TOH Part 1

I am a month or so behind on documenting our move. This month has been a black hole of time and energy. I have lost weight from the constant business of moving into a new old home. We knew it would be work. We knew it would be a level of effort to bring it into the 21stcentury. We were correct.

Tom Hanks starred in a great movie called The Money Pit. A young couple buys a charming old home and it basically falls apart at every turn until their marriage is on the rocks, constant construction is the norm, and one of them has sex with a guy in the symphony. Our ongoing adventure has felt a little like that at times, minus the affair with a musician and marital issues. Consider the next few blogs a potpourri of those stories. I will call them This Old House Part x, or TOH for short.

Our first day was a whirlwind. We signed away our old home, bought our new one, and backed the moving van into the driveway. We walked to the front door, slid in the brass key, and turned right and left with the force of an industrial torque wrench. Nothing happened. The eons of patina that had built on the deadbolt held it steadfastly in place. No matter, there were two other doors. The carport door opened right up. On the counter was a bottle of champagne and a note wishing us well in our new home. The previous owners, Mr. Richard and Mrs. Kay, left a trinket treasure hunt for the girls all around the house. So far, they have located teacups, an old pen, a photo of Dr. Langdon, an arrowhead, a metal rose, and some blueprints.

Various friends and family members showed up to help us move and every one of them came at the exact right time. I can definitely say that we would not have survived this process without them. A special thanks to Familydoctormom and her husband for serving us the first ever meal in our new home. A delicious spread of Rock’n Dough pizza.



Lady Bug was the only one adequately prepared for this move. 

Supermom released the dogs to explore their new home and within thirty-five seconds, Jasper took a shit in the foyer. “Joy! Let me find those packed paper towels.” He has never had a poop issue in the house so I assume he was showing his displeasure from being in his box all day. The dogs’ potty issues would turn out to be a continuous theme. We were all accustomed to having a fenced backyard. I plan on fencing in a portion of our new one but it is further down the list.


It isn’t home if a dog or child hasn’t soiled it yet. 

Closer to the top of the list – a home for Bindi; our wallaby who is living in the basement at my mother’s house. We are making good progress in that area. When all is said and done I think racecars would be a cheaper hobby than our exotic rabbit deer. But again, I am ahead of myself.

There were some specific items we wanted to update. Item number one was carpet. The existing carpet was plush and dense but there is something about carpet that needs regular changing. My best guess is that the existing carpet had been in place since the 1980’s.

We got a price from a local company to put in some new flooring and one of the line items was “Removal”. I remembered that one of our dogs removed half a room of carpet in thirty minutes so I figured that would be an item that we could complete ourselves to save some money. I was right but my scheduling was ambitious. We agreed to the carpet installation on a Monday morning and we only had two days to get things ready.


So carpet over hardwood was a thing for a while. 

Nothing will make you feel more at home than getting down on hands and knees to pick out a billion staples with a pair of pliers. You learn a lot about a place. We found hardwood under the stairs. We found old water damage in Delaney’s bedroom. We found old termite damage in the master bedroom. Neither problem is currently active which is good to know also. The carpet installers spent two days getting our new floors in place. They did an excellent job and I bet they would have been fantastic at removal too.


Floor done. Walls next. 

My story from the Struggle Bus today is the story of our new dishwasher.

It all started one evening when I tried to cook a pizza. I turned on the oven and as it warmed I noticed a strange smell. A strong vaporous cloud that had hints of sweet, sour, and old grease. My first thought was from a few years back when a mouse made a home in the top of our stove. We turned off the oven and went on with life. I added the smell to the list of things to work on “later”. A day later I loaded up the dishwasher and started it on the normal cycle. I was impressed with the efficiency of the dishwasher because the outlet into the disposal only had a trickle of water during the pump-down cycle. Then, during the heat dry cycle, the strange smell returned. It was more overpowering from the dishwasher and we actually had to stay out of the kitchen for about half an hour. We had planned on appliances anyway so we purchased some a arranged to have them delivered a couple of days later.

On the day the appliances arrived we couldn’t start the install until that evening because of work and life. I tackled the dishwasher first because it would probably take the longest. A few wood screws were holding the dishwasher in place. I removed them and started to slide the unit out. The smell that rolled out from behind the dishwasher was familiar. All of the girls including Supermom gathered around to watch me work. When the dishwasher was about halfway out of the cabinet, something large and grey ran across my foot and under the stove. I let out a, “Oh holy fudge!” My audience didn’t see the rat so they asked, “What? What?!”. I said, “A rat” and they screamed and jumped up on whatever was close. It was so funny that I took out my phone and took a picture. While looking at my pictures I realized that Prima has the strongest survival instincts.


This is the face of a woman questioning all her previous life decisions. Notice Prima opening the window. That kid is gonna make it. 

So the smell was indeed a rodent living under the stove and pooping under the dishwasher. Our dishwasher was not a high efficiency model, the rat had eaten the drain hose completely in half. The water had been running out through a hole in the floor. Awesome.

I was standing in the kitchen with a dishwasher half in the floor and the knowledge that a large rat was under the stove. My choices seemed limited.

We built a barrier of foam boards that were supposed to be a multicultural market school project. I put on boots and got some gloves. I slowly slid the stove out from the wall. The space under the cabinet was open on both sides. I lowered my phone into the gap to take a picture so I could assess the situation at a safe distance.

Right side = no rat.

Left side = no rat.

Superhuman power of deduction… –> the rat is in the stove.

We lightly strapped the stove to the furniture dolly and moved it into the carport with all of the other abandoned appliances that I’m sure have convinced my neighbors that rednecks are taking over the neighborhood. I checked and rechecked all the possible rat entrance/exit locations and the stove was the most probable location. With it safely in the carport I went back to removing the dishwasher. The plywood was completely soaked with rat pee and sealed with a layer of turds. I poured an entire container of cat litter under the counter to try and pull out the moisture. I noticed a hole in the floor that was probably the entrance location. I also noticed that the dishwasher supply line wasn’t connected under the sink like most lines and that there was not a place to turn the water off. That means I couldn’t remove the old dishwasher without turning off the water and immediately reconnecting the new one. I grabbed a wrench and went to the water meter at the road. Somehow in the process of turning the water off I pulled a muscle that runs from just behind my right nipple to an area between my shoulder blades.

I went to Lowes and arrived ten minutes before closing time. I grabbed a few water line supplies and a tool to open and close the water meter valve. The perky checkout girl commented, “I hope you are having a great night!” I relied with, “Look sweetie, if someone is buying this assortment of items at 9:55pm and smells like the underside of a diaper… It is not a good night. It will not be a good night. It will be something they will survive at best. And my right nipple is numb so let’s just bag this up.”

I don’t think she expected such an overshare of information. I apologized for being grumpy and assaulting her with random facts about my nipple. I made my way back to the house to finish my rat cleanup and dishwasher install. The dishwasher had to sit outside the cabinet for two days while we dried and sanitized the floor. I bought a box of rat poison and placed a block under each cabinet and crammed a cube of it through the floor hole before sealing it off with expandable foam. With everything connected and cleaned I felt victorious. I had driven out the rat and reclaimed my kitchen.

A few days later we noticed a small odor. The next day the odor was a little stronger. Something like… dead rat?

Maybe that last angry block of poison I shoved through the floor hole landed in a family of rats and they were scattered around the crawl space like victims of mass murder. Slowly rotting and exacting the final revenge. I had to know so I removed several vents around the crawl space to look under the house. I could actually crawl under the house but that sounds terrible so I just looked from the sides. I saw a couple of large piles of poo that were from something larger than a rat. Definitely a predator. Raccoon or cat.

If any of my neighbors are missing a cat, I think I know what happened.

If you like a series of random events, this post is for you. I have several to work on; Wallaby House, Fun With Asbestos, Welcome to Mayberry, Renovation Realities, Dining Room Dreams. We are still excited about our home but it will continue to be an adventure for the foreseeable future. You’re welcome.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

Rat Race Resolutions

I call my children “rats” all the time. Lovingly of course. They complete simple tasks for rewards. I think at least three of them could complete a maze if they had to and they hide everything under their beds. Quick inventory of what was under the bunk bed after a one week time period; ¼ Brown Sugar Poptart, Barbie Head, Paci, Juice Cup with Chocolate Milk (Mocha Sour Cream now?), Threeto’s missing toothbrush, and one Pre-Screened Offer for FHA refinance curtesy of Obama something-or-other. Like I said, rats. They need to keep random things close and guarded as if they were important.

But as adults I don’t think we are any different. We are scurrying around for this or that every day. Maybe someone is looking down through the clouds and placing bets on who will chase what cheese the hardest. There was a dog in the neighborhood I grew up in that loved to chase cars. He would run as fast and as hard as he could until he reached the end of a chain that was bolted to the side of the house. I saw that dog hit the end of the chain so hard that he would do backflips. It had to be painful and I don’t know how it didn’t break his neck. Every time a new car came over the hill he was off to the races. Never learned.

The New Year is here and with it come the resolutions. The list is usually the same:

  1. Something Family
  2. Something Health
  3. Something Fitness
  4. Something Money
  5. Something Love and Heartbreak

All of it is aimed at increasing our “Happy”. If I had this or that then I would be happy. If my teeth were straight or I went to Disney Land. I talked some before Christmas about happy memories from childhood and the holidays. Outside of pictures I really don’t remember one thing that Santa brought me. I remember family and doing things.

So what is the chain or the link that gets us to the point of being so busy that seeing people and doing things is out of reach? For my family I think it is the work, eat, sleep, repeat cycle.

I value honesty but it stings when applied to close to home. If I were honest I think the whole cycle is ironic. We consider ourselves advanced in America because we have cell phones, central heating and air, television, internet, cars, and insurance for everything. We have convenience.

Of course, convenience is pricey. We have to work for all the handy things we love and that takes most of our time. I nice long workday with dinner, TV, and internet worked in leaves very little time for other things.

Cellphones let us sit and stare at what other people are thinking while they are sitting and staring at what people are thinking. Most of these people wouldn’t recognize us in public or acknowledge us but they are friends. But they have some funny cat pictures. Thank God we can share that cat picture.

Central Heat and Air makes us comfortable and I’m in no way condemning it but isn’t it funny that by getting our bodies used to 72 degrees year round we are probably creating health issues. How can your body get used to hot or cold if it never really feels it? It destroys my sinuses but I won’t change that either.

Television and internet are really the same category. They are visual Xanax. I have a DVR with a couple hundred episodes of shows that I want to watch but “not right now”. I have shelves of DVDs that I know we will never watch because while they were good the first time I don’t know that they are good enough for a second watch. Some DVDs still have plastic wrap and sometimes I get home with one that we already own. Talk about insanity.

Cars make it easy for us to travel long distances with hellish commutes. I know several people who work fifty or sixty miles from their homes. Cars make it easy to underestimate time and over schedule events.

We pay insurance for everything but not in the true sense of what insurance was intended to provide. A family insurance plan can cost upwards of $1,000 per month. That is $12,000 per year for what turns out to be checkups, colds, and minor infections. We have used ours for some big things but would the overall cost be better if we could bear the minor costs of going in for a cold? Fifteen dollars a month for phone insurance and then the benefit is a new phone for the low price of $200? If you don’t use it and go a full two years between contracts then that is $300 down the drain. Car insurance is a must because of lawsuits and dishonest people. Insurance on my video game purchase? That may be a little much Wal-Mart.

So we work hard and use the money for phones we don’t like to talk on, to sit in houses that keep us comfortable, so we can watch TV and internet during our only free time, and eat unhealthy food because we don’t have time or space for the real stuff, only to feel unfulfilled and unhealthy. We top it off with Gym memberships that we will never use to get the exercise that we never get from real life. And when we do get a holiday that we all agree should be a holiday we make it all about buying something so that it stresses us out and we enjoy the point of the holiday even less, in fact we dread them entirely. This is not just Christmas.

Valentines Day – Show me how much you love me by buying stuff. If marketing is supply and demand the people who thought up flowers during the coldest part of the year are idiots or geniuses.

Mothers/Fathers Day – How good of a parent am I? Show me by buying stuff. Not a tie either.

Mardi Gras – Party Holiday! Lets base a short term sexual economy around plastic bead necklaces. But for this to work we all need to be really really drunk. That way if we don’t remember it, it never happened. Plus the beads will be an indirect measure of boob attractiveness or how quickly you took off your shirt. Both are good indicators of whether or not to pursue further action.

St Patricks Day – Party Holiday! Green beer and mid-week hangovers!

Easter – People are treating Easter like Christmas part II. I saw a Facebook post last year where a little girl got a bike. Did the Easter bunny do some crank and steal Santa’s bag? And where did the bunny come from? Was he hiding in the tomb and got super powers from the radiant glow of Jesus’ resurrection. Is the Easter Bunny the first real world documentation of a Ninja Turtle scenario? Emerging from the tomb enlightened and determined to bring colored eggs and chocolate to all the Christian households of the world. Like turndown service in a hotel but with baskets and only for Christians on a certain day of the year.

Cinco de Mayo – Misrepresented as Mexican independence day, the southern US celebrates beer and bad decisions in what is a mini-Mardi Gras.

Halloween – This is a cool holiday. I got nothing here. It is candy and pretending to be something else. That’s what this whole society is about so at least Hallowen doesn’t deny that.

Thanksgiving – A shotgun start to Christmas. Sales have moved the holiday to Wednesday and Thursday lunch. Maybe the first time in history that consumerism for one holiday shifted another. Which brings us to….

Christmas – Show me how much you love me by buying stuff. Thoughtful yet in the proper price range and as much as others with my similar social standing. Dinners, decorations, and time give way to the checklist. We have trips limited to the time it takes to exchange stuff. I love giving and receiving but the “have to” kills me. I really feel guilty about the whole thing because I never feel I give enough and I always feel that I receive too much. I would much rather avoid the whole thing. Hell, it is scheduled in the dead middle of the North American flu, cold, and stomach virus season. A guaranteed annual event that probably kills as many family members as unvaccinated people do when they allow old diseases to return so that their child isn’t subject to the unbearable statistical possibility that they will have an adverse reaction to something that is safer than the car ride to the office where you get the shot. A month later they go see Grandma at a holiday gathering with a kid who is “probably just teething” and in reality is spewing flu-bola on the elderly. That may be Grammy’s last Christmas but at least she got to see those precious petri-dish kids.

What would the world look like if we put up Christmas lights like normal and then every other night we could visit or have visitors over for Hot Chocolate or Beers. Just a couple of hours with no activities in mind. Hey how are you? How’s life? Maybe coordinate some alternating work weekends where we help each other with some type of tasks that would be easier with extra laborers. Maybe just a trip to cut a tree or see a decorated park. Piss on this shopping crap. Kohl’s is the worst offender. Double price with a 45% markdown and 10% Kohls Cash. I have no feel for if I am loosing or not because all of the prices are cheaper at Wal-Mart. Click it on Amazon and let Prime shipping work it out.

Where do you think society is going? Things getting better? Things getting worse? In all of 2014, in the madness and hustle do you remember even one moment of being in the present? Just a memory where you weren’t distracted and you enjoyed what was in front of you without thoughts about the rest of the world? Maybe twice for me but that is about it.

My true worry is our children. They watch more than we think and just seeing the reasoning and the obsession with pleasing and obeying tradition at every turn is something that you never have to speak about and they will do the exact same thing. When we have a heated discussion about not having enough money at the holidays we just teach them that they have to participate and presents get priority at the holidays. I want to figure out one of two things. A) How to be happier about doing it all or, B) Find a way to do things differently that makes everyone happier.


What do you guys do for holidays that are different? It can be any holiday. They are important to remember and spend time. Fathers Day? Fourth of July? Any cool alternative traditions that I can hijack next year and use as my own?

-Underdaddy to the Rescue.