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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Thanksgiving Tree: Helping Kids (and Parents) Learn Gratitude

Fall is a wonderful time in Arizona. The temperature finally shifts from surface-of-the-sun to absolutely perfect. We are able to open our windows and go outside. And while most of the country is raking up leaves and preparing for snow, we are getting ready to enjoy our sunshine for the next six months.

But, just like the rest of the country, as we move into November, we get ready to celebrate Thanksgiving. As parents, we look for ways to teach our children thankfulness. Enter our Thanksgiving Tree.

Every year, we crumble up brown packing paper in the shape of a tree and cut out dozens of paper leaves. Each evening, before dinner, each member of the family takes a leaf and writes down something that we are thankful for. The one rule is that whatever it is cannot be repeated. We get things like, "I am thankful for family" (sweet), to, "Vitamins" (weird), to, "Quesadillas" (who's not?). But as we move through the season, and the tree gets more and more leaves, our kids are learning to be grateful for all of the things that they have.

And I've come to realize that my gratitude increases. On the bad days at work, I am still thankful for my job. When breakfast is a half-warm piece of toast because I didn't have time to let it actually toast, I'm thankful that I have something to eat. When I get cut off by another driver on my way to work, I am thankful that I have a car, and thankful that my horn works (yeah, I'm still learning). The fact of the matter is that the Thanksgiving Tree is just as much for me as it is for all of us. So whether it is leaf shaped papers taped to a crumpled paper trunk, a notebook with a list, or a stack of index cards, I encourage you to practice gratitude for the next couple of weeks.

Oh, and by the way. Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Termites: A Metaphor for Life

I am a total know-it-all. Well, maybe not a total, but I definitely inherited a great, staunch, German,
self-reliant, I can do it myself attitude from somewhere (probably from both sides, with a little sprinkling of marrying into it). This is great for the most part. I like to get things done. I like to research. I like to figure it out. But it recently bit me in the backside.

About a year ago, we were having our bimonthly organic pest control service from Blue Sky Pest Control (Phoenicians, I highly recommend them if you're having pest problems - contact me below or through Facebook and I can get back to you with information) (also, doubly parenthetically, did you know that bimonthly is defined as either two times per month AND every other month? Talk about confusing). Our pest control professional found a termite tube and let us know that we should get an extensive termite inspection. We did, and the inspector, while not finding any other termite tubes, recommended getting our house treated for termites.

And my self-reliant, know-it-all self kicked in. I thought, "Eh, it's just one tube. Probably just an exploratory tube. We're not going to have a termite problem." I listen to Rosie Romero, of Rosie on the House, almost every Saturday. And Rosie says, "There two types of homes in Arizona. Those that have had termites, and those that are going to get them." But somehow that did not sink in, and I ignored the termite problem.

Fast forward to this past August, and our bimonthly (meaning every other month) service technician again found a couple of termite tubes and recommended a termite inspection. This time, the termite inspector found six termite tubes. We went from a small problem to a big problem.

The good news - it was treatable, and much easier than what I had in mind. The bad news - because I had let the problem go for a year, there was much more work to be done, which meant that the cost almost doubled from the initial proposal. But I'll focus on the good news - it was treatable.

Here was the treatment. We did not have to empty our house of all living things while a giant balloon was inflated around our house with toxic gasses slowly killing the soul of our home. Instead, the technicians from Blue Sky drilled holes in the driveway, patio, and interior of the garage every 16 inches. They then sprayed Termidor HE, which is a termite barrier, into the hole. The Termidor goes under the foundation and spreads out, creating a barrier to keep the termites away.

So now our home had dozens of holes around the foundation. But the holes are then filled, and not just filled, but color matched, so that unless you're looking for them, they cannot be seen. And anybody who looks at my driveway or garage that closely has way too much time on their hands and should probably get a hobby.

My initial termite problem was ignored, and instead of going away, it got worse and worse, mostly unnoticed, until a bigger problem was recognized. Maybe my termite problem is a great metaphor for life. If I had addressed the problem when it was first identified, the cost would not have been as high. However, because I let it go untreated for so long, it not only didn't go away, but it became much worse.

Could the same be said for an apology that goes unspoken? An unkind word that is not forgiven? A government policy that is outdated but ignored? Is this too philosophical for a blog about termites? Well maybe I'm just in a philosophical mood. After all, I just put up a barrier that termites cannot get through, which means that they will be heading to one of my neighbors' houses. So maybe I will need to get that apology ready.

But instead of ending on that, I want to end with something about my kids (this is Renaissance Dad after all). After all of this, Little E, my kindergartner, found a termite tube at school. He was telling me about it one day, and I asked him if he showed it to anybody. His face lit up and he said, "YEAH. I showed all of my friends." I asked him to tell his teacher the next day. And then I got an email from the teacher, thanking me for Little E's termite inspection. She said that she didn't think anybody would have noticed it where it was.

I think we have a future Renaissance Dad in the making. With maybe just a little bit of a know it all thrown in.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Remodeling Stairs with Decorative Risers

When my family and I decided to redo our floors, I knew that our stairway would be a challenge. Do you remember the scene in Pee Wee's Big Adventure, when Pee Wee Herman came across the pet store that was on fire? Pee Wee ran in and opened the puppy cages. Then he ran by the snake terrariums, gave a look of disgust, and continued to save the kittens. On and on he went, passing the snakes, making a face, and saving other animals. Finally, he knew that he could no longer pass the snakes, so he grabbed two fistfulls of them, ran outside, and passed out.

That was how I felt about the stairs. I would walk by them, shake my head, and move on to some other part of the flooring project. I worked in the kitchen, looked at the stairs, and moved on to caulking. Then I looked at the stairs, and moved on to the living room. Then the laundry room, bathroom, dog, and ceiling fan. I floored things that should never be floored. And then I had to face the stairs.

Carpeted stairs - they look happy in spite of the old carpet.
The first thing I had to do was pull off the carpeting, the tack strips, and the 3.7 million staples that were used to attach the carpeting to the stairs. Next, I had to cut the bullnose off of each stair (this is the overhang that would have interfered with the flooring on the deck [the horizontal surface]). Finally, in preparation for covering the stairs, I had to cover the risers (vertical surface) with pieces of plywood, just to give some evenness to the stairs for our covering.

Here is where I had a wonderful conversation with my five-year-old. My son was working with me and helping in the fantastic way that five-year-olds can help. He would take staples and put them in a bucket. He would use the pliers and try to pull staples out. And then, when we pulled off some carpeting, he discovered a knothole.

I wonder what's going on in there.
That boy sat there staring at the knothole for minutes. He looked at it from so many different angles. He poked his finger into it. And then he said, "Daddy, please don't cover that hole. I think it's a knothole like Ralph (from The Mouse and the Motorcycle) lived in." We then had an entire conversation about what the mice that lived in that knothole might do. Did they ride around on his motorcycles? Play with his Legos? What did they eat? How many were there? He was so fascinated, and I loved watching him and listening to his imagination spinning and thinking and creating. It was great! I almost forgot that I had stairs to work on.

Back to work... After the risers were covered with plywood, I laid the new floor on the deck. Because they are stairs, the pad had to be removed and the flooring had to be glued down with a construction adhesive. Finally, a few nails with the nail gun to keep everything in place, and we had new stairs.

The finished product!
For the risers, we didn't want to install more of the flooring. I thought this would be too dark, and between the flooring and our furniture, we have plenty of wood around. After spending irretrievable hours on Pinterest, we decided that it would be really cool to wallpaper the risers. We found a wallpaper store (yes, they still exist), and after getting several samples, settled on two different colors of the same wallpaper, alternating them in a 1-2 pattern. Installing the wallpaper was a breeze.

The result is a wonderfully light and classy stairway, which really highlights the banister that need to be replaced and the walls that need to be painted. But at least the snakes are safe! And the mice have their hole underneath the wallpaper.

Now on to the next project.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Renaissance Dad Product Test: GreenWorks 60V Self Propelled Cordless Mower

I have many bizarre quirks, and one of them is that I really love research. When I am in the market to purchase something, or when I am just interested in finding out about a new product, I love to read reviews, look at specs, got to stores to fiddle, compare, and push Google to new limits with the amount of comparison that I do. In fact, this is one of the reasons that I started Renaissance Dad. After extensive amounts of researching, I wanted to share what I had learned with the entire Interweb.

That being said, I spent years researching lawn mowers, purchased and owned several different brands and varieties (battery, corded electric, gas, self-propelled, push). Three and a half years ago I fell in love with the GreenWorks G-Max 40V Lion mower. And in three and a half years my love for this mower has not wavered.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Homemade Nachos: A Healthier, Tastier Alternative

Our family life is filled with traditions. One of my favorites is Friday Family Movie Night. It starts when I get home from work and yell at the top of my lungs, "IT'S FRIDAY!" That is the signal for family time.

We usually begin with either a family swim (still loving the remodeled pool - thank you Above & Beyond) or a rousing round of Just Dance on the Wii. After we have spent what little energy we have left from the week, the kids get into their pjs, dinner and popcorn are made, and the movie of the week begins.

For Family Movie Nights, there are only two options in our house for dinner - pizza and nachos. Of course, being the pseudo-health nuts that we are, both of these are homemade. While the pizza came fairly quickly and somewhat easily to perfect, the nachos took some finessing to get the perfect recipe. But as we perfected the recipe, we quickly discovered that all other nachos left something to be desired.

Warning!!! If you try these nachos, you will most likely lose all respect for any other nachos,