By the power of Hair Clog…

He Man ooze

Due to the previous owner of our home, we have redone just about every room in our house. Most just involved new paint. Some more extensive. In fact, some rooms have recently received a second updating. Most of these were due to “updates” the previous owner had made. Some of his fantastic updates including wallpapering over a ceiling, due to it being completely water damaged, to the point of being mushy. Or painting the old appliances white. Or painting the grout between the tiles on the kitchen floor grey. Or painting the grout in the family between the tiles on the family room floor grey. You get the idea.

The one room that we have yet to touch is the bathroom in the master bedroom. It will entail ripping the room down to the studs and joists and, essentially, rebuilding the bathroom from scratch. Most importantly, I will have to find a way to extract what has become a “writing wall,” where we have scrawled notes to each other over the past 5 years. The plan is to save this for posterity. Or something. It’s a journal of our lives in the house. I don’t have the energy to tackle this project yet. The only thing that has been done to this bathroom is to replace the toilet. (The “author’s chair” for the writing wall, if you will.) Everything else in the bathroom is original.

Living with a bunch of females, you get a lot of hair in the drain. (If you share a bathroom with females, you know what I’m talking about.) I don’t know how they shed so much. But they do. And when it gets in your sink, it can completely clog it up. Such was the case in our master bathroom.

It had been slow for a while. It became almost completely clogged the other day. Due to other projects I had been working on, I had not yet gotten around to taking care of this issue. With a lull in the action, it was now time.

I poured the clumpy remains of an old drain cleaner bottle into the sink. The hair clog simply laughed at the impotent liquid. After this defeat, I removed the remaining clumps, presumably, the active ingredient, and went to bed.

Yesterday after work, I decided to finally take care of the issue. I dismantled the drain under the sink. I pulled a small amount of hair from the drain. Much less than expected. Nonetheless, it produced the same gagging, near vomiting experience one has with a large clump of hair in the drain. I wasn’t sure how this small amount of hair was causing such a problem. I put everything back together and turned on the water. The sink filled up. “You win this battle,” I said to the clog. “But you will not win the war.”

He Man oozeLast night, I went to the store to properly arm myself. Liquid Plumr Hair Clog Eliminator. (They save money on packaging by not paying to properly spell “plumber.”) The battle begins. I poured the contents of the bottle into the sink. Do you remember the He-Man slime playset thing? It was a little stone looking toy, with a skull at the top. You would put the slime in the skull and pour it down on He-Man. Or Skeletor. Or just squish it and marvel at its wonderful aroma. That is the consistency of this stuff.

The bottle said to wait 15 minutes for it to work. I didn’t know if that was from the time you started pouring or from the time the last of it finally made its way down the drain. Then I waited. And waited. And waited. I hadn’t stood around to watch the slime slowly ooze into the drain, so I gave it about 20 minutes.

I turned on the hot water and let it run, as per the directions. Success! The water did not back up in the sink. Instead, if flowed quickly down the drain. I yelled to my wife in the other room:

“I have some good news. Some bad news. And some worse news. The good news is the sink works. The bad news is the idiot painted the sink. The worse news is the Liquid Plumr ate away some of the paint.”

Now I am stuck with a dilemma. Do I pour the hair clog remover over the whole sink and let it eat the rest of the paint off? Do I use a more appropriate method to remove the paint? Do I finally replace the vanity? If so, do I bite the bullet and redo the whole bathroom? Do I leave it as is for now?

I think we all know which option I’m choosing.

Why, how do you do it?

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My 14-year-old daughter got some new nail polish a while ago. She said it smells like pineapple when it dries. I asked if it was only when it was dry. She said yeah, only when it’s dry. I guess when it is still wet, it smells like nail polish. Which, I guess, makes sense. In some weird universe. I don’t know. Kids are weird these days.

Anyway, I had completely forgotten about this conversation.

We were in the car tonight. Out of nowhere, she says, “Smell my thumb?”

Me: “No. Why?”
Her: “Just smell it!”
Me: “Ummm. No.”
Her: “It smells like pineapple.”
Me: “All I smell is thumb.”
Her: “How?”
Me: “With my nose.”
Her: “I…shut up.”

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It’s an ambush! Run!

Ants on a sucker

Our yard is covered with very mature trees. Approximately 20, if I recall correctly. (I only remember from counting when I had to meet with the tree commission years ago about how “we are all going to die” if I didn’t replace the two dead pine trees I removed from the end of my driveway. Because, as we all know, dead trees produce the oxygen we breathe. Without these dead trees, the oxygen levels in our town would reach critical levels, wiping out the entire population.) As such, we are prime real estate for carpenter ant colonies.

We had issues with a minor invasion right after we moved into the house. An exterminator was called, who dealt with the very large nest right outside our door. After he was attacked by several battalions trying to fight him off, they were vanquished. We have seen one or two foraging in the house occasionally. Outside of that, they have not made any appearances.

This morning, I was awakened by my wife, who was in the kitchen. It was 10 minutes before my alarm was set to go off, so the timing was perfect. She said there were about a hundred ants swarming in the kitchen. I came downstairs expecting to see about 10. Unfortunately, she was not exaggerating.

The 4-year-old’s grandma likes to spoil her. This means getting her all kinds of little treats. Miniscule toys that a grown adult would have trouble keeping track of. Yet, somehow, she manages to know where every one of these microscopic toys is at all times, directing you to their exact location, should one be left behind at bedtime. Books. And candy. A rock candy sucker was the culprit behind this morning’s insurgence.

There were probably 30 or so ants inside the package the sucker was in. The other 70-ish ants were meandering about the counter. Keep in mind, these aren’t the little tiny ants most people probably imagine. These are carpenter ants. Some were almost as large as the 4-year-old’s tiny toys she takes to bed.

How does that sucker taste without oxygen?

How does that sucker taste without oxygen?

My wife grabbed a chip clip and sealed off the plastic bag containing the sucker and the main detachment. “I’ll suffocate the little f-ers!” she said, with vengeance. (She probably didn’t actually say that. But I’m sure it was something as badass as yelling “Something cool!” as you throw a grenade into a helicopter. Side note: Can you suffocate ants? My initial thought was no, but now I’m not so sure. Side side note: I didn’t actually read any of the results in that search. If you happen to, please let me know.)

I went to the garage to grab the “Home Defense” container of ant killer/repellant. As I returned to the counter with the gallon sized jug of liquid death, the ants scattered. I opened fire. As the poison hit the ants, they scurried in vain. “It’s a trap!”

Many made it to the edge of the counter. Most did not stop there. They leapt to the floor. These ants were so large that you could hear a dull “thud” as they landed on the floor. And it came at rapid fire pace as they all scrambled to escape the inevitable.

I watched as they ran away, many dragging useless hind legs, trying to find their entry path. For some reason, most of them headed towards the living room. This would be the longest path for them to take to get to the kitchen, considering the sliding door mere inches from the counter. I continued spraying. They slowed down. Those that were more persistent were rewarded with the sole of the shoe sitting next to the table.

The next several minutes were spent wiping up the pools of ant napalm and carcasses. I went through an astonishing amount. We washed off the sprayed areas to make sure we didn’t leave any residue. As we cleaned up, I kept my eyes open for any stragglers, still hoping to find from whence they came.

As we finished, my wife said, “There’s one on the wall there,” pointing to the wall above the counter. I looked up to see one lone ant crawling down the wall, headed toward the scene of the carnage.

He had a look on his face as if to say, “Hey, where is everyone?” Then I smashed him.

Who is this?


At work, I have a fairly casual relationship with our business partners. We keep things pretty loose. Luckily, it fits my personality.

The other day, one of them called my desk phone. His first comment was, “Next time I call, I want you to answer, ‘What’s up, son?'” We laughed. I agreed.

Today, I’m working from home. He sent me a message asking me to call him. Since I’m working from home, I had to call him from my cell phone. The thing is, he knows my desk phone number when I call. My cell, not so much. The call went a little something like this:

*phone rings*

Him: “Hello.”

Me: “What’s up, son?”

Him: dead silence

This is where I had a moment of complete panic. He had no idea who was calling him, and had apparently forgotten the conversation from 2 days ago. To make matters worse, I realized he had me on speakerphone as soon as the words were coming out of my mouth. It was too late to turn back, though.

As we sat in silence for what felt like a full minute, I debated saying something like, “This is Dwayne,” or something to let him off the hook. Since he had me on speaker, and I had no way of knowing who else might be in the room, I didn’t want to out myself. So we sat there. Neither saying a word.

I swear I could hear the click in his mind as he finally made the connection and started laughing. My heart started beating again. For one brief moment, my entire career future hung in the balance. If he didn’t remember the conversation, how would things have gone.

He told me I made his day. But at what cost?

The hunt


The fun thing about your kids getting older is the you can do more elaborate things with them. In this case, it is hiding Easter eggs. The 4-year-old still needs them just strewn about the ground. Easy to find. With the older kids, you can make them hard to find. Damn near impossible, in some cases. The fact that I hadn’t yet mowed my backyard since last fall makes it easier to hide the eggs. Tossing them here and there in the yard isn’t as simple as one would think.

One lesson I have learned over the years is always do an egg count before you hide them. This way, you know when all of them have been found. It also helps to make a mental note of where they are hidden. Especially if there are more valuable eggs (read: they contain cash.) you will inevitably make these harder to find, so it’s good to know where they are, in case the kids don’t find them. With 121 eggs, and 3 people hiding, you will never know where they all are. It’s impossible.

As the kids were hunting, I was keeping track of which ones were still in play. I would wander around occasionally to double-check. Once they had been searching and found all they could, we did an egg count.

119.

Wait a sec. That’s not right. I went out and searched the yard again. Not an easy feat with grass that is 8″ tall in some spots. I found nothing.

There are 2 possibilities. The kids counted the eggs wrong. And I didn’t bother to recount. Or I hid then so well that I couldn’t find them myself. Or I can’t count and there weren’t 121 to begin with.

After the festivities ended, I decided it was time to mow. The backyard really needs it. But, my real motivation was the possibility of 2 lone Rolos, lost in the wilderness. Left to suffer, cold and alone.

So I mowed. Nothing appeared in the grass. Except for that stone that I think bent my mower blade. However, while moving the trampoline to an already mowed area, I saw one egg hiding in the padding of the trampoline. My plan worked, Sort of.

This means that there is still a Rolo filled egg in the yard. Watching waiting. To provide me with an unexpected midsummer chocolatey caramel treat. I’m sure there is little chance it will have turned into a melty, disgusting, goopy mess, or become overridden by bugs by the time I find it.

I will find you, rogue Rolo. You will be mine.

The road does funny things to a man

tunnel escape

Another Spring Break has come and gone. Time flies by too quickly. After apparently botching our Spring Break plans (Sorry, sis. I’m dumb.), we ended up at my brothers and a day trip that was moderately successful. I say moderately successful because the kids had a good time. Who knew in a touristy beach town it would be so difficult to find towels? I mean, really.

This all added up to a lot of windshield time for me. So much driving. I don’t mind driving. It gives me time to think and reflect on things. Mostly finding ways to entertain myself as everyone else sleeps. A good deal of what I do probably isn’t all that entertaining in real life. But in that moment, that precious moment that keeps me from drifting off to sleep and off the road, it is the most entertaining thing ever. Many times, it culminates in me yelling out random letters in the “Alphabet Game,” which no one is playing except for me.

tunnelMost of driving to my brother’s house is going up and down mountains. Over and over again. The brief respite, aside from those annoying 2 lane roads where I inevitably get stuck behind a semi not quite going the speed limit, thus killing my time in an attempt to beat the GPS “Estimated Arrival Time,” are the tunnels that cut through the bottom of 2 mountains. (I’m assuming some engineer said, “F it. I’m tired of drawing these winding roads up and down the mountains. Let’s just cut through the middle of the s.o.b.”)

Every time I drive through the tunnels I have one of two similar movie-inspired images in my head. In the first, the tunnel is collapsing and I have to zip through traffic to escape before the mountain collapses on me.

The second is almost identical, but more exciting. There is an explosion behind me in the tunnel. The flames chasing me, licking the back of the car as I speed through the tunnel, escaping at the last second, the force of the final explosion shooting me out the mouth of the tunnel as everything is engulfed.

It goes a little something like this:

tunnel escape

The force will be with you…always.

Not as easy as it seems

"I'm Brian, the Smiley-Mustachioed Canadian, eh."

I’m a fairly mechanically inclined person. Or so I like to think. Our Pilot has been making some noise for a while. It seems to be the wheel bearings. Or so it has been diagnosed by me and my non-mechanic friend. After looking up replacing the wheel bearings online, we determined that it was a job we could tackle.

"I'm Brian, the Smiley-Mustachioed Canadian, eh."

“I’m Brian, the Smiley-Mustachioed Canadian, eh.”

Unfortunately, on the day I was planning to do said repair, my friend was otherwise engaged. No worries. I had found a YouTube video that was both informative and entertaining. It looks like a piece of cake. Plus, the guy had a smiley mustache. And was Canadian. If he says it’s easy, I believe him.

I went to the auto parts store and picked up the parts I needed. Luckily, they also have “free” tool rental. It is free in the sense that you pay for the tools and get the money back when you return them. Much like what a lot of people actually do, only this is sanctioned by the store. I took my part and tools (not euphemisms) and went home to tackle the task.

The tire came off easily, of course. The brakes, too. The drum/rotor/wheelie thing that the brake pads hit came off with a little coaxing. By coaxing, I mean the two screws that hold it on that I didn’t realize were there at first.

Finally, I was down to the hub. The core, or hub, if you will, of where my repairs would happen. According to my Canadian, smiley-mustachioed friend, the hub comes out relatively easily. There is a large nut you have to take off. It is tapped in, so it doesn’t spin off. No worries.  “You just knock it up, eh. Don’t get it pregnant, though. That could be horribly embarrassing for some people.” I knocked it up with a screwdriver. (Don’t worry, I used protection.) Easy peasy, as my 4-year-old would say.

The next step is to remove the hub, itself. Again, according to my Canadian friend, this part is easy. You just give it a “tap-tap-tap” with a hammer. I gave it a tap-tap-tap. The hub wouldn’t budge. I turned the hub and gave it another tap-tap-tap. Still wouldn’t budge. I continued turning and tap-tap-tapping. The hub refused to succumb to my tapping. Maybe I was missing something. Maybe I was too gentle. This time, I gave the hub a whack-whack-whack with the hammer. Nothing.

Ok, maybe I’m just not pulling hard enough. Sure, Smiley Mustache said you just had to push in the middle with your thumb. But, he’s obviously got superhuman strength. He is Canadian, eh. I am but a weak American. I started yanking on the hub. Hard. The truck started rocking back and forth on the jack, but the hub would not loosen it’s grip.

At this point, there was some mild swearing. I’m not Canadian, after all.

“Eff it,” I said, resigning to the fact that this wasn’t going to happen today. (I didn’t say “eff it.” I said the actual “F word.” Multiple times, possibly.) “Whatever, a-hole,” I said to the truck. (I didn’t say “A-hole.” I said the actual word. Multiple times, possibly.)

I gave the hub a tap-tap-tap to knock it back into place. You know, just in case I had actually moved it a fraction of a millimeter. (I really don’t think I had.) I put the nut back on and knocked it up again. (Don’t worry, I used protection.)

Then I went to put the drum/rotor/wheelie thing that the brake pads hit back on the assembly. It wouldn’t fit. There was a spring mechanism attached to this round arm thing that was in the way. It looked like it should close further than it was. So I tried pushing it closed. Nothing. I gave it a tap-tap-tap. Nothing. WTF is this stupid ring and why can I not get the stupid drum back over it? It slid off easy enough. It should slide back on.

Somehow, don’t ask me how, I was about at my wit’s end and swearing like a sailor at this point, but I figured out this ring was the parking brake. The parking brake I had put on to keep the hub from spinning as I was yanking loose the knocked up nut. I released the parking brake and the ring closed. Back to putting the drum on.

It still wouldn’t fit! I tried working it on from one side and trying to squeeze the other side of the drum on. Nothing. I tried forcing the top on. Nothing. I gave it a tap-tap-tap. Nothing. I gave it a whack-whack-whack. Nothing. Sliding it back and forth. Nothing. Calling it a no-good-piece-of-stuff-mother-loving-son-of-a-boat-go-to-freezing-hell-ash-hole. Nothing.

I may have been freaking out a little bit at this point. I took a short break.

Back to work. I tried all the above methods again, including the swearing. It was just as effective as before. In that it wasn’t helpful at all. I was at the point of just pushing the stupid truck sideways off the jack and leaving it lie there in the garage to think about what it had done.

My hands were battered and  bloody from the battle. I opted to use my “Phone a Friend” lifeline. (Is that still a relevant reference?) I had sent a picture to my non-mechanic friend who was going to help. I think he was going to stop by to help put the mess back together when he was done with his stuff. Nothing was confirmed, though.

I also sent a pic to my brother. He has done similar type repairs before. I figured he was one of my best chances at getting this mess cleaned up before I called a tow truck and spent way more money than what I was trying to save by doing it myself. Plus, he tends to have similar luck to me, so if anyone had found themselves in this situation before, it would be him.

He called back and was all, “There’s usually a little thing you can hit to make it shrink back down to…” As he was talking, I went back out to the garage. Something in my brain clicked as he said this. I don’t know why. I don’t know how. But something inside me knew exactly what the problem was. There is a little pin-thing that is on the bottom part of the parking brake assembly. As he was talking, I took my knocking up screwdriver and tapped the pin-thing. Click! That was probably the sweetest sound I have ever heard. The assembly snapped down to its normal size. The drum slid right on. “Hah! You stupid mother lover!” (Again, not my actual words.)

In short, I’m no further ahead in my repairs than I was before. On the positive side, I’m no further behind on my repairs, either. Plus, I gained a little bit of knowledge:

Don’t trust Smiley-Mustachioed Canadians.

Another teaching moment

Inigo Montoya

The other day I taught my daughters about Jeffrey Dahmer because of Katy Perry’s song Dark Horse. (He’s mentioned in the song, in case you’re not familiar.) They were very interested. They read through the Wikipedia page on him and everything.

Today, I was flipping through the stations and a Tupac/Notorious B.I.G. mix was on. I explained the old east coast/west coast rap feud. I got into the who was on each side. The dislike of the opposing coast. The drivebys. How they were both killed. I even included a demonstration. Finger guns blazing. It devolved into a Yosemite Sam shootout by the time I was wrapping up. Educational, nonetheless.

When I walked into the kitchen first thing this morning, the 12-year-old was standing there.

I whispered, “Hello.”
She responded, “Hello.”
I whispered back, “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”
She replied, “What?”
Again, I whispered slightly louder, “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die!”
She just looked at me.
I whispered louder again. “Hello! My name is Inigo Montoya! You killed my father! Prepare to die!”
Blank stare.

She obviously wasn’t getting it. And there is only so loud one can whisper, so I turned around and took out the trash, feeling as though I had failed as a parent.

This, in case you’re wondering what it’s like to live with me. My kids stand no chance.

Inigo Montoya

An Open Letter to My Neighbors


Snowmageddon arrived over night. It was pretty much exactly as the weatherman predicted. Several inches of snow. A layer of ice. Another layer of snow. I was awakened by several of my neighbors running their snow blowers at an ungodly hour. I crawled out of bed and headed downstairs to login to work. No driving in for me today.

As I sat on the couch, unable to get into my work’s VPN, I looked outside. “Why don’t we have a snow blower, again?” I asked my wife. She laughed. Since I was unable to do any work, I suited up to dig out the driveway. I grabbed my shovel and started digging.

It is a heavy snow. Especially with the ice. And more snow. I worked slowly and methodically. Taking each heaping shovelful and dumping it to the side. One scoop at a time. I worked my way down a couple scoops, the across the width of the driveway. Each time, carrying the load of snow to the side.

I had worked my way down to the driveway apron. This is where the work really started. You see, they plowed our street last night. So all of that snow, ice, and more snow that covered our road was now at the end of my driveway. It was probably 2 1/2 to 3 feet deep there. And it was even more solid.

It was about now that one of my neighbors with a snow blower yelled down to me, “I’ll get the sidewalks!” Thank God. That is the worst part. and, quite honestly, I wasn’t going to worry about the sidewalks today, anyway. I moved to shoveling my entryway, so as not to be in his way as he steered his mechanical shovel down the street. As he walked, clearing the snow with ease, I was working down the entryway, heaving the snow up and out of the walkway.

Once we had both finished our respective areas, I went back down to the apron. I found it was easier to pick up the boulders of snow and ice and throw them off to the side. Plus, it made me feel manly. Or something. I don’t know. I was starting to hallucinate at this point.

What had taken you, my neighbors, fifteen minutes to complete, took me nearly 2 hours. Two hours of back-breaking labor. I was grunting and groaning. My arms were turning to Jello. My back was aching. But I was finally done.

But I saw, as you and your kid were turning to go back inside. I saw the look on his face. The envious look in his eyes. I saw that even you were impressed as you gazed upon the majestic glory that I had created. A 5 foot by 10 foot mound of snow. To be used for sledding. Or forting. Or iglooing. Or…whatever it is my kids want to do with it. It nearly killed me carrying every bit of snow to the same spot and throwing it atop the pile. But I did it. Why? Because that’s how I would have wanted it as a kid.

And that, that, my friends, is how you dad. Enjoy your clean driveway. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to collapse.

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Don’t ask questions you don’t want answers to


I didn’t choose to live in Ohio. Ohio chose me. Or my parents chose Ohio. Either way. A couple of my siblings have made it out. I must say, I’m a bit jealous. I’ve had it with this place. I get tired of my brother complaining that it’s a chilly 65 degrees while I’m trudging through mountains of snow.

We haven’t exactly made it a secret that we are ready to move some place south. Some place warm. Some place…not Ohio. Unfortunately, thanks to our litter of kids, we are stuck here for the foreseeable future.

Last night, we were all standing in the kitchen. I had just returned from the grocery store. I was fetching fruit, or some such nonsense. The 13-year-old picked up one of the plastic grocery bags and placed on her head. (Don’t worry. It wasn’t covering her face. Though, she was poised to move it.)

“Do you want me to suffocate so you guys can move, or do you want me to live and you have to stay here?” she asked.

Without missing a beat, I replied, “You can’t put me in that position.”

Luckily, we all shared a laugh and moved on to another topic (Sliced versus chunked cantaloupe, I believe), and I never had to answer the question.

There isn’t always time to stop and think before the words make it to your mouth.

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“I’ll take one for the team.”