Archive for the 'House' Category

Lawn care

February 16, 2011

Andrew Hicks

EDITOR’S NOTE: This blog post for Wednesday is also being written on Thursday.

By some sort of groundhog non-shadow-seeing fluke, the weather was absolutely beautiful today. We went outside, and Silas stayed in the stroller the whole time, but Sarah took full advantage of the back yard amenities. She climbed the narrow embankment stairs, threw washers in the bucket and lined 13 chunky rocks up in a row. I wonder sometimes if my daughter will develop OCD, because I can tell it bothers her if items aren’t properly lined up.

The couple who lived in our house before we did was in their sixties. They enjoyed gardening as a hobby, clearly, because every spring, beautiful flowers come popping up all over. Then get choked out by weeds and neglect. The rocks Sarah was playing with came from a medium-sized, circular in-ground planter in the backyard. We’ve been dismantling the rocks off and on — mostly off — for the past year. It is our systematic plan to undo all the beauty the last people created and have the plainest-looking yard on the block. Crap, this’ll be our third summer here, and we don’t even have a trimmer yet.

Any lawn-care talk causes me to flash back to my grandpa on Mom’s side. He and Grandma would come up to our house a couple days a week while my mom was at work to watch us kids and help out around the house. My grandma would do our laundry all day. She was notorious for pulling clothes from the dryer way before they were dry. If my brother or I would try to protest (“But Grandma, these pants are still dripping”), she’d always say, “Oh, they’re just a little damp.”

Grandpa and I would spend our day fixing whatever was broken (he’d fix, I’d assist, mainly) and cutting the grass. Cutting was easy — we had a nice riding lawnmower — but raking and trimming were a pain. The back yard was big, and the grass grew superthick.

Grandpa would always pack us each a lunch — bologna sandwiches, Ruffles and Chip’s Ahoy, with a can of Coke Classic. His sandwiches had mayonnaise, while I was still years away from discovering the sinful glee of extra-heavy duty mayo. And, at the end of the day, he’d pay me for helping him. It averaged out to something like a dollar an hour, but it was the first paid work I ever did. I had a fantastic set of grandparents, and I wish they could have met my wife and kids.

FAMILY PICTURE OF THE DAY

Sarah and Daddy on Valentine's Day.

Procrastination and vaccinations

September 11, 2010

We rent our house. Four bedrooms, two baths, a nice backyard. I’ve talked to my current landlord exactly twice. Once was when the air conditioning went out during a heat wave in mid-June while my wife was eight months pregnant. The other time was on Wednesday, when I broke the sink.

I was doing dishes, a frequent assignment for a daytime dad, and applied what I thought was a miniscule amount of upward pressure on the faucet arm. The thing was rusted out on the bottom, I soon discovered, which created an instant hole that left water gushing out at an impressive 270-degree angle. We ended up doing the rest of our dishes in the bathtub that night, a hardship more bizarre than actually hard. We wistfully compared it to the trials of the original American settlers. Imagine doing the bathtub dishes after the first Thanksgiving. Pause for laughter.

It has to be something dramatic like that for me to call the landlord, even though he’s very courteous and prompt about resolving issues. But both times I made the call over some emergency drama, I tacked on a couple requests that had been brewing indefinitely. Case in point – the entire time we’ve lived in our house, 20 months now, the light fixture in the third bedroom has been broken. It’s always been a case of, “Oh yeah, we need to call the landlord about that.” Instead, we bought a floor lamp and put it on the backburner.

Well, about 610 days later, thanks to me finally bringing it up, we have a brand new ceiling fan/light fixture in what is now Baby Silas’s bedroom. The lesson is, we could have had the fixture replaced 609 days ago if I would have made the one-minute phone call I made on Wednesday. This is a running theme in my life. Stuff gets broken or goes undone, gets viewed as a hassle, gets rationalized out of being acted upon, gets worst-case-scenarioized in my head, and then ends up being resolved way too late in a positively simple manner.

One guy came over to fix both. He showed up announced at 10:40 or so, while Sarah, Silas and I were accomplishing not much of anything in the living room. Sarah had met this handyman once before, when he came over to fix the garbage disposal. At the time, she wanted to give him hugs. This time, she wanted to investigate all the goings-on under the sink. I moved myself and both babies to the master bedroom so Schneider could work in peace.

Kind of the same thing today. I took both babies to the doctor for Silas’s two-month physical and trio of immunizations*. I was running late and couldn’t find the release thingie on the double stroller. Yes, again, I couldn’t work the stroller. My friend Kate Hayes is right. I should practice on that thing in my spare time for when it actually counts.

So I carried Silas in his car seat, and Sarah held my hand and walked from the parking lot through the building, into the elevator and into the office with us. She did great with all that. Sometimes she gets that hyper-independent streak and won’t hold my hand, actually collapses her body so we can’t go anywhere but down to the ground.

Today Sarah was all good walking, but she was also all activity in the examining room. I didn’t bring any toys or books for her, and her only props were two kiddie chairs and a kiddie table. She MacGuyvered the crap out of what she had to work with. She was picking the chairs up and carrying them all around the room, setting up a barricade at the main door. She pushed that table all around the room too. The noise was deafening.

Meanwhile, the nurse was asking questions I didn’t know the answers to, like which hospital we do our lab work at, Memorial or St. John’s? It was a 50/50, and I’m still not confident I answered correctly. In many ways, it’s my first week on the job, and I don’t get daily intelligence briefings. Sometimes as a dad I feel like I can go an entire day without being intelligent at all.

Also, apparently I feed Silas too much. I feed myself too much, so it only stands to reason. My rationale is, if he’s sucking ravenously at the bottle, and when the bottle’s all gone, he’s crying like he wants some more, I’m going to give him some more. I’m hoping this is not the same logic that led the parents of that YouTube Asian smoking baby to up his nicotine intake from a half-pack to a videotaped carton a day. I don’t want to be one of those dads.

* = I feel somewhat lazy as a father. My mom and a concerned conspiracy-theorist friend both wanted to warn me of the dangers of giving vaccines to your infants, and I barely browsed the reading material. I wanted to rock the boat and question authority and screw the man a whole lot more ten years ago. Sadly, now it’s more like, “What’s the normal thing to do? Where do I sign?” I’m old, complacent¬†and conformist. Not bragging, just saying.