Archive for February, 2009

Chemistry is evil

Or so says Josiah.  He has been challenged in this course, and I think it’s largely because his math skills are not at the level he needs in order to do the work easily.  Then again, there’s always that pesky matter of significant figures – something I myself have a hard time understanding.  We call them sig figs for short, and we all (Jessica, Josiah, and I) hate them.

Now I am faced with a real dilemma on Josiah’s grades.  Since I lost all his school records for the past year and a half, I either need to guess at what his scores for were for the first nine chemistry modules, or have him retake the tests.  I think he would totally freak out if I asked him to do that, BUT he would probably make higher scores than he did the first time around.

Decisions, decisions. . .

Used car salesman and keys

So, if he didn’t work as a missionary and a software design consultant, it’s good to know my husband could succeed in yet another profession.

Four days ago, around noon on Saturday, we put “for sale” signs in the windows of our red van and parked it next door (at the defunct Mexican restaurant).   When there were no calls on it by supper time, Scott decided to move it to Wal-Mart – or more accurately to MC Sports, which adjacent to the Wal-Mart parking lot.

At 2:00 PM Sunday, we signed the title over to a man who paid our asking price in cash.  His wife had seen it while shopping at Wal-Mart that night and had begged him to go look at it at MIDNIGHT!  He called us at 8:30 AM and we met him after church.

With the sale of the red van (eleven years old and 196K miles), the net cost of our new van (only eight years old and I think about 92K miles) is less than $1500, and we still have another van to sell!  If  Scott gets his asking price on that one, the new one will be free or very close to it, even after having had a trailer hitch installed on it and two new keys made for it.

The Mazda came with only one key, and it’s one of those new-fangled ones that can’t be duplicated.  It has some computer chip (or something) embedded into it, and the only way to get an extra key is to take it to a Mazda dealer (Springfield), and have them make a template ($100) and use the template to make however many more keys you want ($70 each).

Scott’s Honda has the same kind of key arrangement.  I have been asking for two years for a key to that car.  It’s not that I want to drive the Honda; it’s just that sometimes for various reasons I need to.  That key request has gone unfulfilled, but with all three of us needing to drive the van from time to time, My Hero splurged on not one but two extra keys.  The female drivers in the family feel honored, and we will be VERY careful not to lose those keys!

I took a shower today


Overall, it was a nice shower; more so because I didn’t have to go up to the attic to take it.  That master bath concept is truly great.  There were a couple down sides – I wasn’t ready for how hard the water came out and inadvertently sprayed the back wall, which ran out onto the bathroom floor; and it’s quite dark in there, which makes shaving a little challenging – but I am pleased.

Now we are down to figuring out how to organize (or maybe simply toss) all our junk and deciding which color bathroom rug we want.  Decisions, decisions.

Turkey in your tote bag

Today was the day we picked up our new van!  This brings our total vehicular count back up to six:  three vans and three cars for a mere four drivers.  = )  However, we plan to give and/or sell the two extraneous vans soon, which would put us back at two cars and a van at home, plus one car with Katie at college.

In order to procure the new van, we had to go to Ozark, where it was being serviced and inspected at Economy Tire, which would close at 5:00 PM.  We go through Ozark on our way to church in Springfield – Ozark being at about the halfway point – so that would have been no big deal.  We planned to leave home at 3:30, get the new van out of hock, take it to the Wal-Mart parking lot in Ozark, and go on to Springfield, where we would shop at Sam’s, shop at Aldi, go to the library, eat supper at Arby’s, and go to church.  After church, we’d retrieve the new van on the way home.

However, when I called at 3:00 to see if the van was ready, it was not, and it either would or would not be ready by 5:00.  They’d call me.  So we left at 3:30 as planned.  Now IF Economy called while we were on the road in Springfield, we’d have to leave town by 4:40 at the latest in order to get back to Ozark to pick up the van by 5:00.  You see, if we left it till Thursday, Jessica and I would have to go get it then, and neither of us really has time on Thursday to do that.  We much prefer to cram all our running into Wednesday.

All of that meant that we needed to do our Sam’s and Aldi very quickly, lest Economy should call.

Sam’s was short and sweet; just sausage biscuits and Swiss cheese.  The kids ran and got the groceries while I stood around, was beautiful, and wrote the check.

Arriving at Aldi at 4:25, Jessica and I planned to run in and get out fast.  But neither of us had a quarter!  Years ago, I used to keep a bit of change in the van’s nifty coin holders, but someone whose name starts with A and ends with W used to steal them.  Hence, no loose change in the van, and though  I had bills in my wallet I was changeless.  Neither Josiah nor Andrew had a quarter, either.  You see, at Aldi, the carts are stored kind of like luggage carts are in some airports.  You have to have a quarter to get a cart unchained, and then when you put it back, you get a quarter back.

We looked at each other and wondered how on earth we’d carry all our Aldi through the store and back out to the van without a cart.  But Jessica, ever Miss Resourcefulness, dumped all her books and papers out of her navy blue tote bag and said, “We can use this!”  Well, there certainly wasn’t anything else to use, so we ran in.  Her tote bag is maybe 12″ wide by 14″ tall by 4″ deep.  We needed about four flats of canned goods and ten pounds of ground turkey!

We stacked our canned goods on a closed checkout belt and Jessica took the tote bag over to frozen meat.  As we reconvened at the checkout and she dumped the one-pound rolls of turkey onto the belt, I said, “Turkey in your tote bag!”  And she said, “THAT’S a blog title!

Economy called as we were checking out.  We managed to haul all the groceries out to the van, we got back to Ozark at 4:55, we paid for and abandoned the new van, we went to the library, we met Scott at Arby’s for a quick supper, we got to church, we picked up the new van, and Jessica drove it home – plateless and without being stopped by the cop in the ditch just north of Highlandville.  Whew!

Moving forward

It appears that my recent hard drive reformat has resulted in the loss of most things from August 2007 to the present (February 2009).  That would be a year and a half of my life.  A year and a half of pictures (although thankfully I had managed to get some of those stored online).  A year and a half of school records.  A year and a half of ministry paperwork.  There aren’t a lot of silver linings, but one is that our family financials and our ministry financials were not stored in “My Documents” and were therefore not backed up with the dreaded Windows Backup Utility.  They both seem to be fine.

I will be fine, too.  I am quite tired of crying and being angry and frustrated.  Today Mr. A came to “finish the bathroom.”  It’s not done.  He’s coming tomorrow.  I am pretty sure it will be done before I turn 50.  That’s my new deadline.  If the bathroom is not done by then, I give myself permission to be angry and frustrated!

Today is Josiah’s birthday.  He’s 15, which means I will soon force him to get his learner’s permit and start driving.  It looks like he will learn to drive in a 2001 Mazda MPV!  It will be our youngest vehicle at only eight years old and sporting only 90-some thousand miles.  It is considerably smaller than our previous vans (the back seat offers Asian seating, which means that four average Asian males can fit comfortably on that seat – OR two pre-adolescent Americans can sit there if they first fold themselves in thirds and insert their knees in their ears), but we think it will be workable.  It will soon have a trailer hitch, as well.

We are all moving forward!

Beware the self-corrupting .bkf file!

First, the carpet is in and looks great.

Second, the bathroom is not done yet, but Mr. A will be here tomorrow to continue working.  So far, we’ve invested about 175% of the original estimated cost.

Third, the red van recently took to stranding Scott as well as me, so we are now in the process of buying a new van.

Fourth, my computer has been reformatted.  This should have been fairly straightforward, because I back up my files religiously.  Our whole family shares the external backup drive so it stays pretty full, and I have to keep dropping off my oldest backups.  I usually have three or four on there at any given time.  I did another backup right before wiping off my hard drive.  BUT, when we went to restore my files, it seems that ALL of my backups were corrupt.  For a significant fee, we were able to recover some of the files, but the critical (to me) stuff like most of my pictures and everything pertaining to the kids – including almost two years of school records – seem at this point to be lost for good.

Fifth, we rearranged our bedroom, and we think we like it, but we need to get a smaller bed.  We’re discussing the possibility of downsizing from a king to a queen.  Being in desperate need of a new mattress, we hope to come to an agreement sooner than later.

And just in case anyone missed it, NEVER USE THE WINDOWS BACKUP UTILTY TO BACK UP YOUR FILES – unless, of course you do it only for recreation and will never need to restore them.  = )

Out of the mouths of babes

It’s time to measure angles in Singapore math, and Andrew needed a protractor.  I though one would find such things in the pencils and rulers area at Wal-Mart, but not so.  Protractors are located with the crayons and art supplies.

Singaporean students must use mini protractors (4″ long at the base and solid, as opposed to the 6″ cutout American version) because the lines of all the angles in the book that Andrew needed to measure were way too short to reach the markings on the protractors we had around here.  I’m handing down our used math textbooks to another mom, so I really didn’t want to write in the book and extend all the lines.  At Wal-Mart, the only protractor I could find with degree markings on the inside edge of the cut out (which the book lines were long enough to reach as printed) came in a pouch with a matching compass.  That was okay.  He’d need a compass someday, too.

I put the packet on his desk and the next day he attacked angle measurements with a gusto.  That evening, out of the blue, he asked me a funny question.  Almost all of Andrew’s comments and questions have nothing to do with whatever is occuring at the time.  He’s very “stream of consciousness.”

“Mom, what’s that thing with the pencil and the dead pen that won’t write for?”

“Huh?  Do what?”

“You know, that orange thing that matches my protractor.  It has a little bitty pencil in it, but the pen won’t write at all.  I think it needs to be thrown out.”

“Ohhhhh!  THAT thing.  It’s called a compass, and it’s used to draw circles of various sizes.”

“Well, the pencil will work, but they gave us a dead pen.”

“That’s not a pen.  It’s a point that marks the middle of a circle.  When you need to use it for math, I’ll show you how it works.”

I thought the “dead pen” description was pretty unique.


At 9:00 AM today, the carpet installer called and said he could come do our job (Josiah’s room, Andrew’s room, our closet) about 6:00 PM tonight. This did throw us into overdrive.  Jessica and Josiah would be leaving at 11:00 AM and returning at 5:45 PM.  Scott was working in Springfield today.  Before the installers arrived, our closet would have to be emptied and its carpet pulled up and hauled out, all the furniture would need to be removed from Andrew’s room, and more sorting and discarding would have to happen in Josiah’s.  I had less than two hours of adolescent muscles available!

Jessica and Josiah working together managed to pull all the junk out of our closet (no small job!), remove and haul out the carpet and pad, and sweep the closet clean.  In under an hour.  Wow!  They also did a lot of the necessary decluttering of Josiah’s stuff, and I told them they could punt whatever academics they would have done this morning.

Andrew and I would sort and toss his stuff, move all his furniture out of his room, and get it swept.

I had a hair appointment today, also.  It was scheduled for noon, so I figured Andrew and I would leave at 11:45 AM for that.  At 10:40 AM, Andrew came to me and asked what time we’d be leaving for the hair cut.  I told him it was at noon, so we’d leave at 11:45.  He said my calendar said it was at 11:00 AM.  Surely not.  But yes, the calendar wouldn’t lie.  This was really lovely.  I had exercised but not yet showered, Jessica and Josiah were attempting to drag Josiah’s bed frame out onto the porch, and I needed to shower, get dressed, and leave in five minutes!

I managed to do it in nine.  I left with my hair sopping wet and wearing sandals, but we were only five minutes late.  Not too shabby, huh?

The afternoon was spent sorting Andrew’s massive cache of belongings into Put Away, Give Away, and Throw Away bags and then making every effort to move his furniture to Josiah’s room.  Some things are possible and some are not.  First we tried to move his dresser.  We slid it across his floor (scratching it, but who cares if you’re going to hide it under pad and carpet?) and out into the hall, but to get it on into Josiah’s room, we’d have to lift it over the tack strip in Josiah’s doorway, and we couldn’t do it.  With the dresser grounded thusly in the hall, there was no way to get Andrew’s bed out.

So. . . we moved the dresser back into Andrew’s room, and commenced with the bed.  We got the box spring off with much difficulty and dragged it into our room (which looks like a battle zone and had for five and a half weeks).  Next was the frame, and surely we could just lift it and carry it into Josiah’s room.  Their doorways are on opposite sides of the hall, but offset from each other by a few inches.  They are both at the end of the hall, where the attic stairs go up.

Now, I am not TOTALLY ignorant when it comes to the geometry and physics of furniture relocation.  Realizing that the hunking heavy wooden frame was obviously wider than the doorway, I thought we could stand it on its end and slide it through sideways.  It was a noble thought, but with seven foot ceilings, we almost took out Andrew’s ceiling light fixture trying to do that.   My next, equally noble  thought was to lay the frame on its side and angle the top through the door first.  This would have the frame heading down the hall and not into Josiah’s room, but surely we could wiggle it around to get it in there.  It would be something like backing out a of tight parking space – where you go forward to the right for eight inches, then back to the left for ten, then forward and right for another six and seventh-eighths inches, then back to the left for five, etc.

The problem with this maneuver was that no matter how hard we tried, we could NOT get the top end of the frame through the doorway.  It banged and wanged and got stuck and would not go through for love or money.  We chipped paint off a fine selection of door frames (not a problem as they were already quite chipped) but to no avail.  I called Jessica to see if she could tell me how on EARTH she and Josiah had gotten his bed frame out of his room.  (The two boys’ beds are identical and had been bunked in an earlier life.)  She gave the phone to Josiah, who carefully explained to me exactly how to do what I had already done; proof positive that I really am no dummy.  When I told him that his/my idea simply wouldn’t work given the configuration of door frames, etc., he said, “Then you’ll have to take the frame apart.”  I had already thought of this, too, and had, in fact, tried to knock the long side boards out to do that very thing.  Some bed frames have these two little flat metal pieces that wedge into little slots on the head and foot boards, and I kicked as hard as I could to loosen them, but all I got was some side-of-the-foot bruises.  It was my brainy 14-year-old son who informed me that the frame was bolted together.  I looked, and of course he was right.  Not only was it bolted, the bolts were deeply recessed into long holes.  Hmmm…

Josiah told me I would need to go out to the shop and find the socket set.  I had interrupted their mime practice, so he had to hang up.

Out to the shop I went, and I located the green plastic box that contained the socket set.  I had two fond hopes:  1) that there would be an extender in the set to reach down into those holes, and 2) that we would have the proper size of socket; sockets tending to be a lot like socks – getting lost for absolutely no reason.  It must’ve been clean living, because back at my desk, I found that there WAS an extender.  Yay!  Of course, the sockets were all out of order and there were several empty spaces (left by the sockets that went AWOL), but I was full of hope.

Socket sizes are engraved on the sides of the little beasts, but with neither my unaided eye, my reading lens, my computer lens, not my distance lens was I able to easily read those marks.  In fact, if  I thought I were ever going to use the sockets again, I’d probably be unable to resist the temptation to take a Sharpie marker to both the sockets and their little curved beds.  Bottom line:  all I could do was pick one that looked pretty and try it.  When size didn’t work, I sorted through the pile of metal to find one that appeared to be slightly smaller, etc.

On the third try, I hit the jackpot, and for the record, be it herewith noted that the screws on the boys’ bed frames require a 7/16″ socket.   With much grunting and predominantly negative commentation on the vagaries of bed frames in general and heavy wooden bed frames in particular, I did eventually disassemble the beast and hauled its various components to the hall, our room, and Josiah’s room – with the hardware abandoned in a butter tub in our office.

The installers arrived at 6:45 PM, and as I type this at 8:00 PM, Andrew’s room is done, our closet is in process, and Team Roberts (minus its mother) is moving everything out of Josiah’s room and into Andrew’s so that Josiah’s room can be carpeted.

To get an idea of what our second floor currently looks like, just take absolutely everything out of your master bathroom and pile it willy-nilly in your bedroom.  Take everything out of two other bedrooms and closets.  Put it out in the hall or on the master bed.  Take everything from the floor of your master closet and pile it on or beside your master bed.  Go to Lowe’s, Wal-Mart, and various internet sites, and spend way too much money on towel bars, shower curtain (and associated bar, liner, and rings), shower curtain bar, switch plate cover, and white (not tan) electrical fixtures.  Put all that out in the hall, too.  Take the large (5′ x 4′ x 3′?) bookshelf from your son’s room, and slide it into the hall bathroom.  Oh!  I almost forgot.  Take all the wood trim from the bathroom, the granite backsplash pieces for your new vanity, and a few miscellaneous doors, and put them in the master bedroom, too.  That would be your master bedroom that is about 11′ x 14′ and has a king-sized bed.  Of course, you wouldn’t be able to SEE the bed. And just to get the final effect, put a wooden bed frame in your living room.

As my hair stylist told me today, “You’ll love it when it’s done!”  Yes.  Come quickly, completion, come.

Inglish Toffee

After we (Scott, Josiah, and Mr. A) ripped up the soggy carpet in Josiah’s room and we found the metal plates (GASP!) nailed into the wood floor and all the paint and/or glue spilled onto other parts of the same floor, we decided that the most appropriate thing to do would be to re-carpet Josiah’s room.

Like all other aspects of remodeling, this little item of “re-carpeting Josiah’s room” has expanded  – to include re-carpeting Andrew’s room and re-carpeting out closet.  In our defense, Lowe’s is having a deal right now in which they will install carpet in one room, a whole house, or anything in between for $139.  Since it would be $139 (installation labor only) to do only Josiah’s room, and since Andrew’s room has been in desperate need of new carpet since before Andrew was born, we’ve chosen to add his.  Our closet, which abuts Josiah’s room and is, like his, carpeted in some pretty puke-awful who-knows-how-old pink stuff was an after thought that will also be included in the $139.

All three of those areas will receive some nice Stainmaster low-pile (but NOT Berber) carpet in a medium brown shade called “English Toffee.”  Carpeting by Lowe’s is a multi-step endeavor.  First, we paid $35 for a “detail.”  That means that their contracted carpet-layer called me to set up an appointment to come measure.  He came at 8:00 PM Monday evening.  He then faxed his measurements to Lowe’s.  They prepared an estimate and called me with the grand total today.  I called Scott.  He called Lowe’s.  He called me and told me to go ahead and sign the contract.  Once the contract is signed and the money changes hands, the installer will call me to set up a time to actually come do the work – within the promised 72 hours, but hopefully not when Scott’s not home.  We are saving some money by moving all the furniture ourselves, and that will be much easier on a day that Scott’s at home.  Our rough plan is to have them carpet Andrew’s room first (all of Andrew’s furniture having previously been lugged into Josiah’s room).  Then, they will go to lunch while we haul all of Andrew’s furniture back into his room along with most or all of Josiah’s furniture.  We will also empty our closet of about a metric ton of junk (not sure where to stash that) and rip up the offending pinkness sometime before the installers arrive.

Back to sigining the contract.  Never mind that I had been only one block away from Lowe’s (12 miles from home) at 9:00 this morning.  After lunch I went back to Lowe’s to sign the contract and put the balance on VISA.  I assumed it would be a simple process:  I’d go in, sign on the dotted line, and then sign the VISA receipt.  Not so fast, Sherlock!

I went to see our good friend, Kimberly in flooring, but she was tied up, so I was given to Rodrigo.  He attempted to print my contract.  It was a tedious affair, the end result of which was three copies of numerous pages.  I got one, the installer gets one, and Lowe’s gets one.  These had to be manually collated and stapled.  What happened next reminded me of what happens when you close on a house.  Remember?  It’s when the agent sits across the table from you and reads everything upside down and you just keep signing and signing and signing?  This was similar.  He read and pointed, I nodded and said um-hmm, and I signed.  Actually, since the contract had been drawn up in Scott’s name, I had to sign his name, which I hate to do, but there was no way around it IF we were to have a chance at getting our promised 72-hour install.

It was while I was signing somebody’s name on some dotted line that I noticed that the color of the carpet had been keyed in as “Inglish Toffee,” as opposed to its actual name:   “English Toffee.”  I am reminded that a couple years ago, Lowe’s added Spanish translations to every single bit of verbage in the entire store.  Maybe Rodrigo gave me the Hispanic spelling for our carpet.  Andrew doesn’t care.  He’s sure that any carpet with candy in its name has to be wonderful.

Suicidal daffodils

Some five years ago, in the fall, we planted a bunch of daffodil bulbs along both sides of our front walk.  I have dreamed of having seeing them arise each year into nicely mulched beds, but so far, they just plow through the sod and bloom.

I was told that one shouldn’t whack them off till about six weeks after they’re done blooming, so as to allow the leaves to make a lot of carbs and such for the bulbs to store for the following year’s show.  That makes sense, but it causes a lot of problems for our bedless bulbs, because by the time they are done blooming, mowing season has begun.  I always admonish the lawn care team to “Not Mow Down or Weed-Eat the Daffodils,” but in spite of that, about half of them (the daffodils, not the lawn care specialists) succumb to gas-powered blades of one type or another.  Then those (again, the daffodils) that are left standing are surrounded by high grass that can by definition be neither mown nor weed-eated.  This means that for five or six weeks every spring, I spend quite a bit of time sitting on a milk crate on the front walk, using my scissors to trim the grass between the surviving daffodils.

I really like daffodils, and I figure that squatting and snipping is easier than the work that would be required to dig out two long skinny beds, so I usually complain a little and then get to it.

Thankfully, we had real live snow a few weeks ago, and it was on the ground for almost a week.  HEAVENLY!  However, the temps this week have been up into the low seventies (it is February, for crying out loud!), and I have been concerned that the little daffodil bulbs might incorrectly think spring is here and jump the gun.  Each morning, when I go out for my constitutional, I closely examine the dead, matted grass along the walk and confirm that there are no daffodil probes in sight.  Each day I’ve been relieved to know the daffodils are using the sense God gave a centipede and staying in their subterranean hideouts.

Until today.  Yesterday there were absolutely no signs of daffodillian activity, but this morning, all along the walk on both sides, one to two inch blades of green daffodility have shoved their way skyward.

Poor daffodils.  They’ve never been to Punxsutawney, and they don’t know that they’re cutting off their noses to spite their faces by springing up so jauntily.  I truly hope they get to bloom, but I fear they may freeze their buns off before that happens.

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