Monday, January 28, 2008

Finished! (Well, Mostly.)


The Sink That Started It All:


  • New tile floor installed, grouted, and caulked to tub and wall
  • Water-damaged wall repaired
  • All walls painted
  • New baseboard installed and painted
  • New wax seal installed in toilet
  • Tub re-caulked
  • New sink installed

Still To Do at a Later Date:

  • Replace vent fan
  • Replace toilet seat
  • Replace bath enclosure
  • Replace bath faucet and drain

You might ask why we didn't just replace the bath enclosure and bath faucet while we were painting so we wouldn't have to do touch-up paint later. Well, partly because we just didn't want to spend any more money on home improvement this week.

(Or rather, we really didn't HAVE any more money to spend on home improvement this week. I mean, other than that imaginary money on our Home Depot credit card, which, luckily, lives in my husband's wallet and not mine. Because if the Home Depot credit card lived in my wallet, it would be maxed out all the time. Forget shoes. Momma needs a new pair of POWER SAWS! *Drool*

The same thing happens to my husband at Radio Shack, but, thankfully, we do not have a Radio Shack credit card.)

And we also didn't replace the bath enclosure because when we replace the bath enclosure, I plan to actually tear out the wall behind the enclosure and replace that too. Because someone who owned the house before us installed the current enclosure directly over greenboard (which is mildew-resistant gypsum board/drywall, for the uninitiated). The trouble is, that sort of installation is no longer up to most local construction codes, which now recommend using cement backer board behind all tub and shower enclosures. Cement backer board is much more resilient to water exposure and is much less susceptible to mold issues.

We don't currently have any serious water or mold issues with the greenboard that is behind the enclosure now, but, it's almost certain to happen at some point down the line if we don't tear it out and replace it with cement board, and, being my husband suffers from severe nasal allergies to EVERYTHING, I want our bathroom to be as mold-resistant as possible.

However tearing out the greenboard and replacing it with cement board will probably be a days-long project, and considering that when this whole New Sink Installation project started it was supposed to take two hours, we decided we really needed to limit the current Bathroom Construction Chaos to one week.

So, expect another Before and After in a month or two.

(And DON'T get me started on what needs to happen in my kitchen.)

Thursday, January 24, 2008


Let's review:

This is what happens when I pay a "professional" hundreds of dollars to fix my floor:

Rustic Scratch Finish in my living room courtesy of Extreme Hardwoods

This is what happens when my husband and I fix our own damn floor ourselves:

Grouting IS kind of hard on the manicure. But, what is art without sacrifice?

Not bad for total amateurs, eh? Extra kudos to my husband, who, for the purposes of this project, taught himself how to cut tile with nothing but cheap-ass generic brand tools and sheer willpower.

Next, we'll see whether my newly patched piece of wall looks like a piece of wall once all the painting is finished, instead of some strange alien spackle creature threatening to take over the room (which is what it looked like before). I figure I can't mess it up much worse than it already was.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

No, the Bathroom is Not Done Yet

But this post from Kristen at Motherhood Uncensored yesterday inspired me to show you all the No Solicitors sign you will see in my window, should you ever come to visit my house. I put it up several months ago when I finally got tired of tree trimmers, siding vendors and Jehovah's Witnesses knocking on my door:

A closer view:

In case you can't decipher the text in my crappy, hastily-taken-between-bouts-of-spackling photos, it reads:


*Excepting Gypsies, Fairy Godmothers, or those bearing million dollar checks for the occupants. Girl Scouts also permitted if selling cookies.

Whenever someone trying to sell me something deliberately ignores my sign and knocks anyway, I say, "Are you a Gypsy, a Fairy Godmother, or a Girl Scout?"

That one really tends to befuddle the tree trimmers.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Feature Creep

That's what my husband calls it when someone at work tells him they want him to design a simple project, and then they ask him for just one more feature, and just one more feature, and just one more feature, until, suddenly, what was once a "simple project" is now a huge and complicated mess: Feature Creep.

Ever since we moved into our house a year ago, I have wanted to make some serious upgrades to one of the bathrooms. For starters, the housing inspector told us right away that the grout in the tiled floor was no good, and we'd have to regrout pretty soon or risk water damage to the subfloor.

Then there was the uneven baseboard to contend with. That poorly repaired water damage to the wall surface near the bathtub. The generally crappy paint job. The vintage 1950s medicine cabinet-- creaky, dirty, tiny, and losing silver from the mirror. The leaky 1970s faucet. The ugly, rusting vintage 1980s light fixture. The beat-up, particleboard Walmart sink cabinet, so big for the space you could barely open the bathroom door past it, let alone find room for a step stool so a three-year-old could wash his hands without help.

But, there have been so many other things to fix in the rest of the house during the past year that all we'd gotten to replacing so far in that bathroom was the faucet, the medicine cabinet, and the light fixture. I'd touched up the paint a bit, put in a towel bar where the sellers had illegally ripped one out after closing, and tried vainly to re-repair the poor water damage repair job without ripping out large chunks of wall.

But past weekend, while walking through a Lowes just to kill some time while my husband waited to meet someone nearby, I saw a nicely priced, nicely made sink cabinet, with an included porcelain basin. It was just the sort of wood finish my husband likes. It was just the right size to fit into our little bathroom, leaving just enough room for a small step-stool so my son could finally reach the sink on his own.

It was the only one left in the store.

So of course, we bought it.

I had measured and checked our existing sink cabinet carefully while thinking about a replacement, and I knew that the tile floor continued under the cabinet. I knew the pipes and the faucet we already had in place would almost certainly fit the new sink. Installing the new sink cabinet and basin, then, really, should only take an hour or two at most. Should pretty much be a cinch. Right?


Some previous owner of this property HAD tiled under the sink cabinet, but only partway. This unknown not-so-handyperson had tiled partway under the front and sides and then just used broken bits of tile to shim up the back of the cabinet, to make it sort-of level.

The New Cabinet does not appreciate being put on this dirty Old Floor.

At least I knew now why water tended to pool on the back of the sink counter.

Well, we thought, so what? The tile in our bathroom is a plain, cheap textured white style. How hard could matching it be? We figured we'd buy a few tiles at Home Depot, tile over the empty space, put in the new sink, and voila! I could even regrout the rest of the floor, while we were at it. It would be a one-day job. It would be a cinch! Right?

Um . . .

We went to all of the hardware stores in our area. No white textured tile AT ALL. No eight inch tiles, AT ALL. We went to a specialty tile store. It was there that we learned that eight-inch tiles are out of fashion. White floor tiles are hopelessly out of fashion. And the specific style of tile we were looking for? Had been discontinued, several years ago.

If we wanted a complete, finished, matching tiled floor, we would have to retile. The whole floor.

Which meant of course that we would also have to remove the baseboard, and the toilet.

At this point, I decided, what the hell? Let's fix the wall and paint, too!

And you may tell yourself
This is not my beautiful house!

And you may ask yourself
Am I right? I wrong?

And you may tell yourself
My god!...what have I done?*

So if I'm not around much this week, YOU KNOW WHY.

And yes, of course I'll post an after.

(Soon. Did I mention that's our only bathtub, there? Yeah. )

*Quoted from the Talking Heads

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Almost Accident

My husband, son and I are sitting in the car in the parking lot at Dierbergs, the local grocery store. We have just finished packing our groceries into the back of the car and strapping our son into his car seat. My husband backs out, slowly. There is a car idling in the aisle behind us, waiting for our space even though the parking lot is only half full, because the space we have parked in is so close to the entrance of the store.

As my husband continues to back out carefully toward the waiting car, straightening our car to pull out of the aisle, another vehicle, a white van, parked two spaces down from us, very suddenly backs out of its space. My husband taps his horn at the van, irritated. We are already three-quarters of the way out of our space. We started backing out first. The driver of the van should have waited for us to pass. Had the driver even seen us?

The van continues to back up. And back up. And back up some more, straight toward us.

My husband honks again, this time leaning on the horn in earnest. The van still does not stop. It does not slow. It continues backing toward us, inexorably. There is no sign the driver has heard us at all. My three-year-old son, who can see everything clearly from his car seat, starts crying, sobbing “Stop! Stop! Why don’t they stop?”

“They are not going to stop,” I say to my husband. “You’ll have to back up. Back up!” The van is now inches from our bumper. My husband backs up, still honking on the horn. The car waiting for our space is still behind us. My husband can only back up a couple of feet. Whether transfixed by the drama unfolding ahead, stupidly determined to have our parking space, or somehow completely oblivious, the driver behind us will not back out of the aisle to get out of our way. The van continues backing toward us. People walking in the parking lot have heard the constant blare of our car horn and stopped to stare.

I know this won't be a very bad accident. It's the inevitability of it, the trapped feeling I have, my son's terrorized sobbing, that scare me. In frustration, knowing this is totally dangerous, I open the passenger door and lean out of our car, frantically waving my arms, screaming, “STOP NOW! YOU’RE GOING TO HIT US! WE CAN’T BACK UP! STOP!”

Perhaps the driver of the van sees the red flash of the opening door, or my waving arms. Perhaps the driver somehow finally hears and pays attention to the horn that has been honking continuously for the past several seconds. In any event , the van stops, inches from our bumper, pulls forward, and stops again, halfway in the street, halfway in the parking lot aisle.

In my agitation, I have not even thought to read the license plate. All I have managed to register is that it is a disabled plate, legally parked in a disabled parking space. As my husband angrily pulls around the stopped van to turn out of the lot, I catch a glimpse of a gray-haired, elderly driver,* fixing us with a look something between puzzlement and annoyance; then the van is gone.

And the young driver of the car that had been waiting behind us, refusing to move, pulls into our empty parking space.

* My husband and I still can't agree on whether this person was male or female.


P.S. I know that some of my readers are patiently waiting for the political rant I mentioned in my last post. I promise will get to it. It will be very long, and I have been ill the past few days, so I haven't felt up to making my MIND ill. Heh.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Things About Me: Skeletons in the Closet Edition, Part, Um, Five?

Did you think I forgot about this? NO! I didn't forget about this. I just got kind of bored with it.

Okay, that's a lie. I thought you were getting kind of bored with it. But, I've been watching too many debates and caucuses and too many self-absorbed MSM news pundits, and I'm on the verge of a political rant tonight, so, I'm thinking I'll save us all a bit of trouble and return to my meme instead.

(This of course is not to say I won't get ranty anyway tomorrow. But at least I'll theoretically be more awake tomorrow. So I may make a little more sense. Ahem.)

Thing Five:

About once a day, for at least a moment, I regret that fact that I did not choose to major in biology.

Oh, don't get me wrong. I did, and still do, adore the illustrious field of Comparative Literature. Despite the fact that 90% of the population has never heard of a degree in Comparative Literature. (If you're too lazy to click the link, the fact that I have a degree in Comparative Literature basically means I had to read tons and tons of books and write tons and tons of essays analyzing them. It's a lot like getting an English Literature degree. Except that I had to read tons of books and write tons of essays in three different languages.

Yes, this sometimes hurt my head.)

But the thing is, I also like to study things like the effect of environmental exposure to synthetic estrogen mimics on maternal epigenetic imprinting in mammalian zygotes.

And I think protist conjugation is totally hot.

My biology teachers in high school (that's right, teachers, because I took not one, not two, but THREE different biology-related courses during high school) were totally convinced I was going to grow up to be a scientist. For a while there, I was totally convinced I was going to grow up to be a scientist.

I'm not sure exactly what happened to change my course.

Somehow something or somebody convinced me at some point during high school that I was no good at math. (This despite the fact that I took, and passed, an Advanced Placement Calculus Exam in high school. But you see, all my friends at that time were taking, and acing, the Level Two Advanced Placement Calculus Exam.) My anxiety over what I thought were poor math skills make me anxious, in turn, about my ability to hack it in college-level science courses.

Also, I spent a summer in high school participating in a special science career program at a local university, during which time I learned that, contrary to the romantic notions I had in my head about traveling the world discovering exciting new species, most biologists spend most of their time in a lab:

A.) Performing incredibly delicate, incredibly tedious procedures with incredibly sensitive, easily broken equipment, over, and over, and over, and over again, in the hopes of achieving some infinitesimally successful result that some senior research fellow will probably take all the credit for

B.) Torturing caged animals


C.) Both, at the same time!

I know some people enjoy such things, but I didn't want to do those kinds of jobs. And, since my irrational terror of needles, my anxiety issues, and my overdeveloped sense of guilt would almost certainly prevent me from ever becoming a successful doctor, I decided my prospects with a biology degree looked pretty dim.

Then, my during freshman year of college, two men seduced me, clinching my fate.

They were Jorge Luis Borges, and Kalidasa.

But, oh, endogenous retroviruses. It was so hard to quit you.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Conversations with a Three-Year-Old: Isaac Makes an Endorsement

CHILD: Mommy, don't turn off the TV. I want to watch Charlie Rose and then Curious George.

MOTHER: Okay. You want to watch Charlie Rose?


MOTHER: Um, okay.

Minutes pass.

CHILD: Is that Barack Obama?

MOTHER: Yes, that is Barack Obama.

CHILD: Why is he called Barack Obama?

MOTHER: Does his name sound strange to you?

CHILD: Yes. It sounds cool.

MOTHER: It's an African name. His daddy was from Africa. That's why he has an African name. His Mommy was from Kansas, where Grandpa lives.

CHILD: Why is he talking on the TV?

MOTHER: He's running for President of the United States.

CHILD: He wants to be a president?

MOTHER: Yes. A whole bunch of people are running for President of the United States. There is a woman named Hilary Clinton. There is a man named John Edwards. There's a man named John McCain, and a man named Mitt Romney, and a man named Mike Huckabee, and a man named Fred Thompson. Do you remember seeing some of those other people on TV? When Mommy and Daddy were watching the debate?


MOTHER: They are all running for President of the United States, along with some other people, too, and it's up to us, the people who live in the United States, to think carefully about the people who want to be president and then choose which person will be the best president.

CHILD: Oh. We choose?

MOTHER: Yes, everyone in the country together gets to choose.

CHILD: Well, Barack Obama will be the best president.

MOTHER: Why do you think Barack Obama will be the best president?

CHILD: Because he is the best one.

MOTHER: But, why do you think he will be the best one? What do you like about him?

CHILD: He is just the best one. He is nice.

MOTHER: You think he seems nice when he talks on the TV?

CHILD: Yes. He looks nice. Also, I like to say his name.