Monday, November 30, 2015

Family Movie Night: How to Make Your Favorite Movies Kid Friendly

Before my wife and I had kids, our movie nights were seamless. We could watch our favorite movies in perfect peace. Once we reached the point with our kids when we had family movie nights, we ran through the standard Disney and Pixar movies, and then my wife and I started to introduce our kids to our favorites. It's amazing the difference between watching Back to the Future as a couple and watching it with a four- and a six-year-old. Brow sweating, hands shaking, I watched with my finger on the mute button, waiting for the inappropriate language that I knew was coming, and dreading the inappropriate content that I forgot about. So we were faced with the option of not having family movie night until the kids are older, being stuck with repeats of G rated movies for the next 8 years, or sweating through every family movie night, waiting to mute, fast forward or pause.

Enter our family movie night magic maker: ClearPlay. In searching for a way to find edited movies, I discovered the ClearPlay Blu-ray player. This player works with DVDs and Blu-ray discs, and it has streamable filters that allow families to choose what is acceptable and what should be filtered out. Basically, ClearPlay is about putting the control into a family's hands without having to worry about content. Users are able to set filter levels for profanity, sex/nudity, substance abuse, vulgarity, violence, sensuality, and many more categories. You can choose levels of no filtering, least filtering, medium filtering, and most filtering for nine different categories. ClearPlay will either mute the movie during filter levels, or will skip the filtered out moment or scene. There are over 4,500 titles that have filters, with movies added every day.

ClearPlay has definitely enhanced our family movie night experience. We got to kick off our fun old fashioned Christmas by enjoying one of my favorite Christmas movies, Christmas Vacation, and the only sweat I experienced was from laughing so much and watching my seven-year-old's face as Clark Griswold flew down the hill on his greased up saucer sled.

By the way, this is not a sponsored post. I have not received any payment or incentive from ClearPlay. These are my unbiased opinions.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Hybrid Bunkbed: Bed When You Need It, Space When You Don't

Little E loved helping with the screws

When my wife was pregnant with child #3 three years ago, I knew that space would be a precious commodity in our house. I guess that's why bunk beds were invented, so I decided to build one for my girls. They have loved their bunk beds, and so far they have remained in one piece, so I guess I did something right. As Little E has grown up, and as he was ready for a big boy bed, he wanted a bunk bed like his sisters. The problem is that he doesn't share a room with a sibling. Now we regularly have a need for another bed as people come to stay with us, but I started wondering if a bunk bed was really the solution. Actually, if I'm really honest, I thought, "Been there, done that." I was really looking for a challenge, and that challenge was this: could I build a bed that was a transformer - a bed when we need it, but out of the way when we didn't? Kind of like a hybrid bunk bed/murphy bed. And the answer was yes!

And the measuring.
The bed project took a little more than a month, although it was a really busy time at school, so I only worked on it in bits and pieces. The total cost was about $200, which included everything except for the mattresses.

I started with builder grade lumber, 2x4's and 2x6's. I planed them down to our desired thickness, and we built the frame using pocket screws. I used 2x6's for the long rails and for the legs. I used 2x4's for the inside rail supports (what the mattress sits on) and to run between the legs. The end of the bed has rungs that double as a ladder.
And the screws.

I decided that we wanted the bed to be short enough for goodnight kisses, so I kept the top bunk at 45 inches tall. The width of a twin mattress is 38 inches, so I made the bottom of the top bunk 40 inches to accommodate the folding up bottom bunk. I installed four rails across the top and bottom bunk, and cut plywood to lay across these rails. The long horizontal rails were attached to the legs using steel brackets and carriage bolts, all spray painted black to blend in better with the stain.

For the bottom bunk, I essentially built a box that would fit within the legs of the bed. I then installed hinges to help support the bed as it folds up. Finally, I installed a barrel lock onto the front of the bottom bunk, and I drilled a hole in the leg where the barrel meets up as the bottom bunk is folded up. This prevents the bottom bunk from falling down as little ones are play or reading in the space under the bed. 

The gang's all helping, and keeping safe. Osha approved.
Once all of the pieces were assembled, I sanded, and sanded, and sanded. The planer did a good job on everything, but of course there were areas that got dinged up when I was assembling the bed, and there were joints that were almost but not quite flush.

After everything was sufficiently sanded, I stained the wood using a red mahogany stain. After appropriate drying time, I varnished the wood using spar urethane partially diluted with mineral spirits. I have only done this for my past two woodworking projects, and I will never do anything else. I called in to one of my favorite radio programs, Rosie on the House. This is a father/son team that deals with home improvement, and the show I called in to was when they were talking about finishing furniture. The advice given was that mineral spirits help thin out the spar urethane, which causes a more even coat with no bubbles or brush strokes. In fact, I use a rag to rub in the finish, and this bed finished flawlessly.
Bed folded down when we need it.

After a new paint job in Little E's room, the bed was ready to be installed. I drove two screws through the legs and into studs in the wall to prevent any wobble. Finally, I installed dimmable lights on the underside of the top bunk. This provides reading light when reading underneath, or additional light when Little E is playing. It also provides a way for Little E to control the light, which was a steep learning curve for two weeks at bedtime. I think we finally have that under control, and now we merely have light for reading.

One of the greatest thing about this project was Little E's continual joy and enthusiasm about every step. He was so excited that he finally gets to be a big boy, and his engineering skills really came out as he helped me with each step. Even when he wasn't handing me screws or holding pieces together, he was playing with scraps of wood and making designs in the sawdust.

Who knows, maybe some day we will be like Rosie and Romey Romero.
Bed folded up for a reading/play nook.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Painting Tips: "Daddy, Can We Help?"

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I used to be the remodel king. My wife would go on a trip, I would do a moderate to extensive renovation, and my wife would come back surprised. One time, when she was gone for a three day trip, I walled up the door to our family room, cut a hole in a different wall, and installed french doors. When she came home, she exclaimed, "That wasn't there when I left!" And then we had kids.

So as she left for a two day work trip this week, I decided that I would paint my son's room to surprise her. With three kids home. By myself. Yeah, I didn't really think that one through, did I?

The room was peach and orange and was definitely in need of being updated for a three-year-old. So here are some tips to painting with kids, with a couple of additional tricks thrown in.

1) Fill the holes. I use joint compound, and I use two putty knives - a small one (1-inch) to apply the compound, and a larger one (4-inch) to smooth out the edges. This was a great introductory experience for my kids. They helped me find holes and enjoyed helping with the easy to reach holes. Of course I just really enjoyed the way my 3-year-old says "spackle."
Even princesses can spackle

2) Get a good paint brush for cutting. In college I spent one summer painting dorm rooms. We didn't waste time putting up blue tape for the edges. Instead, we used a good angle brush to cut the edges. Of course it was easy with white walls butting up against white ceilings. I then spent a couple of years using blue tape for edges. Eventually I realized that this was a huge time waster, the edges were pretty crappy even with the tape, and I ended up with more paint in undesired places. I use a Purdy 2-inch angled brush for cutting, and it gets the job done. It's also great to see the paint splotches on the handle from all of the previous paint projects. Thank you Kim, my mother-in-law, since I believe you were the one who bought the 2-inch Purdy angled brush. Or inspired me to buy it. Or were here when I bought it.
Meticulous about her work

3) Let the kids "help" with corners. Where two walls come together that will be the same color, let the kids practice their brush painting skills. They need to practice someplace, and I would rather not have them practice along the bottom against the carpet.

4) Speaking of carpet, I hate painting the baseboards. I inevitably get paint on the carpet, even when I try to use blue tape. However, I found that using a wide putty knife does the trick. I use a 12-inch putty knife and stick it between the carpet and the baseboards. This acts as a barrier between the carpet and baseboard. Get the putty knife under the bottom of the baseboard, paint along the putty knife, being sure to brush up 5-inches or so, and slide the putty knife to the next section. I ended up with no paint on the carpet when painting Little-E's room this way.
Painting the baseboards

5) Let the kids practice rolling skills in the middle of the wall. Be sure that the roller is not dripping with paint, and let the kids roll back and forth. Show them how to go over the spots to make sure that the wall is properly covered, especially if you have plaster or deeply textured walls. Know that you will panic as they get close to newly replaced outlets, the carpet, or the dog, but remember that all of these things can be cleaned. Take some deep breaths and tell the kids that they're doing a great job.

6) If the kids get bored with painting and want to play outside, and if you happen to have a homemade teeter totter outside that you have previously blogged about, you might want to keep the window open. This will help you prevent injuries when you hear one of your kids say, "I'm going to stand on this end, and then the two of you jump on that end so I can catapult into the sky." Yes, windows should stay open not solely for paint fumes.
Look at that precision

7) Have patience. Numerous times while painting Little E's room I thought, "Why did I decide to do this with my wife out of town?" There were some things that were frustrating with the kids, but in the grand scheme of things nothing irrevocable happened, and as parents, that's usually the most important thing. Especially when one spouse is out of town. Enjoy the opportunity that you have to do a project with your kids.

 Like most jobs that I do around the house, while the kids add a certain amount of chaos, they also make me laugh and make the job more bearable. So take a moment and enjoy a chore with your children. You will have more fun, and you will teach them life skills.

Just call me "Tom Sawyer"
Just watch out for those catapults.