit and smile while I sing along with the radio – ‘it’s the haaaaaapiest time of the year…..’

Happy Holidays
Merry Christmas
Happy New Year

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Dawn's Arbor

So, the fence is almost done - enough so the dog doesn't escape and nobody gets hurt running through the bushes. The highlight of the project is the cedar arbor - something Dawn always wanted and I always wanted to build. I could have purchased one for what I paid in lumber but, as the guy at the lumber yard said, "What fun would that be?"

To start, I placed two (2) of the ten foot posts on either side of the gate - 3' buried, 7' above grade. For good drainage, the posts should be placed on top of 6" of gravel or small stones.

I built the sides of the arbor to match the fence tops.
These are about 2' x 4'.

I placed the lattice section between the posts. The easiest way to do that was to not bury the outer post until the lattice section was secure to the gate post. Then, I attached and buried the outer posts.

After all four posts are set with the lattice sides attached, I nailed the two cross members to the posts. The bottom clearance is 6'-8", same as a common doorway.

To finish, I notched the five top pieces and set them on top of the two cross members - just because I think that looks better than sitting the 2 x 6's on top.

The guy at the lumber yard was right - buying the finished arbor would have been no fun at all!

Want more detailed instructions? Just leave it in a comment.

(If you click on the photos, some of them will actually enlarge. I just need to figure out how to make them all do that!)

This post is participating in Kimba's DIY Thursdays! Click on the graphic to visit more great projects.


Friday, February 6, 2009

That was then - this is now.

It’s 8:45 on a Thursday evening late January and I'm at my 10 year olds’ basketball practice scheduled to end at 9:30. At this same time, on any given evening, 37 years ago, my father would be relaxing on his Lazyboy recliner watching Peter Faulk as Columbo.

That was then - this is now.
Times have changed more than I would have ever imagined. Our kids are busier than I ever was. I got into sports when I was able to get myself to a sporting practice and home again. Back then, I’d grab my baseball mitt and thread the back strap through the handle bar of my bright green Schwinn String Ray (one gear, back pedal to brake and NO HELMET!!) and meet ‘the guys’ at ‘the field’ – the same place we’d meet every Saturday morning. No need for phone calls, text messages, IM’s or emails - there were no drop-offs or pick-ups – everyone just showed up.
Today, our kids start dance and sports at 3 years old. If they didn't, they’ll be at a disadvantage. Our 10 year olds’ soccer team has a coach, a couple of assistant coaches and – are you ready for this? – a TRAINER!! (You say: “Are you kidding me? They’re 10 years old!!”) Yep, I had the same reaction.

Years ago, if a pee-wee league existed, my parents didn't have the time, money or interest to register any of us. Today, our schedule of the kid’s activities after school and all weekend is very similar to most families with children - crazy.

When I was young, my father would walk through the door just about the same time every night - 5:30. Mom would have dinner ready so all he'd have to do is sit down at the table. We'd all eat and Dad would settle into his chair for the night while Mom cleaned up from dinner, gave baths and checked homework. Those were the night time activities - except, if Dad needed milk for his coffee in the morning, then my mother would pile all five of us into the station wagon and drive through Dairy Barn – Dad didn’t run errands or babysit, his day ended at 5pm. (Can you say Archie and Edith?)

As my son and I head home after his practice, it’s about 9:45pm and all I can think is - that was then, it certainly isn’t now.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A woman's work...

In true Paul Harvey fashion (, I thought I’d share “the other side of the story” regarding Dawn’s first business trip – alone. Last November, Dawn had a business trip to Williamsburg, Virginia while I stayed at home with the kids – four days and three nights. Needless to say, no house projects will be getting done this weekend! Before she left, Dawn had my itinerary all mapped out - where - when - why and how. All I needed to do is enter everything into my PDA which gives me an alarm 15 minues before I need to leave. I'm all set - this is going to be a piece of cake – hahaha!, yeh, right!

Thursday morning, we brought Dawn to the train - here we go!
Luckily, I can work remotely from home and didn't need to take any time off. Dawn made it even easier for me by doing food shopping - all I needed to do was make marinara sauce that would give me a couple of nights of pasta dinners.
Thursday night’s schedule was pretty tight - my son(chickie2) had soccer practice from 4:30 to 6pm and our oldest(chickie 1) would need to be at religion class from 7 to 8:30pm. This meant I would need to drop off chickie2 at soccer, go home, feed everybody else, go pick up chickie2, bring him home to eat quickly, get everyone back in the car, drop the chickie1 at church, go back home to give the chickie4 a bath, get back in the car and pickup at the church – now I see why her car is over the leased mileage limit. As we were leaving to pickup chickie1, I accidentally locked the house keys in the house. Dawn hasn't been gone for 12 hours and I've already locked us out! Luckily, chickie1 had her house key.

The next morning at breakfast, chickie3 said, "Day Two - Mommy's gone." Even though Dawn is hundreds of miles away, does not mean we can't still torment each other. I emailed Dawn a picture of chickie1 standing under the clock ready for school 5 minutes early - with a caption "How does he do it!?" Her response back was a picture of her room service breakfast, "Today, I am served!" Touché!

After dropping chickie4 and the boys at school, I had about 2 hours to get done as much work as possible before picking up chickie4. As fate would have it, I had a major proposal for my office due on Monday - I knew I had to squeeze it in between everything going on at home - great timing. I thought Friday would be an easy afternoon because of no athletic activities. Instead, I get a call from chickie1 right about the time she's to get on the bus at school to bring her home - she want's to go home with a girlfriend. No big deal, right? Wrong! This is a big deal, I don't normally make these decisions, I'm not prepared for this, I don't know this girl, I don't know if Dawn knows her mom - THIS IS NOT ON MY AGENDA! Ok, so I stuck my neck out and let her go - after speaking to the dad. This just added one more trip out with the gang to get chickie1 back home so she could get ready and we all get back in the car to bring her to the dance studio. She’s in there for an hour, so we stayed in the car and the kids all fell asleep while they were watching a movie.

Saturday morning - the grand finale! Before Dawn left, she told me to make sure the boys have their soccer uniforms - and I did. What she didn't say was anything about the other equipment they need - like shin guards. As we're about to leave, there's a mad search for chickie3's shin guards. So I ask " where are your shin guards?" "I don't know." "When did you use them last?" "I don't know." "When did you see them last?" "I don't know." At this point I made the irrational decision to call my wife - she'll know where they are - she knows everything! Big mistake. She saved my frantic voicemail message so I - and everyone else she played it for - can hear what a lunatic I am.

So, here's the schedule - I wanted to get out of the house by 8 am and stop for bagels, instead we were searching for equipment that was not put back where it should be. Chickie2 needs to be at the soccer field at 9:15 for a game that will start at 10 ending at 11am. Chickie3 needs to be at a different soccer field at 11:30 for an 11:45 game ending at 12:45. Chickie4 has to be at yet another field at 1:45 for her "game" (4 year old girls) that will end at 3pm. Taylor has dance from 3 to 5, so she will have to be left at the studio during chickie4's game. I feed everyone pizza between 1:00 - 1:15 and we were off again. WOW! I need to point out here that Dawn does this - EVERYDAY!
We all celebrated making it to Saturday night without a single trip to the hospital or any calls to missing persons, by having popcorn and watching a movie - AT HOME!

Sunday morning I woke to a mountain of laundry - oh no, better do something about that. Three loads of sheets and towels later, the mountain was a mere hill.
I had planned to get the house in some order this morning - it wasn't that bad, we were hardly home. But, the floors needed to be mopped and the boys room condemned. After the house was presentable we would pick up Dawn in Huntington where we would have dinner.
Dawn calls about 8:30am and is dreading the 7 hour train ride home, so she asks me to pick her up at Penn Station (that’s in the middle of Manhattan). I would have rather cleaned up and scrubbed toilets all day than drive into the city and back, which would have been at least 4 hours in the car. So, when I told chickie4 we had to get mommy in the city, she said "On the train?" - "No, by car." Then I thought for a minute and said "Yes, by the train - great idea!" The kids love the train - it would be fun. I checked the schedule and we could get into Penn Station 15 minutes before Dawn's train arrives and get on the LIRR to be back in Huntington by 6:15 for dinner as originally planned.
What a weekend! And that, my friends, is “the other side of the story”.
(Note to self – increase Dawn’s life insurance.)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Time for a new van

After 10 years and 95000 miles, it was time to replace our van - a white Ford Windstar I had purchased new in 1998. Actually, the decision to buy this minivan was left to our then 2 year old, - I simply had to sign the paperwork. As chickie1 climbed into what would be our first family van, I told the salesman - "If she likes it, we'll take it." With that, she turned to me and said "Good!".
Why do I bring this up? Simple, that van has been as useful as any tool I've ever owned or used. Over the years, it has hauled more building material that can be listed here. If you are planning to remodel, renovate or even just repair, how do you plan to bring stuff home? If folding down the two rear bench seats didn't give me the height inside the vehicle, I could just remove the seats completely - which explains my many trips to the chiropractor. There's nothing like lifting an 80 pound seat while bent over inside a minivan.
Yep, 4' x 8' panels of sheetrock slid flat, right into the back of the van - can't do that in anything else but a pickup truck, but you can't fit four kids in the back of a pickup truck - legally. I was almost sorry to see it go - it's been a part of the family for as long as my oldest son. But, I knew its days were numbered and we were living on borrowed time.
The day before I was to trade in the old Windstar, I began cleaning it out. In the back, behind the rear seat, was one of chickie2's baseballs- it's been two years since he's played. Under the first bench was chickie3's new soccer ball from last spring, don't want to leave that. In the compartment between the front seats were a stack of old cassette tapes Dawn and I used to listen to prechildren. When I found the roll of paper towels and the disinfectant wipes in a rear hidden compartment, I recalled the one item no family with small children ever left home without - the porta-potty. It fit perfectly under the bench seats, never in the way and always ready for an emergency. I won't go into why the wipes were necessary but let me just say that on one occasion, I found out that I have a very strong stomach.
Yes, I came across so many items that brought back just as many memories that I started to get choked up – then, I realized it was just caused by 10 years of dirt and dust – I never cleaned that vehicle.