Thursday, April 26, 2018

A thin layer of drywall dust

There is a thin layer of drywall dust in this house. There is a thin layer of drywall dust on the kitchen counters even though the kitchen is a full floor away from where the drywall is happening. There is a thin layer of drywall dust in our linen closet even with a tightly closed door. There is probably a thin layer of drywall dust up on the roof of the house. There is a thin layer of drywall dust on my soul.

Most impossibly, there is a thin layer of drywall dust in the TV room even though Natani, the crazy desert dog, is always running around in there like a goddamn maniac so makes the settling of dust very difficult. She excels at constant breeze-making.

I think my dog broke.

She sleeps like this sometimes.
She is one crazy goddamn dog.

If it sounds like I'm complaining about the drywall dust, rest assured it is the opposite. This is my happiest of places, fixing up spaces very much in need of fixing up. If I had all the money in the world, I would buy all the houses and fix up all the rooms. I would live with a perpetual thin layer of drywall dust on my clothing and in between my teeth but I would happily show it off by twirling in circles to watch it fly and smiling with a wide open mouth.

Banister Abbey is a labor of love and six years in, we are still laboring. Most of the big decisions have been made for the master bath project and it's going to be a beauty. I am happy with the direction it is taking -- even happier I found a general contractor who doesn't mind I'm sitting on a stool next to him munching popcorn in anticipation while watching the spreading of mortar and the installation of waterproof membranes. It's a vision coming to life before my eyes, with perhaps a few unplanned popcorn kernels embedded in the grout.

I'm going to call my contractor "Peter Gabriel" because I'm listening to one of my favorite Peter Gabriel songs on KEXP right now. He's a keeper, that Peter Gabriel contractor. I've worked with many and he's the only one I would invite to Christmas dinner with my family -- and he would probably get most of the presents under the tree. He is a gentle soul with a keen eye for detail and an impeccable ability to keep it all moving along cheerfully no matter how complicated the project.

The only issue I have with Peter Gabriel is he smiles all the time. He may be delivering bad news but he's smiling and cheerful so at first I'm not sure what's going on. Wait... the electrical inspector won't approve the light fixture I love so much, the one I based the entire bathroom design around, because it's not 500 miles away from the nearest water source? That's bad news, right? But you're smiling so widely, is that actually happy news? I never know when he approaches me smiling if he's about to make my day, break my heart, or just ask me the time.

I am now fixating on the third floor bathroom. We're adding one for guests who stay up there so they don't have to walk through the kids' rooms to access a toilet in the middle of the night. It used to be that, at whatever time, guests had to walk down these steep stairs where my favorite print hangs, the dapper dudes dueling with Nintendo guns --

-- and choose which kid to wake up to use the jack-n-jill bathroom between their rooms --

Choose your door wisely.
Choosing the door means means choosing the kid
who scowls at you the next morning over breakfast
and loves you slightly less.

Third floor needed at least a toilet and a sink. The only option was the long skinny closet that houses the furnace. We can't move the furnace and can't block or cover it for air circulation purposes. We're putting a toilet in there anyway.

That's the furnace lurking
inside the bathroom/closet.

I'm considering embracing the industrial aspect of the space and making it a furnace themed bathroom. Everything gray and white, toilet made out of pipes, super hot at all times. Peter Gabriel Contractor joked he'll bring old sections of pipe and we can suspend them from the ceiling with fishing wire. Anything goes in a furnace bathroom.

I'll finish this post with some Bobo. Bobo the bearded dragon is slowing down. He's lived a happy 12 years, 4 of them with us (still Lucien's favorite birthday present ever and a happy memory, especially the escaped crickets) and that's getting close to all you can expect from a pet beardie. He doesn't move very fast anymore, and sometimes misses the dinner crickets hopping around his tank. He can't climb all the way up his log anymore either, instead sleeps like this, with his little dangly arms down at his sides --

We often assume he's died during the night when we wake up and he looks like this. We approach his tank reverently, holding hands and speaking in hushed voices. As we all cluster around, staring down at him with affection and beginning our eulogies, he wakes with a start and his eyes get super wide and he's like, "GAH!"

And then we're like, "GAH!"
And he's like "OMG!"

And we're like, "YOU'RE ALIVE!"
And he's like, "OF COURSE I AM."

Then we feel happy and walk away as Bobo's eyes go back to normal size and his body relaxes a bit. You can tell he's thinking, "Jesus, there's something wrong with these people."

Sorry, dude. Live on, majestic lizard. 

Insult to injury,
there is also a thin layer of drywall dust on Bobo.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Whistler and the magic meatball

Lucien and I bought the game Monopoly while out running errands not long ago. It was an impulse buy -- a fit of nostalgia for me and a desire for world economic domination for him. We have since played it several times, none of the games ever ending and all of them becoming increasingly more frustrating as time plods on. The threats get ugly as we get worn down and crabby after hours of play, threats like, "If you put one more house on that property, I swear to God I'm going to eat a pickle then breathe in your face." (That one was from me. My kids hate pickles.)

I had Coco backed into a corner during one game. I owned 75% of the properties and she was running low on cash but she just kept squeaking by with a determined look on her face for approximately seven more hours until I was so sick of Monopoly, I told her she won on account of her grit and stamina. Now she thinks she's some kind of Monopoly whiz kid. I'd take her down a peg by demanding a rematch but I don't have thirteen more hours to spend playing that stupid game.

We're in the middle of the kids' Spring Breaks and just returned from a week up at Whistler outside Vancouver in beautiful British Columbia. We fell in love with Whistler and briefly dreamed of owning a slopeside condo there until we did a real estate search and discovered even the most basic of slopeside condos run about 1.7 million dollars. A short lived dream indeed, but lovely while it lasted.

Dang, Whistler. 
Well done on the view situation.

Skiing is the weirdest thing. You spend more time sitting on a chairlift than actually skiing, and the equipment is annoyingly cumbersome and unwieldy. Walking in ski boots is one of the least graceful things a person can do. It's a clomp clomp clomp robot walk. Clomp clomp clomp fills the air at a ski resort, people clomp clomp clomping all over the place as if it was a normal thing to do. God forbid you need to go down any stairs -- then you're suddenly sidestepping with a jerky heel/toe like the least graceful dancer descending the grand staircase in the Ziegfeld Follies.

When the awkward walking and the clomp clomp is over, though, a transformation! As soon as you strap on skis, you become the lightest thing on the planet, gliding across the snow and swooping down the slope like a bird. Unless you're like me, then you're swooping around more like a cow. I don't mean I'm big like a cow, more that I'm a bit derpy and people like to push me over when I'm sleeping. 

What? I just wanted to say I can ski but I'm not super graceful on skis. The metaphor went rogue up there. 

There is a gondola at Whistler called the Peak 2 Peak, which joins the two neighbor mountains of Whistler and Blackcomb. The Peak 2 Peak is a Guinness World Record holder for both "highest gondola" and "gondola with the longest span between support poles." I don't think there should be an award for a gondola having fewer support poles. I also think the Peak 2 Peak should be renamed the Shit 2 Pants.

I distracted myself from my fear by taking pictures of my family members, who were also feeling slightly uneasy. Anyone who isn't feeling uneasy dangling from a cable way up there with no support poles is a prime candidate for a Darwin award.

Coco took this picture of us at lunch at an Irish pub.
We agree it's one of the stranger pictures we've taken.

We embarrassed Lucien our final afternoon in Whistler as we sat in the Crystal Hut at the top of the mountain eating waffles. "Don't Stop Believing" came on the sound system and that's me and Al's jam. We busted our best moves - we sang into air microphones, we played air guitar, we danced the best we could in a crowded cabin surrounded by people eating waffles. In his younger years he would have joined us but Lucien is now at the age where he embarrasses easily. He turned red, slunk down in his chair and said through clenched teeth, "You guys.... everybody..... is...... watching." I feel it's payback for all the times in Paris Lucien made me the center of attention when I most definitely did not want to be. That kid was crazy!

The kids running towards dinner in the village.
Our slopeside condo is there to the left. 
It was a brief, intoxicating, 
very expensive dream.

On our final run down the mountain, the finale of our glorious 2017-2018 ski season, we made a wrong turn and ended up on a run with moguls, a.k.a bumpy enemies. Moguls are like small snow mountains on all sides of you, some so tall you can just barely make out the top of Coco's blond head a few bumps over. They take a certain style of skiing to navigate, a style I've never gotten the hang of, one that requires very bouncy knees and very sharp turns to ski between the bumps. We decided we were going to take the moguls one by one, one turn at a time, slowly, and would get down the hill cautiously and together. 

Coco didn't quite get that memo and just took off straight down, bouncing up and down over the moguls with a dududududud. Her tiny person bounced over the tops of those things with a rattly bounce similar to that of a car driving over many speed bumps in a row at full speed. We were briefly concerned for her safety until the hilarity hit us, she looked so funny, and then we were laughing too hard to see her anymore. Coco bouncing over those things like an out of control rag doll was one of the funniest things I've seen in a long time. Lucien laughed so hard he fell over, which is a totally normal thing to do in moguls so he didn't stand out too much. We, the parents, pointing and laughing at our child hurtling towards possible grievous bodily injury may have stood out a little more.

But nobody knows Coco like we know Coco. Coco's strong as hell and Coco's a beast. She made it through the mogul minefield upright, finally falling towards the bottom in a soft non-catastophic fall where she sat and laughed at herself until we'd caught up to her, all of us incredulous she had made it down the run in the most unconventional of mogul skiing ways.

She will shock the hell out of future Olympics
with her trademark mogul style

It was raining hard our final day in Whistler (Spring skiing = weather crapshoot) so we skipped the skiing and looked for indoor fun. The best option was determined to be Escape Whistler, an escape room experience. An escape room is where you get locked in a small room for an hour and the whole room is a giant puzzle. You follow clues and solve riddles and break codes until you either free yourself from the room or fail miserably and must live forever in great shame. 

Given I'm a moderate claustrophobe, it might seem a strange thing for me to agree to do. My family thought so. Lucien joked on the way there that I was going to last five seconds inside the room before I freaked out, crashed through the door leaving a Mom-shaped hole as I yelled "See ya later, suckas!" and disappeared towards the horizon. I must admit I also thought that was the way it was gonna go down.

Our escape room scenario was a ski cabin buried by an avalanche. The production value was high in our tiny room with authentic log cabin walls, rumbling snow sound effects and a crackly fake fire in a potbelly stove. I did not freak out inside the room; it was actually kind of cozy to be in a little cabin full of ski equipment, of which I am very fond despite their cumbersome nature. It was like being surrounded by little old clomp clomp friends.

Coziness aside, that escape room was the hardest damn thing. Alex and I are not really puzzle people. I do not enjoy code breaking and have absolutely no patience for riddles. If someone presents me with a riddle, I am likely to say immediately, "I don't know, just tell me the answer, I'm not getting any younger here." 

We were so confused in that room, we kind of just wandered around and bumped into each other. We had to ask for many clues via walkie-talkie to the staff outside. At one point, we veered so solidly off reality's course, we decided we were supposed to pry off a couple of those authentic log cabin wall pieces using a wrench we'd found in a suitcase. To our credit, we checked with the walkie-talkie people before we began destroying the room. "Are we supposed to pry the boards off the wall?" The reply came quickly and a little panicked, "No, no, please don't do that." 

Keeping everyone on their toes, that's just what we do.

We didn't even come close to "escaping." If the escape room had been a marathon, we maybe made it to mile 7. And that's being generous. The staff reassured our bummed out family that we were not stupid, that in fact the "Buried Cabin" was one of the two hardest rooms they had, with only a 20% success rate. I wish we would have known that earlier. We might have chosen the "abducted by pirates" scenario instead, the beginner level room with a 90% success rate. We probably still would have considered ripping the walls apart, though. 

Bye, Whistler. We loved everything about you except for the Shit 2 Pants gondola. That thing is insane.

In closing, a technology story. Alex is a big fan of the Amazon Echo device, nicknamed "Alexa." We have several Echos around the house. We have one in the kitchen, one in the TV room, and one in the master bedroom. This is too many Alexas, in my opinion.

I hate Alexa. I do not find Alexa helpful. Every time I try to ask her something, she usually tells me she doesn't understand me or she can't help me with that information. I mean come on, Alexa, how hard is it to tell me how many nickles it would take to fill a human stomach? (Lucien had a unit on measurement for homework and we got weird with it.)

Alex sometimes uses his Echo device to search for movies for us to watch at night. He asked Alexa for information on I, Tonya and instead of giving us info about the movie, Alexa said, "OK. Here is your short bedtime story about the magic meatball" and began reading to us from some whacked out kids book. I laughed and laughed but Alex just looked annoyed. He always takes it personally when Alexa lets him down.

Ever since that night, as Alex talks to Alexa in our bedroom about setting his alarm for the A.M., I yell behind him, "Hey Alexa, tell me more about that magic meatball" and I'll be damned if Alex still doesn't look annoyed. Come to my side, man, it's so fun to hate that thing.

See ya later, suckas.
*Mom-shaped hole in the door*