Saturday, October 31, 2009

Hallowe'en Pumpkins '09


I really like carving pumpkins for Hallowe'en. Did the Scooby Doo pumpkin yesterday. Had intended to do one of Tinkerbell today, which is Mars' favourite right now. Unfortunately, didn't have time to make up a stencil, so did the Star Wars that I already had instead. Slowest Hallowe'en ever. Two knocks at the door, six kids in total. Leaf took the boys down the street, only five of about 25 houses were 'lit'. Mars decided he didn't want to be the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle costume we had ready, so Mummy did some great mods to turn it into a Dinosaur.

Pumpkins 2012: Master Yoda Pumpkin, Cookie Monster Pumpkin

Pumpkins 2011: Batman Pumpkin, Batman Logo Pumpkin

Pumpkin Carving 201: Skin Carving a Pumpkin and Finding Free Stencil Instructions

Pumpkins 2010: Tinkerbell Pumpkin, Transformers Pumpkin with Autobot and Decepticon logos

Pumpkins 2008: Ernie and Bert Pumpkin, Soccer Ball Pumpkin
Pumpkins 2007: Calvin and Hobbes Pumpkin, Spiderman Pumpkin, Toronto FC Pumpkin
Pumpkins 2006: Darth Vader Pumpkin, Homer Simpson Pumpkin 

Friday, October 23, 2009

Vengence of the plumbing gods

Yay, a nice big puddle of water in the basement. Since we did some soldering and changed valves yesterday, checked them all for leaks. All dry. Turns out its dripping down through a heat register in the kitchen. The dishwasher has stopped working, didn't drain, and flooded out a small hole in the bottom of the door seal.

We've had this problem before due to a clogged filter. Took it apart pretty quickly, cleaned out the gunk - leftover french fries on your plate go in the garbage, not the dishwasher - and reassembled. No go. More flooding because I was trying to get the boys to nap and figured it would work.

Checked the hoses. Also had a problem there before - a cherry pit somehow worked its way past the filter, up the drain tube, and was the perfect size to completely seal the hole at the end of the drain hose.

Still no go. Taking the whole thing apart again, although simple, is getting to be a pain in the wrist. Went a little deeper, found that it was a broken belt. We have a really good appliance repair shop in town, so I went in to find a replacement. Its a weird clear plastic belt with a round cross section that also needs special silicone lubricant. $34.95 plus tax, which is about 20% of what we paid for the dishwasher. Crazy. None in stock, so dishwashing by hand until Monday or Tuesday.

Odin was a big 'help'. When he wasn't trying to climb into the dishwasher, he was trying to eat screws, or running away with the tools. Too cute, and had to copy daddy with the screwdriver. Don't know what I've done to mess up my plumbing karma, but hopefully we won't get any more flooding for a while.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

I am not a plumber

If I were, things would go much faster and easier. Had quite the plumbing adventure today. Started as an easy little job - replace a cartridge in a leaky faucet, replace the wax seal on a leaky toilet. An hours work at most. Went to Canadian tire, grabbed the parts, started. Shut off water behind toilet and unhook. The shut off valve is leaking. Crap. Water is trickling onto the floor. No problem, there is another shutoff for the bathroom in the basement.

Run downstairs to turn that one off. Righty tighty, lefty loosey. Just as it is about to close tight, pssshhshhshssss, its spraying water like mad. Water is not supposed to be spraying out of a valve all over the laundry room. Its a tap in the middle of a length of copper pipe - there is no 'out'. Crap again. No problem, I'll just run over to the main shutoff at the pressure tank and shut that off. Crank, crank, crank, tight. Good. Wait... water is still spraying out of the valve in the laundry room. And what is that puddle on the basement floor over there? Isn't that right underneath the bathroom? Apparantly the main shutoff valve doesn't do off.

How do I turn off the spraying in the laundry room? I very counter intuitively turn on the tap. It works, mostly. Now only a fine spray misting the laundry room. I shut off power to the well pump, run the laundry tub sink until the pressure tank is empty, and water stops spraying and dripping onto the basement floor. Step 1 is now accomplished, water is shut off.

Then unbolt and lift the toilet off the flange. I see where the problem is, some gunk missed being cleaned off the bottom of the toilet and the old wax hadn't sealed properly. Cleaned it up with lighter fluid - an excellent solvent - shine it up nice, and apply the new wax ring. Beautiful. Lift 50 pounds of pocelain, manoever carefully over flange bolts without the bottom of the toilet touching anything... just so... not quite... oops. Knock flange bolt out of flange and down into pipe. Crap.

Well, I do need another trip to Canadian Tire for some valves to replace the broken/leaking ones. I'll get another bolt. Make list, check twice. No valves in stock. Go to Home Hardware. Get valves. Forget to check list, forget new flange bolt. Not wanting to make another drive, I head to the basement again, open cleanout below toilet. Crap. Literally this time. There is flange bolt. Reach in with screwdriver and manoever it out. Close cleanout. James is now home from school, so I get his help to put the toilet back in place. It really works better with two people. It just plops into place. Hardy har har.

Then valve time. A giant pain the butt working on our ancient plumbing system. The whole thing really needs to be redone, properly, in something bigger than 1/2" copper. I was very concerned that moving or changing anything would open up more leaks in new places. Desoldering valves, resoldering valves, replacing lengths of pipe, resealing unions, yet another trip to Canadian Tire for another union. Burn hand with drop of molten solder. Turn pump back on. Turn water back on. Forget that the bathtub hot water tap is on because I had just replaced the leaking cartridge. Spray water all over the multitude of paper towels I had temporarily put there after cleaning toilet wax and other nastyness under the toilet. Turned it into a nice soggy mess. Brown in colour, since much of the crap lining the water pipes was flushed out.

Gah. Sigh. Why is it that a simple job always leads to more problems? Oh, well, at least we now have a working main water shutoff. That could come in handy one day. I think the gate valves were just really, really old. We're on a sand point well, so no doubt some sand has got into over the years and messed up the seals. Changed to ball valves. Better flow, quicker and easier to shut off, and less susceptible to seal failure.

Good time with James, showed him how to solder copper pipes. Told him never to forget to put the union nut on the pipe before soldering. Of course I then forgot to put the union nut on the pipe, but he reminded me before I soldered! He learned to use a tube cutter, a propane torch, and desoldered and soldered a joint. My one hour job had turned into an all afternoon thing. Can't wait for my next fixit project.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Parent's worst fears: Mars' medical emergency

Saturday night, Mars wasn't feeling too good. He'd had a cough, lots of crying for daddy at bedtime, complaining of a pain in his tummy, he didn't sleep much. Very clinging and crying in the morning for mummy. We decided to take him to the hospital early Sunday morning. He threw up first time waiting to see the triage nurse. A quiet morning in emergency, he was pretty much sent right in with Leaf while while I amused Odin in the waiting room.

She came out to get me after a while. They had pretty quickly put Mars in a mask and were having a hard time starting an IV. Five tries without success, he was screaming and traumatized by it. Finally they got a small needle and managed to draw some blood but gave up on IV. Resisted the mask, but I convinced him it was a cool Darth Vader mask. The ventolin helped him but doctor was very concerned. He was in respiratory distress, oxygen levels low, and though he perked up after meds, quickly back to difficulty breathing.

Doctor told us that she wanted to transfer him to the city hospital. By ambulance because of the risk. Thats when it hit me - until then I was in 'just a sore tummy' mode, and this was something that could be fatal. A quick chest x-ray first, crew arrived, gave him a teddy bear, strapped him to stretcher, wired him up with five or six leads, oxygen mask. He looked so tiny and helpless. A sight no parent should ever see. We decide I'll travel in the ambulance with him, Leaf heads home to pack some clothes, find somewhere for James to stay, & follow down with Odin. They load Mars in & he says "I'm ready to go home now Daddy." I still mist up just thinking about it. I think he was in shock - wasn't fussing or crying, just a wide eyed stare.

Thankfully he soon fell asleep in the ambulance. The crew were great, trying to be reassuring, but getting the intubation equipment made me more scared. Lights and siren the whole way, I wouldn't have thought it was physically possible to make the trip in an hour. Still the longest trip ever. Mars woke up as he was unloaded into emergency. More poking and prodding, but very busy, so he was watching all the goings on. Pediatrician came to see him, thinks most likely asthma attack, but wants to keep him for observation and safety. My mum had come down, and Mars perked right up when he saw grandma.

We're transferred up to pediatric ward, but in isolation because it is a respiratory problem - due to swine flu, they don't want to take chances. Good because he gets a private room, bad because nurses are all in gowns, masks and gloves whenever they come in, and he has to get tested for H1N1. Mum and Odin had arrived in the meantime and were waiting in the room. Mars said later that he liked the needles least (from Bancroft emergency's crappy attempts to IV), but I think the nasal 'swab' was worst for him. When the doctor said swab, I figured a q-tip rubbed around the nostril. Instead a 6 inch probe that probably poked all the way to his brain and came out bloody. Nurses had to wrap him in a blanket first to prevent struggling. Other than that, he was so willing to put up with everything. My little trooper.

Steroids and ventolin masks for the rest of the afternoon, he's in and out of bed playing with star wars figures and dinosaurs. Nurses very nice. Another big upset when mum, Odin, and grandma leave that night. Lots of cuddles and stories about the brave knight Sir Mars from dad, he fell asleep very quickly and slept soundly through the whole night. I didn't. He was hooked up to oxygen/pulse sensor which was supposed to beep madly if oxygen or pulse dropped below a set rate. First beeping was about 5 minutes after I finally managed to get to sleep. My heart jumped out of bed before I did. Sensor had slipped on his finger, or he had fidgeted and it went off because it wasn't getting a reading at all. Of course that managed to happen about 10 more time through the night. Combined with two more nurse visits for ventolin, I didn't get much sleep.

Mars woke up ready to go home. He was still coughing, still a little trouble breathing, but he is a smart kid. Up until then, when asked if it hurt to breathe, I got a yes. This time, there was a slight pause, then "No", having figured out what the 'right' answer was if he wanted to go home. He was looking better, more colour, and more active, don't know how many times I stood all his star wars men up so he could knock them down. Lungs still a little raspy according to nurses. Pediatrician came again that afternoon to check him over & said his lungs sounded better enough that we could go home. Swab came back negative for flu, most likely diagnosis was asthma attack, but Mars is too young for standard testing.

He gets to be on steroid inhaler until flu season ends just to be safe, then a followup to see where we go from there. A ventolin inhaler as well, plus his very own 'darth vader mask' to help administer it. Just glad to be home. My mum came and stayed again too, which was a great help. We figure it probably is asthma, Leaf also had it bad when she was little. Used to turn blue and have to be in an oxygen tent. We'd like to find out triggers. Maybe the dogs (I knew they'd regret eating his birthday cake off the table - would make the decision to find a new home for them so much easier!) Maybe seaonsal pollen, mold, or some environmental thing, but most likely a combination. We picked up a hepa filter for the bedroom on the way home. We'll get an allergy test done to be sure.

Mars had a nice day yesterday, lots of distracting from grandma. Today was tougher. My mum left yesterday afternoon, Leaf had to go into school early to catch up, and Mars wanted mummy more than anything. I think the trauma of the whole episode has really affected him. Had to drop him at the sitters this morning and he kept yelling that he wanted to go find mummy instead. I was very tempted to just bring him home again. Even Holly had a hard time & she is quite the master of distracting upset kids.

Spending the day cleaning and vacuuming and looking for mold. Found some in the bottom of the bedroom garbage can, some in an old jug. Unable to get an appointment with family doctor until November, so we'll be a little nervous until then. We have the inhaler, but not sure when another emergency room visit would be indicated. Err on the side of caution I guess. Lots of cuddles for Mars and Odin.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Another soccer refereeing season done.

The too short high school boys season has ended. It was my first time refereeing boys high school soccer. I quite enjoyed it and overall, I thought I did well. My first match was the only one I was truly unhappy with. It had been a five week layoff since the end of summer soccer and I was unpleasantly surprised at how much my fitness level had dropped off in a relatively short time. Affected my game and my positioning and I think I missed a handling foul or possibly DOGSO-H off a corner kick. I should have moved a little wider when the ball went far post, & my view was obstructed.

Late in the season I did see the most sportsmanlike act I've ever seen in a HS soccer game. An early low shot from distance skips through the keepers hands and into the net. Definitely should not have been a goal. Team that scored didn't taunt, laugh, or instruct to shoot straight at fumble fingered keeper. (Typical at a high school game, and one of the reasons I don't coach any more). Instead, Captain of scoring team calls out to his bench "the Keeper doesn't have any gloves, give him our extra pair". So they did. It warmed my heart and reminded me why I love the game.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

My 14 inches of Manhood

One time at the urinals in a public washroom, guy leans over and says "Wow, that's really long!". I knew he had to be talking about my beard because... well lets just say I knew he was talking about the beard. Writing about the demise of my sandals made me realize that this summer my beard also celebrated its tenth birthday.

Wasn't originally intending to grow a big long goatee. It was more of a how big a beard can I grow this summer in PEI. Went out to Vancouver for Y2K new years, figured to have a laugh about it with the gang, then shave it off. While I was there, getting off the ferry, saw a guy with huge long braided goatee, thought it was neat, decided to give it a try.

Managed a short little braid after 6 months, it was six inches long after the first year. Maybe nine after two years. Then growth slowed down quite a bit. Seemed to be stuck around a foot long for the last few years. Decided to take better care of it - unbraiding more frequently to comb, so now up to 14 inches after a decade.

Living in a small town, don't get as many stares as I used to as most people have seen me around by now. Except from kids, they always find it fascinating and its often funny to see them try to point it out to parents or friends without being obvious about it. Stopped in Leaf's class the other day and there was a general uproar. She's been on mat leave and I haven't been supply teaching, so the kids hadn't seen me in school before.

Surprisingly few people make any kind of comment about it. The occasional 'neat' or 'cool'. A tour group of little old asian ladies in Ottawa asked me to be in a group photo with them. Driving in Toronto once, a drunk jaywalking prostitute pointed and laughed... (as tempting as it was, I didn't return the favour.)

I think it fulfills my long hair wish. I had nice long hair a couple times in my youth. Sadly that isn't an option any more. Follically challenged and all that. I sometimes tell people I'm growing the beard long so I can then comb it over my bald spot. I can almost do that now. Ten years has flown by.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

RIP Beloved Sandals

I'm a function over form kinda guy. Particularly when it comes to clothing. Does it fit? Is it comfortable? Is there more fabric than holes? If I can answer yes to those three questions, I'm wearing it. I'm known for my ancient and occasionally ratty clothing - old patched combat pants, frayed hoodies, constructions boots with more steel than leather showing. My old cycling jacket, faded on the back from a prairie crossing trip, road rashed, elastic stretched, is still going strong as it enters its teenage years. My favourite 1982 army surplus shorts, patched more than fabric, had to be retired a few years ago.

Sadly, I must announce that my sandals have bit the bullet after a decade of hard use. Got them for the summer trip to PEI back in 1999. They've seen a lot of hard use. Uncountable hours of hacky sack, spattered by many colours of theatrical paint, chewed by a very naughty puppy, soles worn almost smooth, elastic ties long gone, they've been cut, torn, and burned by acid. The end came a few weeks back when Mars stepped on the side of them while we were playing around and the upper tore right out of the rubber sole. My sandal started flapping around my ankle. Irrepairable. Sigh. Of course I'll never find another pair like them. Naturally I tried, but the woman at the store laughed at me. Even with a product number & the catepillar catalogue it was no good. Out of style. Probably stopped being made the year after I bought them. I may find a substandard physical replacement next summer, but after so many memories I'll have an empty spot in my heart. Goodbye, noble sandals!