Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Engineer

During all the building of the deck, there has been something of a surplus of scrap wood around, and during one of the many hours spend on this project, Bryce decided to build something of his own. He kept asking for nails and screws, but of course, I wasn’t going to give a 6 year old a hammer, nails, tig welder, etc…

When I looked over later, he had constructed a motorcycle ramp to his liking without any assistance or instruction. I don’t think I could have propped all those incongruous boards together to make something sturdy to play with. I thought that was pretty neat.

I told him that Uncle Rick wanted to build one at his house too, but it would be larger than the house. He looked at me in a kind of funny way with the “Are you joking” kind of expression, but having met Uncle Rick, he seemed to believe that it just might happen…

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Deck Debacle Days 4-9

My Dad came into town to work with me on the deck for a few days before we head over to Myrtle Beach for an overdose of golf, sun, and kids running on wide beaches.

You can see where we were in the last post if you give a rip on seeing the progress in some semblance of a timeline.

Brenna and I put in the floor joists, support beam and support posts. This thing has so much wood, metal and concrete under it, it would survive a party with everyone I ever knew, plus some that I haven't met standing around on it. That very thing may happen too...

Once I had all the concrete poured and had been told by the neighbors, and the dude at Lowes, that what I was doing was overkill, it was time to start with the floorboards.

Dad and Brenna were instrumental in helping out with the railings and staircases. I found I have a knack for tearing down the old stuff, but when it comes to putting up railings? Not so much... Then there is that whole "work thing" that I have to do during the week.

It's coming together...

At least it is close enough that we will be safe enough for the kids to come out, now what to do with the 4 foot high pile of broken and old lumber? BONFIRE!!!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Attack of the Toddle Monster

For those of you that haven’t seen the bruiser recently. He has made the transition from world-crawling-land-speed-record-holder to bipedal toddling. Ah, now it seems the whole world is in reach. For instance, he could open the shower door while someone might be warming the water up, and that person might then come back to find a fully clothed, very soggy, splashing, and smiling baby in the spray. Not that anything like that has ever happened around here...I was merely speculating...cough...

He can also reach things that must be two times his height. This ability could be a superpower of some sort…quick call Stan Lee.

What’s funny, is that Brenna and I had forgotten that stage of rapid transition. We were comfortable that things were, “up out of reach” and that he couldn’t really get into too much trouble. In the space of a week or so, we find that is no longer the case. Anything that we should have moved to a higher shelf is coveniently pointed out to us by the fact that the baby has it in his hands or is banging it on the table top while laughing.

But, the newly found skills of upright travel also have their…uh…downfalls? Ouch!!!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Deck Debacle: Day 3

The summer weather pattern held for a day, and we had some good progress over the course of the evening. As a side note, it's funny to see 16 foot long boards hanging out of the back of a Honda Odyssey minivan. As totally un-cool as owning such a vehicle is, I am finding that it may actually be the most practical vehicle on the planet. In the 6 years we have had this one, it has hauled us 120,000 miles, been a faithful kid hauler, a cycling Sag Wagon, moving van, and now has done a fine job as a lumber hauling truck. Perhaps if I installed a massive stereo system in it, the stars would align and I would think it was cool? Nah...

The project, as you can see from the pictures, was to now install the extended floor joists. This was made complicated by the fact that they had to line up with the level of the deck we had, and we wanted to extend them into the yard at varying lenths to produce a curved end to the deck. To accomplish this the joists had to go over the not-very-level set of railroad ties the builders installed as a retaining wall. This meant that each board had to be custom notched to fit over the wall at that certain point while remaining level to the rest of the deck.

We sawed and banged and bolted until about 9:30pm.

Sorry neighbors...what goes around comes around.

Yes, they worked on building their deck for days in the early morning hours. They were hammering away at 6:30am and even now consistently mow the yard at that hour while I am trying to get the kids to stay asleep for a few moments more.

Next, the support posts and concrete.

Yes, normally you put the posts in first... I am backing my way into a level deck surface instead of building the frame around support posts that I would invariably have less than level when I tried to mount the floor joists to it.

Alas, there probably won't be any more stories on this for a couple of days because I have to coach Bryce's baseball team for the game tonight and there is practice tomorrow night. Wait, did I just hear a collective cheer that there weren't going to be more stories? Nah, couldn't be...

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Deck Debacle: Day 2

Smashing stuff is cool. Period.

For the second day in a row, I spent the early morning bathing in the Bama sunshine, which included another fantastically humid start to the day. I finished up digging the post holes and getting some pictures of how the deck was built in order to find the most secure areas to mount my extended floor joists.

Then the fun began. Of course, the "then" I am referring to, took place hours later. I had a break from digging and wrecking things in order to make our traditional Sunday morning pancake extravaganza. Mmmmm...pancakes. I'm sure that the kids anticipate these fantastic culinary treats more than I do. Then there was the eternal cleaning of the house, laundry, separating fussing children, and eventually taking them up to the Vulcan in order to get them out of the house. Nothing like a lazy Sunday around our place...

Here is a photo from today's trip to the Vulcan . The landmark is quite impressive, and the link will take you to the history and other information about it. The kids like it because they can run around and tumble down the hill in the grass.

Once I got Aiden back down for a nap, I had some time to focus on the deck again, and I got around to the demolition of the railing.

Yeah yeah, I know that loads of banging noises outside with a baby sleeping inside don't go together... It seems that it works at my place. Perhaps, with all the insane activity levels that we have all learned to sleep through anything.

Anyway, I had to take the railing down before I could begin to connect the floor joists, so with a lot of hammering, prying, gallons of sweat, a smashed pinky finger, and two broken hammers, it was down.


Ah the satisfaction of knocking stuff over is sooooo sweet.

Next up, power-tools, posts, and concrete!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Deck Debacle Day 1

Ok, we decided to make the party deck bigger. Why? Perhaps we are gluttons for punishment? Desperate for something else to do in our over scheduled lives? A little impulsive? Probably a little of all of these would be the honest answer.

Some Before pictures: 7:00 a.m.

Now after working a bit, and I mean only a little bit, I was soaked from head to toe thanks to the Alabama humidity. It may be a benign 80 degrees outside, but is it possible to have 105% humidity? I'm guessing so, because I couldn't find a dry patch on my clothes after an hour or so.

Something else I thought of regarding the simple word Deck. First of all, it's funny, and has the potential for lots of off color jokes, but secondly, it has an insidious acronym that relates to the first steps of building one.

Deck - Digging Enough Can Kill Coincidence? I think not.

8:00 a.m. - The bushes had to come out. Man those Azaleas mounted a serious fight for a life form that doesn't have the ability to truly physically fight...

Then the post hole digging commenced. I quickly discovered that the ground around Alabama isn't really ground. It is some government experiment gone wrong that created rock out of clay. I had to dig 9 post holes for this project and each one was taking 20 minutes to reach around a foot and a half. Needless to say, I am sitting here writing instead of digging the last 4...

9:30 a.m. Brenna has to go off on her "Girls Weekend" so I get a reprieve. I have an excuse that I have to take care of the kids instead of continuing the dreaded digging. I love my kids, but I really love them arms hurt...

A note to Dad: Thanks for getting me to go to college. Manual labor stinks...big time...

Friday, July 11, 2008


I always thought that the Roomba was a pretty dumb invention, but the concept was interesting.

Unfortunately for the inventor, through rigorous study, I have discovered that it never needed to be invented.

Somebody simply wasted their time thinking of it, designing it, creating a prototype, debugging it, testing it profusely, getting some factory in China to build it for 4 bucks, and marketing it to Americans for 500 bucks.

Such a waste of effort.

You may ask why I make these statements? No, it's not because my random brain comes up with stupid thoughts and I am compelled to expound upon them in this blog.

Quite simply, because I have found 3 models that accomplish the same thing without a power supply or docking station, and they are all Environmentally friendly…relatively.

Roomba model 1: Small, lightweight, and amazingly effective.

Price: $900 dollars

I have never seen a robotic vacuum able to anticipate food being dropped and to be in the right place at the right time, so I figure this is waaaaay better.

Roomba model 2: Not small, certainly not light weight, and probably causes an equal number of messes as it cleans. But again, it’s “Enviro-friendly” without batteries and plastics.

Price: $1,000

And after seeing this model in action, I know it will never ever need a battery change. In fact, we should hook up some generator unit and solve the worlds energy woes at the same time as it cleans up the floors. Could you imagine a futures market for pooch power?

Roomba model 3 (Mega Industrial Mess Version):

There are still some bugs in this model. It does collect day old Cheerios from the floor and take care of them effectively though…eeeew

The issue with this most recent prototype Roomba is that it is actually keeping the aforementioned models 1 and 2 well fed and busy. Roombas’ 1 & 2 hang out near Roomba 3 in anticipation of something being flung off a high chair tray amidst loud giggles.
The other issue with expecting Roomba 3 to clean up the floors while I am doing other stuff is really that whole “expecting” part. It is much more apt to dump over toy boxes, fling food, squirrel sippy cups of milk in creative places, and them toddle off chanting, "Ma Ma Ma Ma Ma Ma boka boka!!!!"

Price: $200,000

Yes yes...The price is jaw dropping, and I even hesitated to mention it. My deepest apologies if you were considering picking up one of these models. Honestly, the initial investment is fairly inexpensive, but you have to factor in food, clothes, college and a couple of wrecked cars worth of auto insurance… Ouch...

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Bryce Learns to Ski!!!

I had wondered when Bryce would want to give water skiing a try. I wanted him to learn last year, but I didn’t push it, because one lousy experience trying something new could turn a kid off to the whole idea. I waited for Bryce to say he wanted to give it a go instead…and waited……and waited.

This 4th of July, the magic words finally came out of his mouth. “Dad, I wanna ski.” Imagine bubbling excitement in his voice…and in my response. Sure! Let’s go!!!

I started off playing a game with him near the dock instead of just chucking him behind a noisy boat with all manner of parents and paparazzi like camera flashes. We found a pair of well used yellow Cypress Gardens training skis in the back of the MasterCraft, and I sat behind the boat fixing the little ties that would keep the skis from taking off in opposite directions. Bryce and I hopped in the water, and I helped him put the skis on just like we would when the main event was going to happen. I gave him all the little instructions for new skiers, arms out straight, stay in a little ball and don’t stand up too quickly.

The best advice was in the form of a question, and it displayed his attitude toward the whole adventure. I asked as we floated behind the boat with a ski rope and unwieldy skis on for the first time, “What happens if you don’t get up the first time?”

He answered, “You get really wet!” Perfect…

After he was used to what skis felt like and was comfortable with the things we would do just before the boat took off, I played around by pulling him through the water holding onto the handle. This may not have been effective at giving him any more than just another reason to splash and laugh with his sister, but maybe the hard tug of the handle would get him used to the boat taking off. It certainly doesn’t take much to get a 55lb kid out of the water.

Then the time came. He was excited, and I was really really excited…nobody could tell of course…

Look at that grin...

Bryce behind the boat After a try or two where he lost the handle or flopped to one side he got it. He only skied about 30 feet that first go, but he was on his way.

I am so proud of him and excited for him.

We tried it again the next day, and he improved more than doubling his distance before falling. I even got around to the instructions of, “You are up now. It’s time to start standing up a little more.” I hadn’t anticipated him getting that far in just a few tries.

Unfortunately we didn’t have the camera videoing his more proficient attempts, but there will be years more. Eventually he will end up doing goofy things to entertain the boat like someone else we know.