Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Great Pumpkin (Patch?)

I learned to ride the unicycle when I was about 16, if memory serves me correctly (though seeing as how I recently turned 30 I wouldn't put a whole lot of stock in the ol' grape anymore), and since then I have picked up a few tricks here and there but mostly my unicycling has remained more or less at a comfortable plateau.  Advancing one's unicycle skillz isn't so much a matter of going farther or faster, but learning tricks and finding ever more crazy ways to ride the one-wheeled contraption.  Even though my repertoire of stunts is basically limited to riding with one foot, I was thrilled to be able to ride in the annual Homecoming parade this past weekend.  Especially since my sister was able to ride in it with me.

She, her fiancèe, and their respective daughters were down for a visit and I asked the lady who owns the local bike shop (the organization with which we hooked up in order to ride in the parade) if she minded me bringing my sister along for the parade.  She didn't mind at all, and so at 8am last Saturday the two of us met up with a dozen or so people on all sorts of strange-looking bikes and multi-wheeled contraptions for the big parade ride.  Everyone was exceptionally friendly, even though my sister and I had never met any of them before, and around 9:15 we started down the parade route along with the music of high school marching bands, honking horns, and cheers from the crowd.

Neither my sister or I have ridden in any parades for years, though when we were younger we took part in a handful with the rest of our family.  It was fun to learn routines and put on a show for the crowd, and even though the Homecoming parade ride didn't involve any specific routines or patterns, it was fun to just ride for a while.  There was another lady from the bike shop who rode with us, which made us a trifecta of one-wheeled entertainment the likes of which Stillwater has never seen!  Well, not since the last parade anyway.  :)

My sister and I, desperately searching for handlebars
or at least a second wheel.

This guy could ride a wheelie all day.
Not even kidding.
We had fun riding in the parade, but the best part of the weekend was spending time with family.  No, seriously.  Watching the homecoming game, going to the park, hanging out at our house, going to the pumpkin was so fun to be with everyone.  Especially my niece and soon-to-be niece, who were excited just to be on vacation.
Thank goodness our visiting family members
didn't get lost in the hay maze at the pumpkin patch.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Blame it on the Drain

It's too bad I didn't take any pictures today*, because it would have been a good day for it.  Things got off to an interesting start when I set out to tackle our first real plumbing challenge here at home.  We have lived in our house for just over a year without having to deal with a whole lot of plumbing issues, and in that respect I consider us fortunate.  In terms of house problems, water can be a biggie.  Anyway, a few days ago we shut off the water supply valves on our toilets in order to clean them, but discovered that one of them would not turn back on properly.  Along with that, the float inside the toilet tank was also not working right, which resulted in a slow but steady drip into the toilet tank for the past few days.  Not exactly the worst thing that could happen, but something that should be fixed nonetheless.

While I have tacked a handful of home repair projects before, plumbing is not one of my favorites.  If we mess up while painting, the worst that happens is we have to re-do something or clean up a spill.  But if something goes wrong with a plumbing operation, you're basically sunk.  Leaky pipes and dripping valves can cause all kinds of problems, and attempting to fix them can often make things even worse.  Nevertheless, I figured the toilet was something I could fix on my own, so armed with a couple video tutorials and a healthy dose of prayer, I set out to bring new life back to the ol' commode.

The hardest part of the whole operation was actually getting the house water supply shut off.  The valve outside was incredibly difficult to turn, and it took several tries over the course of at least 10 minutes to finally rotate it into the off position.  After that it was kind of a trial-and-error operation with the valve that involved a crescent wrench, channel lock, drip pan, and two trips to Lowe's to find a valve with the correct fitting diameters.  It actually wasn't that difficult to install the new valve, but it was kind of tricky figuring out just how to go about getting it done.  The intake line and new float were honestly a piece of cake, and soon enough the toilet was flushing and refilling properly without any leaks or drips.  Hooray!

The master shutoff valve for our house. See how close it
is to the sidewall? Yeah, that made it super hard to operate.
Our new high-tech $8 float shutoff. Whee!
New valve and intake line. To leak, or not to leak.
That is the question.

Only downside was I had no sooner fixed one toilet when we discovered basically the same problem with the toilet in our hallway bathroom too.  Thankfully I kind of knew what to do (and what parts to buy) so it wasn't too hard, but still...

Later in the day we went out to help one of my co-workers at her farm property a half hour north of here, and after doing some weed-whacking and shoveling, my wife and I got to feed a baby calf with a bottle. Having grown up firmly within the city limits there's a host of farm-type activities I have never done before, and it was fun helping the two-week-old calf with its dinner.  My co-worker's husband warned us about the calf's tendency to basically head-butt the bottle from time to time, so my wife had to wear these big puffy utility pants over her jeans to keep her clothes dry.  And yes, I may have to trade in a few points on my man card, but it was pretty cute when the tiny little cow let out a tiny little "moo."  :)

And so with a plumbing problem solved and some yard work finished, we capped off the day with an episode of Star Trek: Voyager and some ice cream.  Not a bad way to spend a Saturday (even if Nebraska lost their game against Texas...).

*I went and took some photos anyway, ex post facto, as I wrote this blog post.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

14 Feet to the North

My parents came for a visit last weekend, and even though their time here was brief it was thoroughly enjoyable nonetheless.  It's always nice to go visit the fam up in Nebraska, but it's great when they can make the trek down to Oklahoma too.  Saturday was mostly spent doing two projects at our house, along with a trip downtown to a car show and capping the evening off with some cards.  During the afternoon my wife and my mom worked on painting some borders along the top of our bedroom while my dad and I installed a cable jack on a different side of the living room.  And surprisingly (or perhaps not, since we often start these projects with prayer) there were very few hiccups or problems during the operation.

The goal: move this mess from behind the couch
to under the cabinet. And straighten it out, too.  :)
Installing the new cable jack junction box.
About half of the installation project involved going down into the crawl space below the floor to move some wires, drill some holes, and of course, take some pictures.
My dad, doing his best Steve McQueen impression.

'Twas a tad cramped below the house...
A couple hours and one bottle of cream soda later we had finished, and the results, while not exactly worthy of the Sistine Chapel, weren't half bad.
Best part of the whole picture: Mexican Train Dominos.
Meanwhile, my wife and mom did a stellar job of painting, and even though the color we chose looked a little different on the walls than it did on the paint sample, it's much better than the original off-pink color the borders used to be.  But that's kind of the nature of home improvement projects--one gets completed and another takes its place, or one gets finished just enough to be put aside for now until it can be revised and changed even more later on.  And hopefully, like it was with my parents, it will be a fun process along the way.

Friday, October 08, 2010

The chair and the needle

While I respect the dentistry profession, I have always had a somewhat irrational fear of going to get my teeth examined.  When I was a kid I didn't mind it so much, but about 12 years ago when I got my wisdom teeth pulled in one grueling hour-long session I started to develop a real aversion to getting my pearly whites examined.  I'm a good brusher for the most part, and floss almost every day, so there's really not much for me to worry about.  But even so, when I went to the dentist for my semi-annual checkup in September the hygienist informed me that despite my best efforts to the contrary, I had developed two cavities on the surfaces of two adjacent teeth.

Major bummer.

She assured me that it wasn't exactly my fault, though--my teeth apparently have surfaces that are just hard to clean.  So a few days ago I bit the bullet, went in, and got the cavities filled.  All in all it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be, and certainly a lot easier than the wisdom tooth operation of yore. I think it's the anticipation that's worth than the actual operation, as is probably the case with most medical procedures.  But with my iPod in hand and the laughing gas going straight to my brain, it wasn't all that bad.

Now about that mouth guard the dentist says I'm going to need...

In other news, my parents are coming for a visit this weekend and I'm pretty excited about it.  A year ago they helped me and my wife move in to our new house, and it'll be their first visit since then.  It's going to be cool showing them all the changes and updates we've made to the ol' homestead, and if all goes according to plan my dad and I will be able to move the cable internet hookup across the room while my wife and my mom paint the borders in a few rooms too.  And yes, there will be plenty of popcorn and card games too.  :)