International Women’s Day, Smashed Dreams, and Healing Years of Abuse…Against My Kitchen

I obviously started this post a while ago, when it was International Women’s Day.  And wouldn’t you know it, I procrastinated and waited and waited and waited and now it’s a month later.  It’s all still relevant, though, so I’m just going to go with it.

As the title implies, I’ve got a couple of non-sequitur topics about which I want to write something at the moment.  I want to update you on the progress of floor removal in our kitchen, but first I’d like to address the elephant in the room about which everyone is suddenly talking: the place of women in our society.

This past International Women’s Day drew more attention than any other in recent memory.  Well, serious attention, that is; seems everyone figured out last year that wearing comically large genitalia on your head was not exactly a precursor to serious discussion.  There has been so much positive traction and momentum in the advancement of civil rights and equality as of late, and I am ecstatic.  Sexual misconduct is not so readily brushed aside, people are talking about disparities in income and opportunities, and women are rising to new professional heights.

And I am excited not because I can look forward to an improvement in my own station; I am a white man.  I am already doing all right on that front.  I am ecstatic because just two years ago I was afraid of the world into which I brought a daughter.  I thought I was going to have to teach her to be ever-aware of her surroundings, skeptical of friendly faces and careful of those less-friendly, and always on guard for the next person who would take advantage of her or make her feel small, ugly, or worthless.  Now, it seems optimism is winning over apprehension.  I don’t think I will have to focus only on teaching her about toughness and fortitude anymore, but will need to prepare her to take the reins.  The stage is being set for our daughters to rise to new heights and flex their beautiful muscles in ways that were, just yesterday, little more than dreams.

Now, boys will still be boys (and I vividly remember what it was like to be the sum total of amped-up hormones and endless nervous energy as a teen), and scum will still gather and float all over society, so she will definitely still learn how to take care of herself (there’s a local MMA place that will pick kids up from school and take them to train… WAY better than daycare!).  Don’t get me wrong.  I haven’t suddenly been baptized in a wellspring of faith in humanity, so it’s not like I’ll send her off blind into the mosh-pit of life.  People are still sketchy, and I am still acutely aware of their sketchiness.

I am just allowing myself a greater degree of optimism as it pertains to the places she might fly when she leaves the nest one day… one day in the very, very distant future.   Like, maybe even thirty or forty years in the future.  Eventually, if she leaves the nest, something she should feel absolutely no pressure to do whatsoever, but if she does, she can go higher and further than ever before possible.  I think that is awesome.

The Renovations

Our first weeks of really getting after the improvements have been going well.  As it turns out, it really isn’t that difficult to tear up linoleum from cement.  People just complain a lot about it.  The top layer of the flooring peels up pretty easily, leaving its paper contact layer and adhesive underneath.  The adhesive left on the concrete can then be removed with really hot water and a scraper.  Easy peasy.

At least, that is what I really wanted to be able to write at this juncture.

In actuality, the adhesive is a tremendous ass pain to get up from the concrete, particularly when the concrete is not exactly a smooth plane to begin with.  The glue holding the linoleum in place basically pooled in the grooves left behind by whatever float, comb, scraper, or jagged ragged stick that was used when the foundation was poured.  Seriously.  Underneath the linoleum it looks like whomever poured it then sat on his heiny and scooted across the floor to level it out like a dog wiping its ass on carpet.  #lessthanstellarjob.

It takes some time and effort, but time and effort don’t cost a dime.  Well, at least effort doesn’t cost a dime.  Time is free-ish, but it does not come in abundance to a small family with two little people, a 24/7 on-call civilian job, a part-time military obligation that sometimes ends up being slightly more than part-time, university, and a start-up side hustle.  We try and make the most of the time we’ve got.

And as it happens, we don’t have much time at all.  Here it is one month (maaaaaayyyybe a little more than a month) after I started writing this post, and I’ve got maybe 30% of the floor scraped and prepped for some sealant.  In my defense I also had arthroscopic surgery in one shoulder at the end of March… an event that deserves its own post when considering how in-tune little kids are to us parents when we are in pain.

Currently:

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We decided on no stain for the bare concrete.  It’s easy enough to go back and add some color later on, but it would be a nightmare to try and re-stain concrete if we wind up not happy with the color.  We’d likely have to lay down an epoxy finish or just do all-new flooring, so we will begin with a little caution and take baby steps toward the end product.

Now, I know just one week ago (plus one month, sheesh) I conceded, in writing, to using an all-in-one counter-top refinishing kit… but hear me out.  I had to at least try on my own, you know what I mean? Of course you do!

I took one corner of the counter and vacated it of all devices.  I then applied several coats of white patio/garage floor paint.  It is supposed to cure into a very durable surface that is not as prone to chipping or cracking, but I guess we will see.

In retrospect I should have peeled up the rough black paint left by the previous owners to restore a mostly-smooth finish.  On the other hand, I spared myself from having to see whatever it was they were trying to hide in the first place.

In the interest of total disclosure… I actually started this when we first moved in back in January, I just never finished it.  By now, I imagine the paint is probably completely cured.  This is important if you are going to apply a finish with solvents that could wreak havoc on uncured paint, like lacquer.  On the other hand, if you like the texture of alligator skin then have at it.  Slap on some lacquer and let it do its thing.  You’ll have a non-slip counter in no time.

I opted for my favorite finish.  I applied several coats of full-gloss polyurethane over the paint to form a filmy protective layer that would add some sheen, but not before researching the potential for contamination by the toxic chemicals found in polyurethane.  Even though it might actually help them to last for quite a while longer and protect them from the elements, no one actually wants polyurethane in their peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches, right?

Well, I was glad to learn that most of the toxins are actually contained in the solvents used to maintain polyurethane’s liquid form during application.  After these solvents evaporate, the polyurethane starts to cure by cross-linking molecules and forming a nearly-solid blanket of plastic.  Now, I would not recommend preparing foods directly on the counters to begin with, regardless of the finish, but should someone do so, and also happen to peel up the polyurethane finish and embed a slice of it deeply into a chicken leg, I am confident that it will only kill the taste of the poultry and not the person doing the tasting.

If it cures well, looks good, and will stand as an acceptable interim counter-top finish, then I will do the rest of the counters identically and save about $190.

Why waste a ton of cash on cheap paper cabinets?  A polished-up doodie, after all, is still just a doodie.  That’s my two cents.

ONE MONTH LATER: polyurethane was a bad idea.  It yellows predictably when it gets too much sun, but it yellows disgustingly so on white countertops.  It looks like my counters are glazed with plastic urine. My mistake.  At least now I know that the all-in-one stuff is worth a try.

So much more has changed in the past month that I will need to do a follow-up relatively soon.  Like, within the week.  That is my intent, even if it never materializes.

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DIY Kitchen Redux

The title should probably also have read something about being cheap AF, also, but I decided on brevity.  Pick a room in our new house, and it needs some work.  I work beyond full-time, earning less than I need, so it almost goes without saying that repairs need to be cheap AF.  I want to begin in the room that is truly the most horrendous, which would be any one of our 2.5 bathrooms.  Seriously.  I’ve seen cleaner toilets in third-world countries, and that is not even hyperbole.  To date, we’ve tried bleach, scouring scrub, soaking bubbles, and a pumice stone to try and chisel away years upon years of accumulated… mineral content.  Let’s just go with mineral content. Continue reading “DIY Kitchen Redux”

Our little ghost boy

It’s been just over two years since we became parents.  In that time we have watched our little girl turn into one of the most sassy little angels on the face of the planet.  We have documented just about everything she does, from giggling to walking our dog.  There must be a few thousand photos of her in my iCloud account, alone.  Multiply that by about another 1,000 times and you’ve still got just the tip of the mountain of baby girl memories captured by family members over the past two years.  Seriously.  She’s like a minor celebrity.

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Our little angel at her second birthday party

We have a son, too, you just might not be able to figure that out by looking through our photos.

In fact, we held our daughter’s second birthday party just one month before my son turned one.  We rented a pavilion by a small lake at a park and invited family.  It was not a huge deal, but it was something, and we got loads of photos from the event.

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Deer-shaped cookies, a deer cake, deer artwork, and a big ol’ floating 2. 

Just one month later on my son’s first birthday, New Year’s Eve, we did nothing.

In fact, I think we were asleep by 9 o’clock.  Poor little guy didn’t even get a cake.

 

Of course, part of the reason behind this was that we had just moved into a new house.  We closed on the 22nd of December, but allowed the sellers to stay in the house through Christmas so they wouldn’t have to spend Christmas in a hotel room (I know, I know. We’re practically ready to be canonized for our generosity).  This pushed back our move-in date to just before our son’s big number 1, and we were exhausted.

 

Sorry, bud, but at least you have a new house?

At any rate it is a house that has much, MUCH better insulating properties.  We’re actually able to keep it above 60 in the winter now, so you’re welcome for not needing to worry about hypothermia anymore, little guy.  Happy birthday.

(Aside: while the insulation might be much more effective, just about everything else is going to need replacing/updating in the near future.  Stay tuned as we post about redoing our home on a shoestring budget, most likely fueled partly by need and the rest by Pinterest)

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Little guy, sometime somewhere after his first birthday… we think.

What really kills me about this is his persistent happiness.  I thought our little baby bird was a sweetheart, but it turns out I had no idea what a sweetheart really is until my little boy came along.  He is all smiles, all the time.  He coos, he giggles, and he lights up when he sees me.

And just look at that f**king dimple!

What kind of parents would let such a kid breeze right past his first birthday without so much as a smash cake?

In our case, the kind that want to overturn mountains in order to correct such an oversight.

While I believe that the willingness to work hard for everything is a value that must be learned and appreciated, I also believe that entering adulthood under a mountain of debt is not exactly the best way to get started.  Our currently accepted debt-funded college approach to releasing our children from our homes into the real world is just unreal and unsustainable.  What a ridiculous way to set our kids up for a miserable life of indentured servitude, right out of the starting gate.

So while I think that nothing should just be handed out, lest we raise a generation of sluggish leeches, I also believe that a firm foundation is a necessary part of a peaceful and rewarding life.  I’ve been meaning to write a more intensive post on the importance of saving for college/trade school/a house, but as go first birthdays, so also goes the actual writing of an intended post: prioritized somewhere behind sleep.

If you are a friend or family member and you want to throw down on some shared-guilt gifts for a sweetheart’s much-belated first birthday, you are most certainly welcome to do so.  If not, don’t worry about reading on.  The post pretty much ends right about… now.

Continue reading “Our little ghost boy”

All While Liberating Atropia

I spent the first part of my military career on active duty, single and without children. Time spent deployed was an opportunity to set aside cash that would have been otherwise spent on vodka and rent (in that order), so I viewed it as a kind of positive thing. The deployment itself almost always sucked, but I did not have anything waiting for me at home except for my two pups, and I could always be sure that they would be happy as hell when I got home and forgive me for ever leaving them at my mother’s place for so long (note: this is a tall order. If someone ever left me at the mercy of my mother for that long I would dis-own/embowel them, and it would probably be followed by a rash of structure fires). I knew that it must have been hard for the fathers and mothers with whom I was serving to leave their families at home, but I could never fathom just how difficult something like that could be until I started a little family of my own.

Continue reading “All While Liberating Atropia”

My Little Angel

I had to spend most of last week and the weekend away for various reasons, and it always pains me a little to leave behind such a critical piece of who I now am.  The day after I left, my wife had over some family members to keep her company, one of whom is actually an amazing photographer and graphic designer.  So what did they do? An impromptu photo shoot.

Getting pictures like this when I’m on the road gets me fired up and ready to take on the world.  Just figured I’d take this opportunity to share my happiness with you.

These are actual photos taken of my heart.

Photo credits go to Raquel Miqueli of @raquelmiquelidesign

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Racist Parenting

One of my only memories that ring crystal-clearly in my head is one of total intolerance.  It actually comprises two separate events, but they are so closely related that I cannot think about one without thinking also about the other.  The details are foggy.  I can’t recall if it was my birthday, or some such other special occasion, but I had a group of classmates over to my home in Virginia.  I was in early grade school, but cannot remember which grade, either.  None of that really matters.  The point is, one of my friends was a black kid named Jared. Continue reading “Racist Parenting”

The Little Man

I wish I could begin this with something like “it was a dark and stormy night,” but truth be told I can’t remember what the temperature was like outside, or if it was even drizzling.  Chances are it was at least dark, because it was night time, but even on that note I cannot be 100% certain.  The reason for this is that my wife and I spent the first part of the evening in pain, tag-teaming the bathrooms in our home just a day after our little baby bird got the flu and erupted all sorts of fluids and chunks, some identifiable and some completely foreign, from both ends.  Apparently, it was our turn for this bug… and a whole lot more than some chunks was about to get erupted.  Continue reading “The Little Man”

The Cults of the Carrier

Reaching back to our introductory post on baby products:

Let’s start with baby carriers, around which seem to have sprung up a series of cults. My wife shows me photos all the time of the closets of some of these religious devotees. I’m talking entire closets dedicated to the same damn baby carrier, just in a multitude of patterns and colors.  In my mind, matching a baby carrier to your shoes or underwear, every single day, is just about as necessary as intentionally stubbing your toe in the middle of the night on your way to prepare a four-course midnight snack for your cat. It just isn’t. And it appears I am not alone in thinking this is a strange phenomenon. Continue reading “The Cults of the Carrier”

But, How?

We haven’t left our path to our baby bird’s conception a mystery, not at all. We’ve both written (here and here) about the trials and tribulations of infertility, quite openly. It took us almost two years, forgotten sums of money, and a team of dedicated medical professionals to turn our baby girl from a specimen container into a reality.
Which is why I was dumbfounded when, without all of the fanfare, planning, and preparation that she invested into breaking the news the first time, my wife woke me up by poking me in the chest with a positive pregnancy test. Continue reading “But, How?”