Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Bad Housekeeping Ideas

E's comment yesterday reminded me of a baaaad thing I did years ago.

Our 1950's house was blessed with an icky pink-and-black color scheme in the bathroom. When we first moved in, the walls were covered with pink-and-black flowered wallpaper, and the shower curtain (so thoughtfully left behind) was gray with pink cabbage roses and trimmed with little pink pom-poms along the edges, kind of like your friend's bedroom curtains back when you were eight or nine.

I've lived in this area all my life, and the house we have now is similar to the one in which I grew up. These two houses had one other thing in common: Bathroom mildew. For whatever reason, mildew always collected on the painted ceiling above the shower area. In my mother's house, this was a particularly ugly problem, because she got the notion, back in '63, to stipple the paint on the bathroom walls. I remember the points on that stippling actually being ouchy to my little-kid hands when they missed the light switch. I don't know how she did that.

Back to 1994. My bathroom had the same mildew problem, and The Oracle bought a gallon of Kilz to paint the bathroom and put an end to the mildew. It was my job to scrub off the old paint.

I've long since forgotten what product I bought for this task. I do remember putting it off until The Oracle became annoyed (once again) with my procrastinating. (Can you blame me, really?). In a huff, I grabbed the bottle off the shelf and made a rough solution of it in the bathroom sink. I donned my gloves and sunglasses (thank God!) and set to work.

Wow, what amazing results. That mold gave way easily under that cleaner. I barely had to scrub. Better still, there wasn't even a stain on the paint from where the mildew used to be.
I clear off all the mildew, and I wonder whether I'm supposed to rinse afterward since I diluted it at the start. I pick up the bottle to read the directions.

Uh-oh. I guess I'd better rinse thoroughly. In my haste, I didn't use the cleaner I bought for the job. Instead, I absently grabbed it's lookalike neighbor, the Drano. Yep, Drano. I cleaned my bathroom ceiling with Drano.

To this day, I don't recall what it was I'd planned to use, but its bottle was either a dark orange or it was also red like the Drano. It's a wonder I didn't create (or pass out from) any toxic fumes. I'm also thankful that the paint never peeled off.

And I'm very grateful that, thanks to Kilz, I've never had to scrub mildew off the ceiling for many years now.

Monday, September 29, 2008

A Draining Experience

Late Saturday afternoon, I was greeted with a clogged kitchen drain. The source of my misery is usually the garbage disposal, so I tried plunging the thing. This is no easy feat with a double sink, because you have to keep one drain plugged shut while plunging the other side.

The plunger didn't work. Out came the Drano.

I poured half a bottle down both drains and waited. It still didn't clear. I ran out and bought a second bottle and dumped a good portion of that down the drain as well. I got sidetracked and sleepy and woke up the next morning to a sink that was still full of slimy water.


Double Crap. The dishwasher is full of skanky water too.

Here's the part where The Oracle and I know next to nothing. I bought a snake years ago when our bathtub clogged, and I ended up calling the House Fairy. Our galvanized pipes are ancient and I was afraid of busting through the pipe instead of the clog, so I chickened, put the snake away, and called the House Fairy.

Well, pride got the better of me. I kept thinking that, dagnabbit, we're grownups and we should be able to handle this ourselves without calling The Oracle's dad to come bail us out. It also helps that the pipe draining from the kitchen is in much sturdier condition than the one under the tub.

Without getting into all the gory details, the most interesting part was when I took the PVC piping apart beneath the sink. (PVC piping rocks! It's easy-peasy girly plumbing!!! Nothing at all like the time I got pissed off at our drippy bathroom sink and replaced the taps myself. What a pain in the butt.) Out poured what appeared to be almost pure Drano. Hmph. Where the heck was the clog? We took turns between snaking the drain and more drano and a futile trip to Home Depot to see I could find something a little more heavy-duty to clear the clog (impossible without spending over $200). By the time I returned from Home Depot, the Drano finally did the trick and the drain cleared. I happily reassembled the PVC, said a prayer, and emptied the sinks.

And my sink! Ooooh, my sink and garbage disposal are S-H-I-N-Y.

I had to cycle the diswasher at least a half dozen times to clear that out. The drano kept foaming out the bottom an I was worried that it ate through some vital gasket or something, but it's okay. It looks really nice inside, too.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Trains in the Twilight Zone?

I had to work in the city today. I usually avoid driving in whenever possible because the prices for parking are horrendous. I am fortunate that I have three different rail routes within fifteen minutes of my house, so making the schedules work for me usually isn’t too difficult.

I work my job and return to the train station. The status board says my train will arrive on Track 2B at 12:27. It is running on time, so I go down to the platform and wait. Time starts ticking away, and they’re calling every train but mine. Dang. It must be late, although the board didn't say so earlier. I walk along the platform to the trackside status board, and my train is no longer listed. Where did it go? Did I miss my train? If it hadn't yet arrived, it would still be listed with a "late" status.

I’m getting nervous, thinking I drifted into the Twilight Zone or the Outer Limits and somehow missed my train. Funny, I don't recall falling asleep on that bench...

This station happens to be where the conductors switch trains during their shifts, and there was a conductor sitting on the bench next to me.

“Excuse me, sir, are you working the (Route Number?)”

“No,” he says.

“This is where I’d board it; am I right?”

He responds with an odd, noncommittal body gesture.

I ask him if I missed it or why it wouldn’t be on the status board as running late, and he says he doesn’t know. I’m starting to get a pissy attitude, something that’s been a problem for me lately, so I thanked him and let the matter drop. I begin thinking to myself that maybe I’m being unfair, because if this guy isn’t working my train, how can I expect him to know the status of all the others? I thank him and move on, and I continue pacing nervously, wondering whether I should go back up to the concourse to check the status or stay put. They finally call my train several minutes later, and I breathe a huge sigh of relief.

My train pulls in, but it stops in 2A, not 2B, so I have to scurry down the platform to Section A before it leaves without me. I mean, it’s already five or more minutes late, so I figure it isn’t going to stick around very long.

I board my train and gratefully park my tail in a seat and wait for the train to depart. And I wait some more and a little more. Hmmm… Just when I think we’re going to be asked to detrain because of mechanical problems, we pull away.

The strangest part of this adventure? Guess which conductor is working this train?

Monday, September 22, 2008

My Fingertips are Numb

Tonight I it took almost three hours to cover 15 books, copybooks, and folders in clear Con-Tact paper.

The only thing that made the job semi-interesting was the appearance of Chessie. Normally she spends her time sleeping on the dresser in our bedroom or one of the kids' beds, but lately she's been venturing into the living room.

Tonight, each time I trimmed excess plastic from books' edges, she was right there watching the X-acto knife and swatting at the stringy trimmings. I'm glad she can still see. I often wonder about that.

Monday, September 15, 2008


Please skip my pointless little rant about Con-Tact paper and visit Toby Pannone's page. His mother hasn't updated us in a very long time, and I am very thankful that she posted last night.

"Back in My Day..."

(Feel free to imagine me forty years older uttering that phrase while only wearing my upper dentures.)

Back when I was in school, we were issued books that were -- horrors! -- used by other kids the year before. We took them home and were required to cover them with either wrapping paper, glossy covers bought at the school book store, or cut-up paper bags. In my house, the cut-up bags were the book cover of choice.

Precious Daughter doesn't get used books. Nope. She gets a rather large collection of paperback workbooks for all of her subjects. For Math, Reading, and Religion, she gets a main workbook paired with a thinner practice workbook. The main books are huge and heavy, and I'm quite glad they remain in her desk. For those subjects, the smaller practice books are the ones that regularly come home.

The kids are required to cover all of these books, their folders, and their copybooks (the kind with stitching holding the pages in) with clear Con-Tact paper.

If you've never used Con-Tact paper, you're lucky. On a normal, hard surface (like a shelf), the stuff is difficult enough. Yeah, you can "reposition" it if you're a little off, but measuring, cutting, and sticking it to a bunch of soft-cover books (without air bubbles!) is a royal pain in the patootie. By the time I cover five or six books, my hands ache.

These young whippersnappers don't appreciate how my generation worked to cut, fold, and fit those paper bags to our books. We couldn't see the fancy, colorful covers of our books through the paper bag; we had to write the book title on the front so we could tell which one it was!

For nearly two weeks now, I've been on the hunt for clear Con-Tact. I used the last bit from last year to cover the first six books she brought home. I probably have another fifteen to twenty items to cover. I've visited every likely store (and several unlikely out of sheer desperation) within, probably, fifteen miles of my house, including, but not limited to, two each of Target, Wal-Mart, Lowe's, Home Depot, Bed Bath & Beyond, and at least four K-Mart stores. This doesn't count stores that I checked on a whim when the opportunity arose between jobs.

Nobody has this junk in stock. I can get white, "stainless steel," and assorted marbled patterns, but no clear. (On a side note, nearly every roll of white was ripped open and crimped at the edge by other parents searching for clear. Why those idiot people didn't read the label on the roll is beyond me. Who's going to buy a ripped-open roll?)

I ended up ordering it online last night, but it's going to take seven to ten days to arrive. Now that I've agreed to pay an online price plus shipping, how much do you want to bet that the local store shelves will be restocked this afternoon?

The crappy thing is that, once again, I had to send Precious Daughter to school with a note explaining why her books still aren't covered. I was so tempted to cover them in paper bags, but I was afraid she'd have a nervous breakdown. She was very upset this morning. I told her that if Mrs. Melman had a problem with it, ask her to speak with me.

My thinking is that if the school is so crazy about this stuff, they ought to supply it (what the heck, they include dozens of other things in the tuition) or at least make it available for us to purchase through them instead of chasing our tails across three counties to find it.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Interesting Question

"Isn't Catholic School all about conforming? E"

I know she asked in jest, but E raises an interesting question. Looking from the outside in, I suspect that many people believe that or something similar about the Catholic school system.

My priorities for sending our kids there mainly surround giving our children an academic education as well as one in faith. I am certainly fortunate that I live within a decent school district, but I feel there needs to be more to an education than academics.

My first choice would be to homeschool like E does. I envy her ability to do that, but I know my limitations. I may be walking around with a 142 IQ, but brains alone are not enough to teach others. E is not only blessed with brains, she possesses the self-discipline and organizational skills required to successfully coordinate the education of her children.

If I homeschooled, my children would still be lingering in pre-K.

But, anyway, back to conforming. Yes, there's a nice bit of conforming when you're in a group that's all dressed alike and walking the halls in neat little lines, but there's still plenty of room for individuality with school activities. Long dead are the teachers and nuns who felt it necessary to beat your knuckles until you fit the mold.

So far, the "conforming" part of school works for Precious Daughter. She's a natural-born worrier, and she has a tendency to hide on the sidelines instead of jumping into the fun. The uniforms, visually speaking, give her the illusion of a more even playing field. Fitting in is very important to her, and I suspect we'll have problems later with her following the crowd's ill advice just to please them.

Mighty B. doesn't care about what others think. He charges on ahead with his own goals in mind, leaving those too slow to get out of the way bobbing helplessly in his wake. I wonder and often worry about how Mighty B. will handle the structure. I wonder if it's too restrictive for him and whether he'll find it necessary to rebel.

On Back-to-School Night, The Oracle finally met Precious Daughter's teacher. His "radar" didn't go off, which is a good thing. The Oracle, in my view, is an excellent judge of character. His first impressions have always been deadly accurate, even when I desperately hoped and prayed he was mistaken.

He said she looked a bit like a redheaded Larry "Bud" Melman. Oh, dear.

Instead of multicolored tennis balls, The Oracle presented Mrs. Melman with breast-cancer-awareness pink. Who could refuse tennis balls purchased to support breast cancer research? She graciously accepted them after briefly lamenting the fact that they weren't cut with an X to pop over the chair feet.

Precious Daughter still needs a yellow highlighter. Drat.

The Oracle forgot to check on the pencil sharpener.

Friday, September 5, 2008

School - Day Two

Yep. It's only the second day, and this second-grade teacher is getting on my nerves.

One thing I didn't mention yesterday was that Precious Daughter's list required "four pencils with erasers." I bought her mechanical pencils because she has this weird aversion to sharpening them. She doesn't like the idea of them getting short and being thrown away.

Yesterday she brought her mechanical pencils home because she wasn't permitted to have them even though she had them in first grade. In her next breath, she tells me that she'll have to sharpen her pencils at home, too, because the teacher doesn't have a sharpener. (We'll be investigating that on Tuesday night.)

The supplies list also included "1 highligher." I learned today that it has to be a yellow highlighter, that she isn't allowed to have pink. Nowhere on that stupid list did it specify color. On the teacher's individual page it does, but why would I look there if I don't know who her teacher is until the first day of school?

And to think I searched all over to find a single pink highligher, because I hated the idea of being forced to buy a pack of four different colors from the back-to-school aisle. I finally found the pink one in the bookstore/gift shop of a teaching hospital I visited for a deposition.

I'm getting really irked with this woman. At this point, The Oracle will be required to go to back-to-school night, because I'm going to be trapped beneath the rapidly-growing chip on my shoulder.

I suspect, too, that multicolored tennis balls will be returned for replacement. Dang, I don't want to conform.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Yep, It's Been a While

I'll post in a couple days, really. I've been sort-of basking in the beauty that is "back to school." My kids' school has staggered starting days, and things worked out in such a way that Mighty B. had school yesterday, but Precious Daughter was home.

Today is the opposite. Mighty B. is off.

As I led Precious Daughter to her line, I felt like I was leading her down the Green Mile. The poor kid stopped at the statue of the Blessed Mother, said a prayer, and started to cry. Ogre that I am, I had to tell her to get a hold of herself. I didn't want to start the day with a meltdown like last year. There is nothing that tears me apart more than a child crying not to leave his/her parents.

My kids' school has the lousiest first-day-back practice in the world, I swear. Once they hit second grade (this year for Precious Daughter), the kids don't know who their teacher is until they're in school on the first day. The entire grade files into the school as a group, and each teacher calls the roll for their class.

I don't understand the logic of this practice. My gut feeling is that there must be some highly-complained-about teachers in this school, and the administration feels that this surprise beginning will minimize the number of parental complaints about classroom assignment.

I have been feverishly praying all day that my daughter gets the teacher she's wishing for. I'll find out in another twenty minutes when she gets off the bus. My stomach is in knots, because this will dictate the tone of the entire school year.

She was intimidated by her teacher last year, and she spent a good portion of it worrying about doing things right and not getting "yelled at." Precious Daughter is already a worrier. It will be a miracle if she doesn't have ulcers by the time she's ten.

** ** ** ** UPDATE ** ** ** **

After a scary computer crash on the job, The Oracle pulled my ass out of the fire and managed to get me up and running. At least so far.

Wouldn't you know, Precious Daughter not only did not get the teacher she wished for, but the teacher considered (by the parking-lot-mommy grapevine) to be a troll. Why my kid? Why my good, smart kid? If the rumors are true (waiting for the 2nd grade back-to-school night to meet her), and my child is saddled with another difficult teacher, I am going to scream.

The good news is that Precious Daughter reported she liked her new teacher. In the next breath she told me she needs four tennis balls.

Tennis balls? What for?

This teacher wants to use them to cover the chair feet. She seems to not like the scraping and clattering of twenty-odd chairs being moved at the same time. WTF? Teach the kids how to properly slide a chair. It's a useful life skill. In fact, I distinctly recall the nuns teaching us how to silently raise and lower the kneelers in church. Why should I go out and buy tennis balls? Oh, and it's four tennis balls. Aren't they usually packed in threes?

The spiteful bitch in me wants to go to Petco and buy four doggie tennis balls in different colors: Purple, hot pink, dark green, and blue. She can look across the floor and have those four clashing colors taint her little sea of neon yellow-green.