Thursday, March 05, 2009

Homeward Bound

Rachel and Dan got home last night so I’m heading home this morning.

Being “in charge” of a toddler, two teen boys, and a puppy was not as difficult as I expected. I’ve heard that “Grandmothering” is easier than “Mothering” because you can always go home. That’s true, but there is also something to being more laid back as a grandma… maybe already a little worn out, so the frequent parenting crisis’s aren’t as huge as they seem as a mom…? Add that to the fact that Rachel and Dan have done a remarkable job of organizing their family and home, so all I really had to do was insert myself into the established routine.

I’m going to miss the kids, especially Miranda… but I’m looking forward to the comforting familiarity of my own cozy little “nest” and my own very laid back routine.

I almost forgot…

…how much food teenaged boys can eat…. (Kyle had eggs for breakfast one morning… he was actually “sick” that day. He ate SIX eggs! Then one evening Kyle and Patrick cooked themselves some quesadillas… I watched a new package of 12 inch tortillas vanish like magic. They each had two.. that means EIGHT tortillas…and over half of the new two pound bag of grated cheese.)

I almost forgot…

…what a good feeling it is when a toddler comes running to me with their arms wide open for a hug, obviously happy to see me. (my experience several times when I picked up Miranda at day care)

I almost forgot…

How messy a teenaged kid’s bedroom can be…. Or how full they can stuff a washing machine.

It took me awhile, but better late than never…
I have now mastered:

Getting the high chair tray off the high chair…. Well, it’s actually a low chair.

Opening the baby lock on the cabinet under the sink

Getting in the door at daycare using the key card. (for several days I just waited for someone else and then followed them in.

Getting OUT the door at daycare… there is a green button to push to open the door and I kept forgetting that little trick most of the time I was here.

Logging Miranda in and out on the computer at daycare. The first few days I just got the office people to do it for me… but they decided to show me how… imagine that!

Getting to and from daycare on my own chosen “back roads” so I don’t have to merge with traffic on the busy road.

The volume controls on the TV remotes in two different rooms.

And last, but not least… I now know where most of the light switches are.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

The GOOD, the BAD, and the UGLY

The Good News... I found the light stitch to the garage light and figured out the volume control on the TV in my bedroom.

The Bad News... One of the boys locked the baby lock thing on the cabinet under the sink and I can’t figure out how to open it… not that I really need to anyhow.

The Bad News... It snowed, about 5 inches.

The Good News... I didn't have to leave the house.

The Bad News… I think I missed a party. When I woke up yesterday there were teen-aged boy bodies all over both couches in the basement (the main living area).

The Good News… nothing was messed up or destroyed… they slept until close to noon, then all went home.

The Ugly News… Millie, the pup, peed on the floor AND on Miranda’s pacifier. (She refused to stand out in the snow/cold to do her business… and before doing it on the floor, she ran into Miranda’s room and grabbed the binky… came into the kitchen, dropped it, and peed on it!)

The Bad News... when I washed the binky, I squirted soap in it and squished it around… and then noticed that the rubber nipple was filled with soap bubbles….

The Good News… I got all the soap out…. Sterilized it in boiling water and we are good to go.

The REALLY Good News… yesterday was another good bedtime day for Miranda…. No crying at bedtime, just a little girl happy to be in her crib ready to go to sleep.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Sore Legs and Pimples

(Gheez.. this turned out to be LONG... Just can't stop some people when they sit in front of a keyboard!)

I’ve been here at Rachel and Dan’s house (In Independence, MO) since Wednesday morning. They left for Jamaica early on Thursday, so guess who is in charge around here? Yep… me.

I’m looking after Miranda (age 1 ½), Kyle (age 18) Patrick (almost 15) and Millie, the 3 month old Boston Terrier Puppy. Patrick and Kyle are pretty self sufficient, so there isn’t much for me to do that involves them except just being here.

I got here a day early to give Miranda a chance to get to know me a little better. I haven’t really spent a lot of time with her one-on-one since they live about 3 hours (my driving speed, not everyone’s) away from Fulton. When I first got here, she didn’t want to have much to do with me and I have to admit, my worries were confirmed… this might NOT be fun for either her or me.

Rachel had a dental appointment shortly after I arrived, so I went along with her to watch Miranda in the waiting room… which would be our very first time “alone” together. And, yes, she cried when Rachel went back to the dental room and left her behind with her mystery grandma. It only lasted a few minutes though. Before long she and I were playing happily with the toys in the office and pulling out all the books to scatter them around on the floor. After about a half hour she wandered over to the hall where she’d last seen Rachel… she tipped her head and said “where Momma?”. I told her Momma’d be right back. We did that routine about three times, but it was no big deal.. no crying. So, that went relatively well, and I began to have hope for the week to come. By the way, that was the ONLY time she has cried for her momma.

Rachel showed me the dinner and bed time routine for Miranda.. and assured me that the boys would take care of themselves since they were in and out at all times with their schedule. Sounded fine to me.

I forgot to mention that I met Millie, the puppy for the first time that day also. She’s a cutie.. She is accustomed to spending all day in her kennel since that is what she does while Rachel and Dan work. The boys were to take care of feeding her twice a day, changing her puppy pads, and taking her outside a couple times a day.. oh, and playing with her in the evening. That turned out to be pretty theoretical and idealistic.. but Millie and I are getting along fine.

I was a little freaked out this morning when I woke up and found Millie’s cage door open and no Millie… I did a quick search of the house and didn’t see evidence of her partying it up during the night.. nor did I see Millie. I convinced myself not to worry, that one of the boys had her in their bed. Then about 6 am when I was in the office, I heard someone put her back in her cage… but by the time I went to look, they were gone and Millie was safely where she belonged. Later I asked Kyle about it, and he sheepishly admitted that he’d had her during the night… By his hesitant reply, I’m guessing that’s not “normal”… but oh well… at least Millie is safe. I had imagined at one point that the boys took her outside last night and forgot to bring her back in.. and that maybe she froze to death, ran off, got hit by a car…or got DOG-NAPPED. I tried for a few seconds to come up with how and when to break the news to Rachel and Dan…. But, what a relief, all is well.

That was not the first time I thought about NOT wanting to ruin Rachel and Dan’s vacation… On the way up here I was driving VERY carefully… I am a totally chicken freaked out driver… and hate passing trucks or sharing the highway with them in any way… and of course, the interstate which leads here is full of trucks. I thought how horrible it would be if I got in an accident and got hurt (or dead) and ruined their vacation… because if something happened to me, who would watch Miranda? Once I got here I was relieved to know that I was unlikely to “ruin their vacation”… (Although I could probably conjure up other possibilities if I’d let myself…)

Rachel and Dan left early yesterday morning… (wow, only yesterday? Seems like much longer than that) Anyhow, Miranda wasn’t awake when they left, so I’m sure she was surprised when I was the one to get her out of bed when she woke up. But, she seemed fine. That morning she asked me about three times, “where momma?” (she tips her head to the side when she asks). All three times, I said . “Momma’s in Jamaica. She’ll be back later.” Yeah, I know that Miranda doesn’t have a clue what or where Jamaica is, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

I got her dressed, fed her her usual breakfast. Then, according to her routine, sat her in front of a “Dora” video. (She LOVES Dora… which is a cartoon character I’d never heard of before.. Dora, by the way is way less irritating than Barney… but still irritating.) After her half hour with Dora, I took her to her daycare and tried to remember all the checking in, dropping off routine that Rachel had shown me the day before… and did okay at it with a few reminders from the staff. Miranda was happy to be there and only once more asked “Where Momma” as she hugged me goodbye. When I went to pick her up that afternoon, she came running to me with a BIG hug, and that made me feel good. She was happy to see me!

So.. the title to this ramble is “Sore Legs and Pimples…” you are probably wondering by now where that came from.. The sore legs are MINE… well, so are the pimples.

My legs are sore from stair climbing! (I wonder if it counts as aerobics?) Rachel’s house has four levels.. there is probably a proper a name for it but I don’t know what it is… The main level where you walk in is the living room. There is half a level worth of steps up to the kitchen and Patrick and Miranda’s rooms. From there, there is another half level worth of steps up to Rachel and Dan’s room where I am sleeping.. and where I have all my “stuff”. The main living area (where everyone hangs out) and office where I use my computer is actually in the “basement”… a half level down from the living room… OR three sets of stairs down from “my” bedroom. (I’m not even counting the fourth set of stairs down to the FIFTH level where Kyle’s room is.. off the “basement” into the “sub-basement” It really doesn’t count for me since I have no reason to go down there. So… I said all that to explain why I have sore legs… I am not used to so much stair climbing to often throughout the day. It’s probably healthy… and my sore legs will probably get less sore as time goes on.. right?

Okay… pimples. (I'll spare you a picture.) I only have TWO.. but they are nasty looking critters.. they are on my nose. I guess I must be a bit stressed because it’s stress that usually cases them… because of a skin condition I have called Rosacea. Anyhow, they are UGLY.. I felt one of them starting up last night and decided that if I ignored it, it wouldn’t exist… a look in the mirror this morning told me I was wrong… not only did it exist, it brought along a bigger uglier friend. Oh well..

So what’s the stress coming from? Really, I don’t feel stressed, but a couple things might qualify… last night I thought I might have to drive in the rain… I HATE driving in the rain… or after dark…. (remember, I told you I was a fanatically CHICKEN driver?) I can’t see after dark, it feels like I’m driving blind… I CAN see in the rain (assuming it’s not dark) but I just don’t like driving in it.. (to be honest, not even little sprinkles… because little sprinkles can quickly become huge storms.. right?) So, yesterday, late afternoon, I looked outside and it looked ICKY… and like it might storm soon… I hurried to get Miranda, hoping to beat it. I knew I HAD to go get her… (Actually it never did rain. All it did was make me think it was going to.) The other little stressor was also related to driving.. but in the dark. Patrick told me that morning that he had band practice at his school and needed a ride at 6 and picked up at 8… I told him I’d take him, but the more I thought about it, the more I didn’t want to…. Not only would the pick up be after dark, but it might RAIN… and also.. what about Miranda.. she goes to bed at 7 or 7:30… I couldn’t leave her home and I sure didn’t want to keep her up that late and take her. I solved the problem by asking Kyle to do it and he agreed. BUT I still have the pimples. Oh well.

A very small stressor is trying to find the light switches to various parts of the house.. knowing where switches are is something we all take for granted.. until we are in a strange place and either need to turn one off or on.. and can’t figure out how. I think Rachel and Dan may have some “creative light wiring” too.. My switch confusion doesn’t stop with light switches… I was going to vacuum yesterday… plugged in the vac and couldn’t figure out how to turn it on. It wasn’t long before I saw it… a huge thing marked POWER that you step on at the bottom. Duh. I am still working on remembering how to take the tray off and on Miranda’s little high chair thing. I say “high chair thing” because it’s not “high” at all.. it’s low.. and it rocks and bounces and does all sorts of things… but it also has a tray across it to put food or toys on.. Yesterday morning, I finally managed to get the try on.. but couldn’t get it OFF.. I tried to pull her out the top without taking it off, but that wouldn’t work. I tried THAT several times…(It was getting late and I had to get her to day care before 9 or they wouldn’t take her)… Finally, I had a good talk with myself… in “The Road Less Traveled” it says.. “with enough time and focus, you can solve any problem” (paraphrased) So I sat down, looked under the tray and finally figured it out.. it is NOT hard.. it’s just knowing which plastic part to press.. However.. I had trouble getting it on and off again last night AND this morning. I guess I am just getting OLD…. Or maybe haven’t focused enough on implanting that routine into my brain.

So right now, I’m all alone… I have really enjoyed the cable internet connection and have been working a lot on my Family History website, mostly uploading old pictures. It’s so nice not to have to wait while each part of the process “loads”… I haven’t watched much TV because I’m more interested in working on the computer while I’m alone.. and when Miranda is here, DORA is on. And then there is also the remote control challenge. I mostly have them figured out well enough to do what I need to do.. (put Dora on)… but last night Patrick was playing a video game before he left for band practice.. and when Miranda and I tried to put Dora on.. all it would say or do was “component two” (the words floating around on the screen)… There was nothing about Component Two in the notes Rachel left me and I wasn’t about to start experimenting with the pile of remotes. Finally, Kyle came home and we got Dora going. That is all for the downstairs TV.. then there is the one in “my” bedroom.. I can turn it on, change channels, and even use the DVR to record or watch recorded shows… but I don’t know how to change the volume. That’s okay. Rachel was going to show me, but at the time I had brain (and remote control) overload. I told her to just put it on a good volume and that would be fine for me the whole time. And it has been..

Rachel and Dan will be home on Wednesday late at night.. I will certainly have more chapters in this saga. I will not necessarily take time to write them, but I might.

PS If you are interested in checking out my family history photo pages you can find them HERE. I still have a LOT more to add, many that need to be scanned, which is a learning process all in it's own (to get the best quailty) I have a good start though, and it's been fun.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Still Alive... and Relatively Sane

Some of my family and friends are asking me if I'm "okay".. mainly because I haven't been online as much lately as I have in the past. Well… yeah, I'm okay. I have several projects going that are occupying my time and attention. BUT… I decided it was time to get on here and post a blog or two to reassure people that I'm still alive and relatively sane.

This will probably be a little boring, but here goes… Basically I'm working on three projects right now. One is family history research, another is "helping" Jay work on my room renovation, and the third is cleaning floor tile grout (exciting, huh?),

I have put some of my family research work on some web pages in my regular "Mommac" website. ( I didn't want to pay the extra monthly fee to make a separate website right now.) Here's a link to my main family history page. I just completed two related pages that I'm rather proud of. Letters to Lydia has letters that my great grandfather wrote to my great grandmother from 1907-1914 and related family photos from that time period. (I have the original letters!) The other is Edna Miller's Autobiography which has the Autobiography that my grandmother wrote when she was in ninth grade, with family photos from her life and some other "stuff". So, if you are inclined, go take a look at those pages.

I am going to put the information and photos from both of those pages into small books that I hope to distribute to historical societies in Southwest Colorado where they lived, not really for "financial gain" because I doubt there is much of that to be had from these sorts of books… but mostly for "posterity" and just because I want to.

I have a TON of pictures from my own childhood and one of these days, hope to write stories to go with them… And probably more interesting, stories from my teen years that DON"T have pictures to go with them. But that's down the road.

As for the room… You can see pictures and read about that on my other blog "Tearing Down Walls"… Jay has been working on it a lot over the past few weeks… I have been "helping" him, which at this point mostly means walking in there, standing around watching him for a little while, reassuring him that he's doing great, and asking if there is anything I can do. He almost always says, "No, not right now."… so it's a safe question to ask. Occasionally, when the drywall dust settles long enough for me to see the floor, I sweep and vacuum. (At this point, there is very little else that I can do.)

And now… about the floor tile grout. I saved the best for last. No, not really. I saved the one that I have the most to write about until last.

Background: About a million years ago when we put quarry tile down in the main part of the house we decided to use brown grout. We thought it wouldn't show the dirt like lighter grout would. Well, it doesn't show "dirt" but it did turn sort of a whitish color over time. I don't think it took too long either, because it seems I've been trying to rectify the problem for as long as I can remember. I have spent a lot of time off and on trying to make my brown grout LOOK brown. I have tried a lot of things… and most of them probably ended up making it worse. My most recent experiment a year or so ago was to mix up brown fabric dye and paint it onto the grout. After a couple coats, it DID look good… but it didn't last.

I think there are a couple possible reasons for the problem. ONE: I'm not sure we sealed it when we put it down. Maybe, maybe not.. but I lean towards not. TWO: cleaning products! Maybe the Pine Sol, or whatever I've used to clean the floor has sunk into the grout and caused the whitish look… maybe if we'd sealed it that wouldn't have happened. Then, I think… well, it looks like hard water residue.. but we have a water softener… It's a real mystery.. and I love a mystery and I am determined to solve it.

Background: Not too long ago I got a new type of mop that I really like. Now WHO gets excited about a mop? I guess I do. I liked it so well I actually got a second one just to have on hand for a "back up". I LOVE these mops. They have micro fiber covers that you can take off and wash. (I have three extra covers for them, so I'm never without a clean one.) They do a great job for damp mopping, dust mopping, or even WET mopping.

I started damp mopping the kitchen floor often…very often (with water only). It was so nice to use the mop I just couldn’t resist. Then I started to notice that the part of the floor that I’d been mopping so much had BROWN grout that actually looked brown. I had been damp mopping with water only.. no cleaning solution… Then, I really scrubbed one day with the mop really wet….. and noticed that soap bubbles were coming out of the grout! That’s when I started to think that maybe old soap residue was causing the whitish-ness. Sooooo my project, tackling the rest of the floor (little by little) began. I started my experiment in the dining area where I wouldn’t be disturbed. (Who uses a dining area anyhow? We use the breakfast bar.)

I couldn’t just mop it several times everyday (like I’ve been doing in the kitchen) because there was furniture in the way… I needed a process to get it done. (so I could put the furniture back).

It’s really quite a process, and not especially fun, but if I can make the white go away and the brown come back, (and STAY back) it will make me VERY happy.

I found an old cleaning product under my sink (from years ago) called Nutra Rinse that is supposed to “neutralize”. It says something about taking out alkaline… not sure what all that is about, but when combined with soak time (5 minutes) and a lot of elbow grease applied to a small scrub brush, it seems to work. Well, sort-of work.

I only work on about a 3 square foot area at one time… I soak it, scrub it, wipe off the bubbles and scum ,scrub again, wipe off more bubbles and scum, rinse it with clear water, rinse out the rag, get new water in the bucket, rinse it again.. dry it with a towel and wait for it to dry to see the results… It takes several times of the whole process on the same area, (about four times to be exact). It’s a good thing I have a good stock of old towels and rags.

I have almost finished the dining area (about 8 by 12 feet) and also in front of the back door leading into it. There are parts right now that only need one or two more scrubbings, but the first time is always the hardest.

I took this picture before I worked a lot more on this area. You can see how part of the grout is much darker than the part in the middle area. The part closest to the floor mat was done (and under it too) and about 2 feet around the perimeter was done. Other parts were partially done but I hadn't touched the part in the middle at all.

I have gotten very SORE and achy. I am trying to convince myself this is "exercise". The scrubbing is hard work! Not only do the muscles in my arms, shoulders and back hurt, the palms of my hands feel bruised from the scrub brush and my knees feel bruised from keeling on the floor. My solution to this is to do less each day, maybe limit my enthusiasm to only two three foot patches per day…(four times each).

Of course this WILL take forever.. I think I figured we have about 1,000 feet of tile floor. That's okay. I'll just make cleaning a little patch part of my daily routine. Right? That sounds pretty optimistic. I'll probably lose interest when I see the daffodils start to bloom…but for now… It's on my project list.