Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Spring Break in Metro East

This last weekend was the end of the kids' (and Kimberly's) spring break. So, to celebrate, we spent a long weekend in the Metro East area (that's the Illinois side of the St. Louis area). Owen mostly just wanted to play with 20-30 year old Legos. Jonathan mostly wanted to play with Owen. Ethan wanted to bike. Aidan wanted to ride his scooter.

On Friday we headed off to the City Museum (our newest St. Louis-area membership). If you haven't been there, you have to go. It doesn't matter if you have kids or not. It's awesome for anyone ages 2-35. If you're past 35, you 're likely to get winded and sore knees. This was the first time we've taken the kids without an extra family member, so the adult/kid ratio was < 1. The kids enjoyed getting to climb outside for the first time since the fall. We had a great day, but we were beat by the time we got home to eat a little Alfonso's Pizza (Kimberly's personal favorite).

Ethan swinging in the skate park

On Saturday, my parents joined us and we went to the St. Louis Science Center to see Sue before she left. The kids had a good time, but they were a little more antsy than on Friday. The little kids had lots of fun in the Discovery Room. Owen and I made a jump with the marble run. Sue was cool (I learned that dinosaur exhibits are usually just casts of the skeletons and they keep the real bones locked away in a secret lair). The little boys made baby dinosaur hatchlings.

Sue about to bite my head off

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Ah...The Open Road

Yesterday was the first outdoor cycling day of the season for me. Between kids and commuting, I find it difficult to find time to ride, other than in the morning. Unfortunately, it's still too dark to do that safely, so I've been riding the trainer in the basement for the last few weeks. Despite the torture, I'm definitely in better shape than usual. Yesterday's ride was one of the most pleasant "first rides" in recent memory. Being able to walk this morning just further supported that observation.

I enjoyed a quick 25-mile loop through Fairmount, past Jamaica (township, not independent island country), and back through Homer. It's still gray and brown for the most part, but the air is much fresher than that in our basement. The jury is still out about a follow-up ride today. Painting must be completed first.

Aidan and I also enjoyed getting out our kite yesterday for the first time. It was a lackluster kite day (directly improving the quality of the aforementioned bike ride). However, Aidan was very patient waiting for the wind gusts. He's quite the kite flyer. Unlike with his brothers, I did not have to run across the field to fetch any "released" kites.

Mr. Mom (The Conclusion)

Well, I survived.

There were no major mishaps, and I ended the week with the same number of kids that I started with!

It sure is lonely when no one is around our house. Since the kids spent the latter half of the week in Mattoon, I was all alone. Very quiet. It's a good thing I had painting to do (and Civilization to play), or I might not have been able to occupy my time.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Mr. Mom (Day 3)

Well, I've accomplished my first two goals: no broken children during our first two days, and no broken children after a full day of school!!!

The boys are having fun in the nice weather. They get to play outside after dinner way later than Mommy would ever let them! Owen didn't want to play outside tonight, so he went to play with Legos upstairs. After a while, Ethan came in to get Owen and they both went bounding outside. It was the first day of the season for the Gator, who's battery is getting sadder and sadder.

Unfortunately, the current woodworking score is: Entertainment Center (2), Jonathan (1). My hopes of quickly finishing the finish were dashed last night when priming one unit required nearly 3 hours. Tonight was awash after folding clothes and packing overnight bags for the boys. Maybe I'll make headway tomorrow...

Here's a picture of one side before applying any finish:

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Mr. Mom (Day 1)

So it begins... Kimberly left early this morning for her week-long work trip to the West. I'll have the boys to myself for most of the week. Fortunately, it's nice outside, so we won't be cooped up inside all week.

I have three goals for the week:
1) make it through the first 8 hours with no broken kids. (Kimberly had been gone <8 hours in the fall when Owen broke his leg).
2) make it through the first 8 hours of school on Tuesday with no broken kids. (See #1 above)
3) finish the trim , paint, and lacquer on Kimberly's entertainment center. If this is not done when she returns, I dare not think of the consequences.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Fun Mac Mod

After peeling away my crazy dad exterior, you'd find my inner home renovator. After peeling that away, most of what is left is geek. So, while browsing Slashdot (for which I have 5 moderator points to go use up) yesterday, I stumbled over this fun MacBook mod (that's modification for those not hardware-inclined).

I enjoyed the Slashdot comments about how pointless this is and how it doesn't make anyone more productive. Who cares? My favorite part of Macs (other than being UNIX-based) is that their design is fun. This mod just makes them that much more fun. Perhaps while Kimberly's gone this week, I'll go drop $3k on a new MacBook Pro so that I can dismantle it. Warranty void if broken.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Monster, Monster, Monster!

Saturday night was the annual Monster Nationals monster truck show at Assembly Hall. Since I haven't seen the show since college (think Jet Powered Quad Bike and Bicycle Extreme Team), I thought it was time that the boys have some exposure to Midwest culture. Ethan, Owen, and I had great row 5 seats in B section on the side.

I remembered to buy ear plugs for all of us, but in a classic move, I left them in the car. The boys quickly learned to plug their own ears. Of course, they were mostly interested in getting a snack, but I said that had to wait for intermission. The beginning of the show was a lot of talking and revving of alcohol-fueled engines. However, as soon as the first truck launched off of the junk cars into a monster wheelie, Owen practically jumped out of his seat screaming with excitement -- mission accomplished.

There was no jet-powered quad bike, but there was a jet-powered golf cart that heated up the entire arena. That was sweet! Intermission included a pretzel, popcorn, and soda, so Ethan's mission was accomplished. The second half of the show dragged on a little as the trucks raced across the cars. However, the second half did include a (lengthy) show by Megasaurus! This was of course Owen's favorite part. It was quite enjoyable to watch the hydraulic jaws literally tear a car in half.


When we got home, Owen and Ethan didn't think it would be a very good idea to crush Mommy's van with my own monster truck (as Owen refers to my Jeep). I'm guessing that we'll be revisiting the Monster Nationals in the future.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Tripping The Dad Fantastic

On Saturday, Ethan had his final 1st/2nd grade youth basketball game of the season. They made it "fancy" by having it in the afternoon, rather than the morning. They did player introductions using spotlights while the big lights were out. They had a "real" referee. The teams had chairs for the bench instead of sitting on the stage.

Ethan was much more active than he usually is during the game. I think he's finally getting the feel for moving around and trying to get the ball. He made baskets on two back-to-back possessions. I think those are the first he's made since the first game of the season. I believe his 3 baskets tops my 0 baskets during my one basketball season as a 6th grader. It was really exciting to see him make some plays, as you can see in this video:

We were also lucky to have Ethan's Great-Grandpa Morrison be able to see him play. Grandpa was in Homer (where he spent most of his life) visiting for the weekend, so he couldn't miss a visit to the Homer Old Gym!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Well Enema

This last fall we had our well run dry three times. Usually, this happens about once a year. We're not real sure what happened, but it was probably the confluence of a dry fall and Owen learning to use the toilet, hourly. We also ran out of water Christmas week. That time, we might have just had a frozen pipe. Needless to say, we've been real conservative with our water usage since then. However, we didn't move out here to use less water. So...

My grandfather had mentioned that the last time he pulled the pump out of the well, there was 6-8 feet of gunk in the bottom and the pump wouldn't go all the way back in. So, we thought maybe the well needed to be cleaned out to have a little more capacity, and maybe open the bottom back up, where the water's supposed to come in from the limestone.

It's taken 2 months to find someone who provides this service, get our schedules to match up with the weather, and get the health department to clear him to work on our well that has a well pit (which is no longer kosher with health code). He came out today to flush the well out for the first time in the 60 years since it was put in.

Well pit. I put in the red tank and associated newer plumbing in during a snow storm a couple of years ago after the original pressure tank (lower left) sprung a leak.

After pulling the top off the pit and pulling my pump (>15 years old) out of the well, he did some tedious measurements and pumping with his own pump to measure the well levels. Most of the water seemed to be coming out of the soil, rather than out of the limestone. Then, he put some massive 6" PVC together and stuck it onto the top of the casing (top right in the picture). Then, he fed some 2" rigid PVC all the way to the bottom and pumped ~1200 gallons down in there to loosen up and float out all the gunk. Mostly what came out was gray shale drill cuttings that have washed into the well over the years. Some rust came up as well.

Our well pump and it's 60 feet of pipe.

This rust stuff flushed out first. This is why our filters clog up so fast.

Mostly, this stuff came out. It's all tiny little pieces of clay-like shale that had washed into the well over the years. The water eventually became clear, for those who have drunk water at our house.

Next came more tedious measurements that seemed to indicate that we had revived some of the limestone supply. The well seemed to be constantly producing ~5 1/2 gallons per minute, after pumping several hundred gallons to dissipate the water in the soil. The well guy thought that was an impressive number for our well and is probably about as much as our plumbing can handle anyway.

Finally, he put our pump back in, and we cleaned up the untidy wiring that was in the pit. Now, we should be able to "pump the hell out of it."

Monday, March 2, 2009

Ski Trip 2009

This past weekend was the annual Ashbrook ski trip. This annual event involves staying with my brother in Dubuque, IA and visiting local ski "hills." This usually includes my siblings (and significant other(s)) and my dad (so that we have someone to get injured). I was extra excited this year to take Ethan with us as well. He was excited to miss two days of school!

We drove to Dubuque on Thursday through dense fog the entire trip. We had planned to do a little skiing on Thursday afternoon, but the pouring rain put the brakes on that. Instead, Nick and I took Ethan to see Coraline.

On Friday we headed across the river to Chestnut Mountain in Galena. I started off with Ethan on the bunny hill. By the third time down, he went down without falling. Of course, the rope tow was a fun adventure. After a little lunch Ethan headed off to Powder Ranger school for the afternoon. Nick, Grace, and I hit the big kid slopes while Dad and Chelsea learned to snow board on the bunny slope (suckers). Conditions were much better than we were expecting thanks to cold air and a warm sun. There wasn't a crowd either, so there was no waiting in lift lines. When I picked Ethan up, the first thing he said was "Hey, can we go ski some more?" Mission accomplished! I took him down the bunny hill a couple times and then he decided he was ready for the real hill. After a couple of great trips down the long green trail, he was done for the day. Mom came along and made us some great white chili in Nick's apartment.

Saturday morning, we got up extra early and hopped in our cars for the two hour drive to Cascade Mountain north of Madison. For anyone who's driven I94 up there, Cascade is the ski place right next to the Interstate. They had a little more real snow, and a bright sun again, so snow conditions were fantastic (not as nice as when Chelsea, Brett, Aimee, and I had when we drove up for the day in 2003?). Unfortunately, the Saturday crowd created moderate lift lines. Ethan was ready for the big time after one trip down the bunny slope (and an interminable wait for the bunny chair lift). He was a bit shocked at the speed of the quad chair lift, but he took it in stride. After his first green run, he wanted to know when he could do a blue trail. By the end of the morning, we took him down the Manitou (which was actually marked as a black Super Park on the big maps). It was pretty steep for a little guy, but he loved it. By the end of the day, he'd done all of the blue trails at least once. His favorite was a flat, twisty, and icy trail through some trees called Glades. When we told him it was time for the last run, he was sad that he could not do a black for the final run! While we took turns skiing with Ethan, we all (including Dad and Chelsea who had skis) enjoyed doing all of the various black (not really very black) runs. We finally called it quits around 6 and started the 2 hour trip back. We had a late (9:30) dinner at Salsa's in Dubuque. Ethan and the rest of us were all ready for bed after that!

Ethan ready for Powder Rangers

Ethan taking a break on Old Main

Ethan and Grandpa waiting in line at Cascade

Ethan sizing up "Manitou" at Cascade.