Thursday, June 01, 2006

New Basement

As is clear from the last couple of posts, I've been slacking off a little bit on the blog, throwing up photos and captions as opposed to really sitting down to write. Not that I don't love the photos, but that's not what this was supposed to be about. So tonight I'm forcing myself to sit down and knock out at least a few current thoughts for the non-expanding circle of friends and relatives lucky enough to have been blessed with this URL.

Biggest thing in our lives this week was the completion of the basement playroom for the girls that we began work on in October. Yes, that's not a typo, October. We hired a contractor who came highly recommended from some neighborhood friends and turned out to not only be the slowest-moving individual on the planet (check that, he had a "helper" who actually lagged behind) but also the sort to disappear for weeks at a time (sometimes months at a time) taking on other jobs while our basement remained in a general state of disrepair. To be fair to Sloth (not his real name), along the way we also had him remodel a half-bath on the first floor, install a new boiler and put in radiant heat, so we did expand the scope of work. But still... SEVEN MONTHS to get the job done and this guy out of our lives?

I stood in our bedroom one time, looking out the window and watching Sloth go through the painstaking and seemingly-endless process of carrying his tools back and forth from his truck to our basement. As the pressure mounted in my brain I availed myself of the only immediate course of action that promised any relief. I used my hands to rip all the teeth out of my mouth, consequently adding thousands of dollars of dental expenses to our remodeling bill.

To his credit, and I feel like I should be fair here, he is a nice guy and I felt comfortable with the idea of him showing up every day and working in the house with the girls. Well, actually I would have felt even more comfortable had he actually shown up every day, but I digress.

The job was done on Tuesday and Wednesday night Gwen and I rolled out the carpet we'd bought for a section of the tiled floor, vacuumed and just generally got the space ready for Madison and Ava. I was at work the next day when they went down there for the first time after school and apparently as soon as they got to the bottom of the stairs Madison gave Gwen a big hug and said, "Thank you, Mommy, thank you for making such a nice basement for us to play in." Gwen and I were both moved by the reaction and felt even better that the job was done and the space theirs. I mentioned in the first post that Madison had made reference to toys in boxes that we would be unpacking soon, so apparently the idea that we weren't quite "in" the new house was kicking around in her head and can now be resolved. We turned our living room into a playroom while waiting for the basement, but with space limitations not every toy made it back into rotation after the move, so now we'll get there and we're happy about that.

We're taking on the kitchen next with a different contractor, (sorry Sloth, the idea of gutting the center of our house and having to rely on your fleeting efforts to guide us through the darkness was a bit of a nonstarter), so hopefully by the end of the summer we will have a nice newly renovated cooking space and some expanded interior doorways for better downstairs flow so we can walk around unimpeded as we discuss our depleted finances.

What else? This is getting to resemble one of those "Around The League" notes columns in a newspaper sports section or, even worse, one of the Larry King "what's on my mind" monstrosities. I guess that's about all I have to offer tonight. No central theme like The Shriek or Jack the Pom Pom. We went out for pizza the other night and when we got home before bed Madison asked to sit at the computer and write on a "clear page." Again, see the first post for background on this, she sits at the computer and asks for the letters to spell the words she wants to write, then taps them out on the computer. On the night I'm talking about she wrote this:

"The pizza face was covered with pepperoni and the waiter slipped on a piece of it and he hurt his knee and then all the other waiters looked at him and then they looked at his knee. Period. End of story."

The story was vivid and random enough that I wondered whether or not this actually happened at some point in the restaurant, maybe when I took Ava to the potty. No, Gwen and Madison told me, no waiter slipped in the restaurant. I asked Madison later when I was tucking her in how she came up with that, how she thought of those words, and she said, "it was what I wanted to write, I wanted to tell that story."

I don't want to stray too far into potentially sickening parental pride here, but I just have to say the things that come flying off the wheels that are perpetually spinning in Madison's head never cease to amaze me. I know, I know, I'm partial and I'm sure all parents, with the possible exception of the ones who turn up on Jerry Springer or Maury Povich, feel the same way about their kids... but this is my blog so I get to be amazed and to write about it.

Springer and Povich, can we spend just a passing moment on two guys who have, literally, carved careers out of putting human wreckage on television? Every time I channel surf by Maury he's doing the same show, some version of "Shocking Paternity Test Results!" You really have to feel for the male guests, wonder what they'd been told in the days and weeks before they found themselves sitting in front of a studio audience, many more watching at home, while Maury - appropriate gravitas layered on top of restrained glee - serves up scientific evidence of this most personal and devastating act of betrayal. Say a little prayer for the ones with the sense, the dignity and the wherewithal to turn to their partner at some point during the prefab spectacle and deliver the line that represent's Povich's worst nightmare, the chilling query that keeps him up at night, wondering whether there will be a paycheck tomorrow, words of simple and understated brilliance - "Why'd you have to bring me here and tell me this on television?" There are times, of course, when the test results come back negative and Maury is able to unleash a real celebration, as his guests jump around the stage like lottery winners after receiving certain proof that the child they are raising is, in fact, theirs. Both of theirs. Isn't life beautiful?

Springer's model is filling a trash can with people who shouldn't be allowed to sleep with anyone and are, instead, sleeping with everyone. Brothers, sisters, uncles, "dogs and cats, living together, mass hysteria..." Springer and Maury are like reality TV porn... We can turn to The Apprentice, Real World and a dozen other shows to see "real" people acting like idiots... but it takes these daytime options to push this already questionable needle past obscene. This is way off line for a parenting journal, I know, but just one more point on Jerry Springer. I think if anyone ever did a real analysis of the number of his guests who are legitimately mentally ill the guy would be found guilty of more than bad taste.

Well, this was a fairly lame and disjointed attempt to keep this thing going but at least it's a few more words so I can fee like I'm keeping up my end of the bargain. I'll try to make the next entry a bit more thematic, or at least cohesive.

Follow up to a previous post on Apple, which remains one of the most amazing, imaginative and just dead-on companies for me right now. I went out and bought one of those new MacBook notebook computers last week. It's insane. What an iPod is to music this thing is to your whole life... photos, documents, wireless Web access, unbelievably fast and beautifully designed, just amazing. Our next move is to a desktop iMac for the whole family, we have an eMac downstairs that the girls are actually getting the hang of. I'd agree to throw some Google AdSense contextual ads on here if they were all for Apple. OK, I'd throw in some Chipotle and Whole Foods ads too.


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