April 29, 2010

Alden's Garden

Alden has taken an interest in the ruins of the barbecue pit. He likes to break off crumbly stones and toss them down the "tube" at the top. Kerstin thinks this is cruel - feeding the barbecue to itself.
We've been working in the garden any chance we can get, which is not much. So far I've only managed to plant peas and fava beans earlier this month. Their little hopeful heads popped up a few weeks ago. We have hundreds of seedlings on the front porch waiting until the frost danger subsides before they can go in the ground. Alden has really shown an interest in gardening, so we decided to give him a row and let him plant whatever he wanted. We have about 30,000 varieties of seeds and I thought he'd have a field day trying to mash as many varieties as he could into his little plot, but no, he was only interested in peas, one of the few vegetables he'll eat. It's a little late in the season for peas, but we'll see what happens.

Fixtures are in!

Now that the fixtures are in, the bathroom is really starting to come together. You can really get a sense for just how intimate the space is from the image below. This is the view from the doorway.
Kerstin is planning to build a little back splash for the vanity, since it's not flush with the walls (he got a little over zealous with the kick molding). Hence the board in the back of the sink. Still, the toilet flushes and the sink runs and being able to pee downstairs is quite possibly the greatest thing ever! Next to come - trim and plexiglass for the shower, radiant heat for the floors and a ceiling.

April 18, 2010

2nd bathroom 2

I worked on the bathroom most of the day. The shower stall will have two full walls and a knee-wall with a piece of glass or plexi for the top half.
Doing mediocre tile setting is always rough on my psyche. It's tough after a long break from it; my skills are off. Not that it is coming out bad, it could just be better. The biggest problem comes from a house that is not level or square... Yeah, I'll blame the house.The trim around the shower will be maple, stained to look like the cherry wood from the vanity. It's really hard to find cherry wood in Maine.
The tile is from Korea and has a glaze that makes each tile unique. I really like that. Most of the tile you find at Home Depot or Lowes is screen printed these days. SCREEN PRINTED to look like a glaze that was trying to look like stone. Ridiculous.
Alden played shopping today with Ilana and the stuffed animals... They bought tile, a shower, a sink, blue tile... and then a pig, cat and alligator, all Alden's idea.

April 17, 2010

The Alden Sleeping Game

This is the night-night game that Alden loved to play with Jessie. It's usually played on or around a couch, but it can also be performed with a blanket on the floor, a beanbag chair, or a pile of laundry. The 'that's cold, very heavy' box of tile in the middle of the living room is optional for this game. It is more essential for the bathroom renovation taking place. The song Alden starts to sing at around 25s is Going to Marrakesh by the Extra Glenns, a truly fantastic song, but not one that I'd really classify as a traditional lullaby. Then again, when has Alden ever been traditional? He strongly associates this song with night-night, so it is sung even during play sleep. I like to think that somewhere out there, John Darnielle smiles with satisfaction whenever our little toddler sings it to himself as he drifts to sleep.

April 16, 2010

Gardening again!

We have been having some seesaw weather lately, which I guess is what April is like in Maine. There have been some really beautiful and warm days in late March and early April that have let us get out and work the soil.Alden seems to be excited to be able to go out as well. His favorite outdoor activities this season include collecting pine cones, playing with our neighbor's dog, and ringing our neighbor's wind chimes. Karen gave us a wind chime for Alden, which is okay in a pinch, but he prefers to ring the neighbor's one... maybe he likes it because it has a much lower tone?

Alden took his shoes and socks off and walked on the grass! This is a big deal for us, since, last season he would curl his feet and lift his legs as high as he could when we tried to set him on grass. We tilled an additional 12 square feet into our squash patch and made it our official over-wintering garden. This year we've planted several mixes of greens, spinach, mustard, mache, arugula, turnips, radishes, kale, bok choi and carrots in this garden. With any luck, these veggies will survive the winter if mulch them with enough straw or leave litter. The other patch is our regular summer garden and we are planting potatoes and tomatoes far away from each other in their own designated plots hoping to avoid the spread of any blights.

BeforeAfter. The recycled paper weed block acts as a terrific sail in the spring winds. I'm hoping to use our first grass clippings to help keep the paper down, but for now, rocks will have to do.

Ilana should do a big garden post soon. She sent soil samples away again for tests and has made several gardening charts and schedules. I sure she will share them.

Update: Woke up at 6:30 to see this out the window. We rushed outside to brush the snow off our poor little seedlings and cover them with some garden fabric. Hopefully it's not too late...
It was 80 degrees 2 weeks ago. This has got to be one of the weirdest springs I can remember.

April 12, 2010

New Passover Song

Dianu is so passe. This year the hot new song was I've Been Working on the Railroad in three part harmony. The song was introduced as a stop gap measure to keep Alden from melting down in mid-seder. It worked beautifully, so long as we kept singing it over and over to the exclusion of the rest of seder. My favorite part of this video is my grandfather eating his dinner, completely unaware of what's going on. That and the gargantuan nose picking by my son at the end of the video. I'm so glad I'm able to share that tender moment with everyone.

Passover 2010

Passover this year was an adventure. Kerstin had to teach class during the holiday and couldn't come down to Maryland with us, so Alden and I flew solo. It actually went better than I'd anticipated. He was quiet and charming during most of the flight and only threw up two times during the descent. Alden managed to fill 2 airline barf bags, handily beating my all time record. The good Sumerians in the row behind us passed up their travel-sized bottle of Purell and wet wipes. "Keep 'em" they told me, "You'll need them more than us". They were right. The unfortunate, slightly traumatized women in the seat next to us endured the upheaval with polite consternation. As my hands and lap were coated in sick, she was kind enough to riffle through the diaper bag for a ill-fated change of clothes (soiled minutes later -- note to self: Always travel with two sets of clothes in the diaper bag). She was nice enough about helping me, but she still gave me the hairy eyeball, especially after vomit #2 and was more than obsessive about sanitizing her own hands as I wiped down the walls, window and armrest. I think she thought I was risking contagion upon my fellow travelers, when Alden wasn't sick at all. Our descent was a little choppy and he had trouble anytime we experienced a sudden pressure change. All in all, it was the best experience I've had with Alden in an airplane since maybe ever.
Alden and Jessie really bonded this year. It was so cute to watch the two of them play together. This game is called "night-night", where the couch cushions are removed to the floor and Alden tells Jessie when and where they are to sleep and to wake up. There was also much fort-making with cushions and hiding under cushions and Where's Alden? merriment. It was seriously adorable.

Kay and my Mom couldn't resist a little shopping trip with Alden and bought him these fabulous green galoshes. He was so excited to try them out in some puddles. Once the puddles around my Aunt and Uncle's house were no longer sufficient, he wanted to stomp about in the stream. There was some disappointment when he was not allowed to go into the stream by himself, nor was he allowed to go into the deep parts. Despite our draconian rules, he still managed to soak his pants all the way up to the crotch. Kid has talent.
We had a nice time at the playground and Alden enjoyed the tube slide immensely. The grass had that amazing electric green quality that comes with the first blades of spring. I love that time when everything is an intense green and it was a treat to get a preview of spring, even if it was still pretty cold outside.
We spent one afternoon at a nature center, complete with a small farm, a rehabilitation center for injured birds of prey, and an obstacle course in the woods.
My Grandfather is really struggling to walk these days, but still managed to venture into the woods with us.

The obstacle course was really interesting. The stations looked like the sort of trust-building exercises you used to do at summer camp. In the center was an enormous tree house with a spiral staircase and a very steep homemade slide made out of several intact oil barrels soldered together. From a distance it looked like it might have been fun, but up close it was way too steep and the barrels were too small. Someone had even nailed a plank across the lower third of the barrel opening at the bottom. I don't know what purpose this plank could serve other than breaking legs or feet. I imagined this slide not as a station where friendship or trust is built, but rather where punishment is meted out on the nerdiest students by the school thugs while the counselor's back was turned. It looked brutal. Pity I didn't take any pictures of it.

The animals were the most exciting part for Alden. We stumbled upon a pen housing two goats and one bitter sheep. When we fed the animals a few handfuls of chives sprouting by the barn, it soon became clear why. The goats rushed the fence and refused passage to the sheep, who tried in vein to sneak around their flanks to get in a nibble. We tried distracting the goats with false promises of chives so that Alden could feed the sheep but as soon as the goats got wind of what was going on, they charged her and butted her away from the fence. The sheep finally gave up and lumbered over to the far corner of the pen where she furiously headbutted a maple tree. Clearly her life is a living hell.
The poor downtrodden sheep begging for a treat while the goats are distracted.
A view of the goats from Alden's vantage point. He was a little nervous around them (rightly so).
We took a nice walk around the woods and through the nature trail. Alden was content to ride in the stroller until he saw a tractor in the barn.
The Seder went much the same as most years, minus a whole lot of folks. In past years when my Aunt has hosted 20+ folks, a whole lot of time would pass between your turns at the responsive readings, leaving ample opportunity for sneaking a sip of wine or (when Seder was running late and the stomach was growlin') a soup nut or two. When Alden appeared on the scene, we usually had time to take him away when he got fussy and come back to the table just in time for our turn in the Hagadah. Having only 8 people meant I had to actually keep up with the text.

Sam and my Mom brought a whole bunch of wine this year, and they set it up so that you could have a different varietal for each cup. I really liked this new wine tasting approach to Pesach.

Kay made amazing food - no surprise there! The big hit this year was lemon blueberry green tea sorbet. My Mom flew the lemons in from her backyard and helped Kay make the sorbet too. It was awesome! I hope we'll be seeing it again in future Seders.Geoff joined us for the second night and also brought some wine. His bottle was the best and went very quickly. Elijah bore most of the blame.
Kay's Dad Bill joined us this year as well. He has a great voice! I don't think I've ever really heard him sing before, but I was really impressed. Bill enjoyed watching Alden shred the tablecloth and bang on the table with the butter knives to his own rendition of Ran Kan Kan during the responsive readings.
Alden's postprandial leavings. Most of the organic matter was consumed by Charlie the dog.

It was great fun to be with everyone this year. Passover is such an awesome family event and a nice tradition. Next year in Rockville!

April 10, 2010

2nd bathroom

The long road to our second bathroom continues. It began last fall when I spent a couple weeks knocking a hole in our granite foundation. This, I thought would be the easiest way to connect to the main drain and water source. It may have been the easiest way, but doing it wasn't easy. Drilling stone with a hammer drill takes a lot of time and the angle it was at (near the ceiling of the basement) made it awkward. The area we are building the bathroom we refer to as the Mud Room, because despite being part of the house, it is not unlike a porch where you take off your dirty boots and whatnot. There is no heat to this part of the house and the ceilings are kind of low. When we bought the house the washer and dryer were in this room, along with a 1953 horizontal meat freezer. We got rid of the freezer and moved the washer/ dryer to the basement.

I started framing the bathroom a couple moths ago, which meant ripping up the linoleum floor, tearing out the ceiling and reinforcing underneath. Another reason this room was not frequently used (besides the no-heat thing) was that the floor was flexy. Part of the bathroom build included building some support walls in the basement and making the bathroom walls support the floor of the unfinished room above (another future project). Then came the wiring for the bathroom and the hallways on both sides... and the room above, heck why not. Wiring wasn't too bad, although I did it in two stages about three weeks apart. When I started the second stage there were a few things I discovered and thought, "who was the moron (me) who did this... what were they thinking?" It's all working properly now, which is the important thing.
After the room was framed and wired in came the sheet-rock for inside the room and the backer-board for the floor. Then drains and the water pipes. Right through the hole that was made two seasons ago!
I thought about putting a bath in, but with the size (5x7) there wasn't enough room. The bathroom will have a shower, a sink and a toilet.
The shower and toilet will be divided by a knee-wall that will be tile on the bottom and a piece of hanging glass on the top. I am hoping the glass will make the small space seem bigger, brighter, etc.
I am near the point where I will start seeing big changes any day now. The floor and walls are ready for tile or paint. I still need to put up the ceiling, but I have the materials and the venting is run. I am looking forward to a bathroom downstairs, as is Ilana and Alden. Every time we pass the construction Alden points and says, " Daddy making shower, sink and potty" . I love that.