Nov 29, 2011

Guinea Pig Adventures - Gizmo Takes a Bath

Gizmo racked up the miles and blood pressure on our watch last week.  He needed a bath after riding robots and Jeeps, so the fruit of my loins dropped the long haired varmint into the tub for a loofah scrub down.

For reasons unknown to me, Pigtails' stuffed animals wear underpants.  She tried installing tighty whities on the guinea pig, but he wouldn't have it. 

We handed Gizmo back to the neighbors on Sunday.  Pigtails cried.  Other than some thin spots from heavy petting, he was no worse for wear.  

She asked, but I haven't budged yet...


Nov 26, 2011

Turkey Recap - A Cow, Plow and Mega Chow

SHUT THE DOOR, WE DON'T LIVE IN A BARN!!  So said mom when I was a boy and left the house ajar on a winter day or tarried at the open fridge too long.   

I didn't grow up in a barn, but we spent much time in or near one.  

My parents hauled my sister, bro' and me out to visit Grandma and Grandpa's farm every couple weeks.  Excitement to arrive made the hour slog to their country oasis drone on forever.  I couldn't wait to leap outta the Dodge Aspen station wagon, eager to stomp muck in my cowboy boots and pee in the breeze beyond the barn.  Grandpa or his twin boys, Uncle Bruce and Brian, would tractor me out to pasture on the Allis Chalmers.  

We'd feed cattle.
Collect a dusty load of alfalfa.
Rifle a couple rounds of .22.  
Or just sit and listen to windy silence.

It was the antithesis of city life.  I loved it.  

Grandma and Grampa passed a few years ago, Uncle Brian took over the family farm, and it's been awhile since I've visited.  So I was happy to learn Uncle B. and his wife would be hosting Thanksgiving on the farm this year.  A chance to let Pigtails run ape-wild and pee behind the barn.

It was as open and free as I remember it decades ago.  I chisel plowed a couple acres with the big turbo diesel John Deere.  Family gabbing mixed with turkey and smoked ham hit the spot.

no idea what's going on there



Nov 22, 2011

Guinea Pig Adventures - Gizmo Steals a Jeep

Day 4 of babysitting the neighbor's rat-pig.  She won't put him down, look at the fear in his eyes.

And she forces dad to "snuggle" him, then snaps pics as collateral. 

I'll admit, he is talented.  Gizmo drives robots.  Big deal you say, cats can too.  Well, the cheeky little squeaker upped his game tonight.   

I'm sitting here minding my own business, cramming pork potstickers down my face when the bleepin' guinea grabs the keys and just takes off in the Jeep.  Unbelievable.  Kept driving back and forth, taunting us, before finally leaving for good.  He's probably headed to the store to snag some lettuce and wood shavings.

You don't suppose my daughter will try and twist my arm into adopting her own pet when it's time to return him?  She signed a contract with a pinky swear promising she won't bug for one.  We'll see how that one plays out at the end of the week.

Better go find that smelly hairball...


Nov 20, 2011

Guinea Pig Adventures - Gizmo Drives a Robot

Our neighbors are skipping town for Thanksgiving, so Pigtails' been badgering me the last couple to let her adopt their guinea pig while they travel.  I shot her down at first, saying we didn't need a soft rat smelling things up worse than they already smell around here.  

She didn't relent.  
Those brown eyes put up a feisty fight.  
Guess who won the battle?

The kid was jumping around, flush in the cheeks with excitement as they handed us Gizmo in his tiny prison cell.  I made daughter hook me a pinky swear before agreeing to take on the hairy little pig:  we're not going to purchase our own guinea, I won't be the one responsible for shoveling the food in and the poop out, and no hair bows.  Gizmo's a boy, and boys don't like sissy bows in their fur.

So Gizmo's in charge of the blog this week.  We'll chronicle our adventures as Pigtails puts him through the wringer.  She mentioned tiny diapers, a trip to the park and hot laps in the stroller.  Poor guy, he's going to end up with high blood pressure and wearing doll dresses by the end of the week.

A couple days in, we've realized this is no ordinary guinea pig.  Gizmo's got skills.  I thought the neighbors were being all braggy when they said he knows how to drive a robot.  So we tested it out, turns out they weren't lyin'. 

Next up:  Gizmo wheels a Jeep.


Nov 17, 2011

A Single Dad's Essay

If you're flying solo with kiddos as a single parent, you can go ahead and close your browser now.  You are already intimate with the packed cart I'm about to unload.    

For the you know what it's like to be a single mom or dad?  Grab some Redenbacher, 'cause I'm gonna tell you.  Each person's story is a little different, I'll share mine.

The chore pile perpetually respawns.
  • Mow and rake, pulverize and bag leaves. 
  • Jump the roof every fall and spring to degoop gutters and sweep ash from the fire chimney.
  • Read do-it-yourself books to learn the skills, then lay tile, engineered flooring, toilets and sinks for two bathroom rebuilds.  
  • Razor slice and remove a thousand pounds of sloppin' carpet after the basement soaked in a sewer/rain bath.  
  • Lay 800 feet of floor.  Planking down 16-foot sections of wood without help is a bear, especially while trying to keep my daughter entertained and outta the dust zone.*
  • Plant and pull a garden each season.  Fresh tomatoes, onions and spicy peppers are worth the labor.
  • Change the oil in car, mower and snowblower.
  • Paint every room in the house, twice. 
  • Strip and stain the deck, replace garage siding that ants attacked.
  • Chainsaw a tree gone bad.
  • Orchestrate a kitchen rebuild.
*On some of the larger projects, I found it worked best to start in the evening after 8:00, daughter in bed.  Not uncommon to bang on a renovation till 1:00 am, then up and red-eyed at 6:00 for work.

The moments when one is the loneliest. 
  • Walking into parent parties and being the spouseless bandit.
  • Leading a craft at Brownie Scouts, all girls and moms in the house.
  • Church packed with married families, not another single parent in the crowd of 600.
  • Quiet ceiling stare in bed at night.  

Times when I play mom and dad, a man-mother.
  • Fielding questions my daughter pops out of the blue about bras, stinky boys and curiosity about "The Pad" aisle at Target.
  • Shopping for dresses and hair bows.  Smile and a nod in the store when my daughter asks if daddy thinks a skirt is cute.
  • Painting her nails, then fending off attacks when she comes at with a polish brush, wishing to turn my toes bright. 

The daily grind, mundane to-dos balled up into a messy knot of hustle.
  • Packing 100 school lunches.  Planning, shopping and cooking dinner every night.
  • Sweep, mop and toilet spraydown.  Who keeps missing the throne and leaving the seat up?
  • A dozen school fundraisers and waivers to sign. 
  • 45 minutes of homework each night, conferences and endless books. 
  • Keeping up on snowpants, school uniforms and missing socks.  Taming shrinking pants before they reach level 10 highwaters.
  • Haircuts, doctor appointments, booster shots, PTO at work when her mercury meets one hundred.
  • Pay bills and taxes, organize investments and college savings.
  • Shop and wrap gifts (they end up a mess and look like a blind person wrapped 'em), write cards for weddings, birthdays and babies being born. 

Molding Pigtails so she doesn't turn out to be a bratty punk with pretty eyes.
  • Church and Bible flybys, teaching her the history of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph.  Delilah, Jesus and Bartholomew the disciple, too.
  • Praying together, for us and others.
  • Helping a friend and her little girls as her husband faded from cancer.
  • Volunteering together, cooking spaghetti for those that are kicked down.
  • Correction with a firm hand when needed.  Yeah, I spanked when she was little, DHS be damned.
  • Spending time with kid when she's acting out for attention.

We carve up fun time with a sharp knife.
  • Ski the powder, 30 summer trips to the pool for kid lessons and water slides.  
  • 1,000 rounds of Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders, Sorry and Trouble. Card games up the wazoo:  Speed, Trash, War, Old Maid, Skip-Bo, Uno and a couple I think she made up.
  • Bike rides, training for her first 5K, soccer and baseball in the backyard. 
  • Race and pace marathons for dad. 
  • Bench 200 pounds, pull-ups and curls until they hurt.  No yoga.
  • Scribble articles for a running magazine, blog about beards and cat-butt couches. 
  • Tea time, dress-up, playing school, airplane rides on my size 11s and dancing like fools to Raffi.
  • Pretend castles forged from cardboard, blankets, stuffed animals and imagination.
  • Babysitting our neighbor's guinea pig, Gizmo, for a week.  Simply because I know there's nothing that will make Pigtails smile more right now.  

True, there's a lot going on there.  Multitasking, planning and occasional naps are needed to survive.  But I'm also thankful and have it pretty good.  I work a solid career that I enjoy.  I'm only corralling one rugrat.  We're both healthy and have fun together.  Many single parents out there are raising several children, some of them with special needs.  You have my respect, you're tough.  

Single parents, may the Lord give you strength, Band-Aides and endless liquor patience.


Nov 14, 2011

Kitchen Reboot - 8, Before/After Pics

The rip, strip and rebuild of the kitchen ate seven weeks.  That's a long time cooking out of a guest room, drinking ramen boiled on a nightstand as the drill bores.  Smoked a fair amount of dust, but was worth it at completion.  Still remember the first time I lit the gas, grinning as I wokked a spicy batch of Pad Thai.


After.  Even the painting was fed through the remixer:

Goals for the reboot:
  • Be smart with the available 100 square feet.  Kill clutter and chop it down to the basics.
  • Open things up by reducing the number of cabinets, shrinking appliances and deleting the soffit and ceiling fan.  Recessed lights for a smooth finish up top.
  • Install a robot that cooks and mops up messes, a.k.a. Rosie.
  • Move the dishwasher from the random corner to a slot beside the sink.
  • Build a slim table to fit the space without dominating.
  • Create a warm look that's different than what I typically see out there.  
It turned out just right, hit all the goals but one.  Nice work, contractor Dave!

Time to shutdown this reboot series with before and after photos.

Smurf blue/IKEA shakedown:



Everything was cramped, camera flash included:

Not so fresh feeling no more:

The fridge needs more crap artwork on it:

Yeah, the kitchen will never be this clean again.  Ever.  See fridge above.

Build phase, slurping slimy ramen from a nightstand:

Thanks for hanging with me on the rebuild! 


Nov 12, 2011

My Daughter's Vlog Response to a Cat Plea

Blogging bud Cari over at Bubble Gum on My Shoe posted a video of her daughter, Audrey, begging for a cat.  Below is Pigtails' response to whether or not Audrey should be allowed to have a hairball.  

"Definitely a kitten.  They last longer and don't die as quickly as an adult cat."


Nov 10, 2011

Follower Freebie - $20 Target Love Doled Out

Pigtails flipped her $.25 allowance to pull a name for the Follower Freebie $20 Target drawing

Congratulations to Gr8Spirit, thanks for playing!


Nov 8, 2011

Pants on Fire

Blew spiders off an old stack of VHS cassettes and found this bucket of crazy.  Leave a comment below with your best caption, go. 



Nov 7, 2011

Follower Freebie - Target Card Final Call

Learned my lesson:  don't attempt to hock free junk on the blog.  Too difficult to get folk signed up, like peeling toenails.  But I promised a $20 Target pull, so will stick to it. 

Please leave a comment below by this Wednesday if you'd like to be included in the drawing.  I'll flip on the recorder and Pigtails will draw a name on Thursday.  Here's the list of entries:
  • SingleMama
  • Gr8Spirit
  • Christine
  • Andrea
  • Laura
  • Big Sis Shell
  • Robin
  • Brooke
  • Lilly
  • Sarah
  • Genny
  • Becka
  • DSMama
  • Rachael
  • Audrey
  • Toni
  • Christina
  • Dylan's Mom
  • Andy
  • Seth
  • Family Foodie


Nov 5, 2011

Kitchen Reboot - 7, Gassy Icebox

My kitchen's 100 square feet of dinkiness.  And the refrigerator, oven, and microwave conspire to hog a bunch of that space.  So I went against common practice on the rebuild and shrunk down the appliances.  They're all 3/4 size.  Only two of us in the house, so smaller machines aren't an issue.  A  realtor would tsk and tell me:  "Beard, you should go full-size, will make your house more marketable when you sell it."  Bull crap, I'll design it around my needs.  I don't go with the flow of limiting options to please a future buyer.

Took weeks of searching to find a counter-depth fridge that fit the hole.  The trend is larger appliances with more doodads.  I was hunting for the opposite, no need for a water dispenser, ice maker or built-in LCD touch panel.  The water dispensed from most fridges takes forever to fill and tastes like it drained out of a dead monkey's colon.

Crossed out a couple dozen cold-boxes before eyeing (or eying, your choice) a small Fisher & Pakel. Simple, and slots the space nicely:

Clean and nothing junking up the front:

Donated the electric range and dropped in a small gas cooker.  I traced pipes in the basement and found a gas line already in place from when the house was built in the '50s.  So it was simple for a plumber to attach fittings and bring back the blue heat.  I like working with flame; higher horsepower and more control than an eCoil.  Pots of water boil in minutes and butter screams on iron skillets in half the time.

Steel hood with duel charcoal filters and a big ass blower sucks oily steam and smoke.  IKEA knife rail and rack keep cooking weapons on standby. 

Preshrunk micro and oven built into a highboy, with storage top and bottom for woks and kettles.  Always grin when people ask why I have duel ovens.  One nukes, the other cooks with convection.

I've been using the smaller appliances for a few months now.  Can't say I miss the full-size cookers, and prefer the extra counter space they afford.

The final Kitchen Reboot post next time will run through a few before/after pics, with closing thoughts on the build.


Nov 2, 2011

A Single Dad's Dating Diatribe - 2, Money

Episode 1 of this single dad's dating diatribe railed on daycare.  Good feedback from readers on that post.  And by "good feedback", I mean it made people angry.   

I'm not a fan of fluffing words for the sake of making friends.  To not be honest about my opinions, beliefs and principles is to be ashamed of who I am.  I'd rather be open and twist down a few purple nurples than fake friendship through dilution of the truth.   

Today I dig on money, turn up the bass.  Statistically, financial grievances are often a factor in marriages splitting.  So I think it a wise idea for dating couples to be clear on their philosophy for saving, spending and debt.  Here's my take on the green stuff.


No Debt > Stuff
I'd rather live in a modest home (with charm) that's paid for than mortgaging McMonster which sucks income at a rate that both parents must work full-time to feed the beast.  An overextending mortgage is often linked to non-elective daycare for the kiddos.   And you know how I love daycare.

My goal is to burn the mortgage soon.  I like the idea of no house, car, credit card or loan payments.  Looking forward to complete financial freedom when the debt yoke is removed.  Then channel up to 75% of all income into investments, college savings and the future. 

Kmart Culottes
I'd rather dress my daughter in red-tagged Target skirts and recycled denim from the consignment shop than blow greenbacks on name brand threads that double-time the cash.  Kids grow like weeds, so paying a lower price for clothing always trumps quality.  

A 2-year-old doesn't really need high dollar outfits.  The messy brat's gonna stain that preppy Gap vest with Juicy Juice and green bean snot-bombs before she outgrows it, anyway.  And I've found the best of both worlds by hitting up 2nd-hand shops:  quality brands for $7 per item.

Setting Low Expectations
I have no shame in getting Pigtails excited about receiving a quarter from the tooth fairy and another quarter for her weekly allowance.  

Shhh, she doesn't realize her father's a miserly Grinch.  And that painting is crooked.

Call me a cheapskate, I purposely withhold a fair amount of "stuff" from my daughter.  We go small at birthdays and Christmas; maybe two or three simple gifts.  Oftentimes the presents are shoes, cheapo Target jeans or school supplies.  Poor kid, she gets excited and thinks I'm generous when she unwraps a 10-pack of glitter pencils in her stocking.  

In the case of kids and money, I'm a fan of setting low expectations.  

A spoiled kid grows into a spoiled, high-maintenance spouse.  I'm doing my best to prepare Pigtails to be a future wife that's thankful for the small things and appreciates the value of a buck.  Although not sure I'm doing a doing an effective job, she's begging to blow her quarters on Silly Bandz and purple hair feathers.  

Delayed Gratification
Restraint harnessed.  There can be greater satisfaction from delayed gratification with higher payout than instant gratification with a lower payout.  In other words, I'd rather invest $1,000 and let it compound to $10,000 in four decades than spend that thousand bucks today. *

* Unless I get hit by a bus tomorrow crossing the street to work.  Then I'd regret not spending the dough now.  Which is a reminder I probably need to ease my cheap ass up a bit and take a vacation.  My travels, photos, food recap and writing would be excellent.  Wait, you'll see.

Coupon Nazi
Eating out is a money burner.  Sure, I eat out sometimes.  It's too dang tedious to make a bloomin' onion or screaming fajitas on the hot iron at home.  But I won't hitch to a wife that can't cook or help with meals.  I did all of the cooking when married, and have done 100% of it the last 7 years as a single dad.  Been there, done that.  Not playing that game anymore. 
A wife who can cook, is a coupon Nazi and a classy cheapskate is attractive in my book.  You can be classy while spending less.  A spouse that spends money as freely as a hillbilly lotto winner (you know what I'm talking about) is not for me.