April 2008

This weekend passed quietly – sort of the calm before the storm of graduation which occurs next week.  I managed to have a Saturday that did not involve a lot of plumbing – only a small amount.  Tis the season for plumbing after all.

Erin went to this “thing” at church that involved lots of noise and singing followed by burgers.  Mel and I stayed for this since they almost always need more parents to help serve than that actually have.  Sure enough, we were pressed into service.  My job involved filling about 200 styrofoam cups with lemonade.  I was moderately pleased to learn that they do in fact have a huge steel thing shaped like a boat paddle that you stir the lemonade with. It seemed like they should and so they did.

It had unfortunately turned off quite cool last night so I quickly became miserable outside in the wind with my cooler of ice-cold drink so one of the youth pastors offered me an official logo-encrusted hoodie.  I was suddenly “official”, a wearer of an official uniform.  It was way better than a paper hat that one might otherwise have been given to wear.  It was warmer too which was the whole point.

After the teenaged locust hoard passed through, I took it upon myself to help clean up.  For me, this involves eating the leftovers.  I headed first to the home-made cookies.  Why a kid will pick up a “chips ahoy” before a homemade cookie is beyond me but I never try to change their minds; I let them pass up the gourmet stuff and scavenge them myself.  Nobody can say that I made it through 18 years of parenting without learning something.

Erin was not terribly thrilled to find that we were present but she dealt with it.  We enjoy getting to hang out with the other parents.  It’s fun and occasionally you get presented with an opportunity such as a local dentist maybe hiring Evan in his office this summer.  So these events are good all around.

I grew up with the notion that the American Bald Eagle was endangered and if I wanted to see one I had to go to the wilds of Alaska.

When I moved here to Oklahoma, I learned that there were a few around here that would appear in late winter or early spring to feed up near Lake Keystone.

Imagine my surprise when a coworker spotted a nest just near our office.  Sure enough, I drove across the river to the back side of the airport where people rarely go (prone to flooding) and there it was; a big mess of sticks in a tree with four young eagles and one adult.


It was so far away that the pictures don’t look very good but I’ll put one or two on flickr anyway as soon as possible.

It turns out that the standard sized bottle of Excedrin will exactly stick in the average toilet’s s-trap.  The fit is perfect and cannot be pushed through or dislodged by a plumbers snake.  Only by holding up the 60 pound porcelain throne and shaking can it be dislodged.

That’s all I’m sayin’.

Kids:  plumbers earn every penny.  Never hesitate to hire one or question his fee.

Some days it just doesn’t pay to chew through the restraints.

That plumbing job we did is finally done and it seems to be working.  I finished it out by weather sealing it on the outside and closing up the hole in the wall.  But then something else happened.

Last night, the toilet overflowed.  Auughhh!

Water was everywhere.  This is the sort of thing you have to deal with instantaneously so nobody else in the house knew what was going on for awhile.  When Mel came back to the bathroom she said “Oh yeah, I dropped something in there today.”  Well, there’s your problem!

It turns out that an incredible coincidence occurred earlier in the day.  After a flush, at the exact moment that the water was swirling down the toilet at its swiftest, she opened the medicine cabinet above it and a bottle of pills just happened to fall out and land right in the hole.  It was gone before she could react.

This is just the sort of sudden, stress inducing that that can cause me to get a headache.  And what was the bottle of pills that fell in?  My headache meds.  Fortunately, Excedrin is easy to find and cheap.

As I was probing the depths of the bowl with my plumber’s snake, I began to feel the urge to use the facility as it was intended. Just then I heard Evan close and lock the other bathroom door and turn on the shower.  Doh!

Evan is legendary for taking extremely long showers.  I’ve spoken to him many times about it and still he stays in there forever.  So by the time he got out I was pacing the floor outside the door.  As he exited, Erin popped out of her room and headed in.  As rude as it was, I grabbed her arm and hauled her out citing fatherly privelidge.  I could hear her heading for the other, now inoperational, bathroom and shouted to her to stay out.  I then heard the expected huff of disgust but that was OK.

The snaking was unproductive; it only scratched the bottom of the bowl which I’m sure just shaved a few hundred dollars off the value of the house.  So now I must pull it off the floor and get the obstruction out from the other side.  That is assuming it is still there; if it’s down in the sewer clogging things up then I’m afraid a professional plumber is in our future.  So here’s hoping that it’s where I can get it.

Geez, the lengths I will go to just to save 300 bucks.  I usually get a warm feeling of self sufficiency after doing this sort of thing but lately I’ve been feeling plenty self sufficient.  I have enough self sufficiency fuzzies to last me through retirement so I’m beginning to loath this sort of thing.  At least as far as toilets are concerned. I’m becoming quite willing to pay someone else to deal with anything that has poop in it.

I remember the good old days of apartment living when this would happen and I would just call the office and somebody would handle it while I was at work.  It’s almost worth putting up with a stomping family of students upstairs to have that kind of luxury again.

Saturday night was prom night.  It seemed to be a much bigger deal to everyone else than it was to Evan.  This is typical for him; he’s pretty low key about most such things.  When everybody else starts to freak out about something, he becomes philosophical and lets others do the worrying.  In this case, the whole thing was arranged by committee and he simply showed up.  They drove together, got photos made together in the park, ate out together, attended the prom together, and went to an after-party together.

He has a few close friends and a rather large group of casual friends and he went with this larger group.  Rather than simply going stag like many do, they paired up in an equitable manner so that they all had dates and went as a group.  Mel and I got all these details at the last minute as usual.  Since he was not in charge of planning anything, he didn’t know much until the decisions were made which were late in the game.

He actually had a friend who got up Saturday morning with the idea of piecing together a suitable suit out of thrift store chic.  This horrified most of the mothers who knew about it but he did it and looked remarkably normal.  I think there’s a lesson to be learned there.  And he did it with about an hour to spare. But his folks told me that he had had to buy a corsage on the way to pick up the girl.  With that sort of planning I’m surprised he didn’t stop along the side of the road to raid someone’s flower boxes of a tulip or two.  The azaleas are blooming this week so there was another possibility.

Compare this preparation with what the girls all went through.  The stories were common that the girls were spending hours and hours in prep with the hair being the longest thing in the schedule.  I must say that they all looked very pretty but I couldn’t see how that many hours could have been spent on hair.  Their hair looked good but not that good.  All I can say is that it’s good to have a son.  Evan was to leave to pick her up at 5:00 and at 4:30 was still playing video games.  That’s the kind of preparation I like.

Evan had all these little details covered a week or so ago because Mel insisted.  It was like pulling teeth to find out the exact shade of blue of his date’s dress but he finally did it and so was able to coordinate his tux.  Or, to be more specific, Melissa was able to coordinate it.  Evan was unconcerned about such minutiae.

In the end, he looked fantastic which most young people do.  He had expressed extreme disapproval at our desire to follow him to her place to pick her up and make photos but in the end, he learned that every kid there had two parents that were also there banging away with a camera.

The group originally started out wanting to rent a limo but soon discovered that this was an expensive proposition given the number in their group which was pretty large.  So they opted instead to use the people mover van (an F450 van chassis with full-height 15-passenger capacity that the church uses to drive old folks from their cars to the church door) from First Methodist Church in Broken Arrow.  The youth pastor was good enough to drive them too which made all us parents much less nervous.  I never was thrilled with the idea of Evan driving my car (the nice one) around in locations that he was unfamiliar with.  In fact, I made him take a test drive with it before hand; I didn’t want him to embarrass himself.  It’s a good thing too, when he went to the carwash, he had to figure out how to lower the window and when he got to the florists, he did not know how to get the key out of the ignition.  He figured it out though.

So we followed him to her place to pick her up and right away he felt better about us being there since there were five other women and girls there (relatives) and they all had cameras.  Then we followed him to the church to meet his friends whereupon he realized that he had forgotten his tickets.  This was a small matter since every guy there had forgotten something and parents were driving all over the place trying to adapt.  We met them at Woodward park for photos.

Woodward park in Tulsa is nothing but trees and flowers this time of year – azaleas mostly.  As such it is extremely popular with the photo-taking crowd.  Saturday afternoon it looked like Woodstock with prom dresses instead of jeans.  As my late mother would have said, we couldn’t swing a cat without hitting a prom dress.  We struggled to find a parking place and an open spot to gather up all the kids but they moved with an emergent intelligence – a perfect example of a “hive mind” with no single one of them controlling or making decisions and yet decisions were made.  Us parents just followed.  The group met up with others and soon we had a group of over 20.  Every kid had parents there and so it was like the royal family and the paparazzi.  Finally, as time ran out, they all saddled up into the church’s van and left for Spaghetti Warehouse in the Brady District downtown and we parents left for home.

At that point, I gave Evan the camera and waited for him to get home.  I say that figuratively – I didn’t actually wait up.  The plan was for them to eat and then show up at the prom which was at the Oklahoma Aquarium.  Then they all found their way to the after party where they watched movies, talked, and ate junk food all night.  He came home around 9:00am just in time to see us leaving for church.  I couldn’t help but think that his timing was very carefully planned out.  We met him for lunch to hear all about it and most of my facts came from his retelling.  I am assuming that his retelling of the after-party is accurate since it can be verified by third party sources.  The owner of the home is a police officer and so I can reasonably assume that there was no inappropriate activity going on.

In the end I can say that the weather was perfect and it went about as well as it could have for Evan and his friends.  Every effort was made to make it easy for everyone and for that I am thankful.  That’s about it for big deals until graduation day which is in our near future.

I think we’ve taken Evan to the University of Arkansas to visit somebody or other three times now.  The third time’s the charm.

We went yesterday to sort out some things that we’ve been wondering about.  You can do that via email but it’s certainly easier to get face to face with everybody; you can cover a lot of ground in a short time.  The university has been very forthcoming with financial incentives and we wanted to talk about other things like advising, dates for things, lodging and so on.  And the visit went fantastically.

I must say that the overall experience that a student has is quite different that it was thirty years ago when I was there.  Thirty years?  Geez, I can’t believe it was that long ago.  Pardon me while I go dust off some vacuum tubes and maybe rotate an antenna to get a TV signal.  But I believe that every thing that I had to complain about regarding any University of Arkansas program that I thought was half-baked at the time has been totally revamped and upgraded.

The “honors college” is now an organized thing with an office and a student lounge that serves up coffee and some other things.  Not only that but it’s decorated in the mission/prairie/art-crafts style (not sure which moniker applies) and looks really nice.  They are extremely helpful with not only what classes to take but who to talk to for more detailed info and just about anything else.  The college seems much more engaged with the student now that it was before.

We met with a professor in the chemistry department and I noticed much the same thing there.  My observation was always that all an adviser did was rubber stamp a signature on something that I had already filled out but he claimed that in his case, he looked over each student’s records and actually offered advice.  Plus he warned us that he would advise a student to change his major if he thought that was a good idea.  I don’t mind that so much; what I do mind is his enthusiasm for talking all his students into going to graduate school for a Ph.D.  That’s a obvious bias that he’s not objective about.

We had originally been going to do most of this ourselves but we had a huge small-world moment with one of the students that works with the honors advising group and he ended up taking us all over the place even to the extent of calling some of his buddies in a dorm and having them let us in and check out the room.  The U of A has an online room reservation system now that is apparently pretty new and Evan has managed to locate a roommate through it and also reserve a specific room so our guide even knocked on that door to let us see the inside but either the occupants were in class or moved out.  Still, we were able to talk to a lot of students who assured us that that was a choice room because it was a little bigger due to an architectural quirk.

Our small-world moment involved the fact that he was the child of the best friend of one of Mel’s roommates.  He was unable to get his mom on the phone in time and so we couldn’t link up with Mel’s roommate (who still lives in Fayetteville BTW) but I’m sure we’ll see her soon after this gets out.  Plus, the kid is in a frat-like church group that contains a large number of guys from our church and so it turns out we know a number of the same people.  This whole get-on-the-cellphone thing to arrange all this on the spur of the moment was pretty amazing in how it got us a lot more information about things.

Then Evan ran into the girlfriend of one of his buddies.  Our guide knew her as well.  She’s been to my house once before and spilled an entire pitcher of lemonade on my kitchen floor.  And she’s still embarrassed about it.

So Evan is much more excited about it than he was and we as parents feel very positive about it.  Most of our concerns have been reduced somewhat.  In fact, I’d like to go back and attend again myself.

Erin has decided to run for student council – I can’t imagine why. Student council never actually does anything; it is simply a popularity contest. Perhaps that’s why; perhaps some kids want to see if they are in fact popular and winning a student council office would be actual documentation that one was popular. It can be a tough time for you if you lose – then you have actual documentation that you are not “officially” popular. But she wants to do it and for that she needed posters. She decided to make them look kind of “ghetto” looking. Like this:

This called for spray paint and stencils.  She invited over the campaign staff for this and they set to work.  Girls work slowly it turns out.  I would have thought that with spray paint, it would have taken about 10 minutes total.  It would have taken me 10 minutes. But no.  Nevertheless, the deed was done.  Eventually.

We’ll see how this goes.  Today was poster-hanging day.

Hey everyone! Make sure and disconnect your hoses from the faucets in the fall! Why? Because if you don’t, the water left in it will freeze and split the pipe inside your wall. If I have to explain why that’s a bad thing, then I don’t know what to do with you. I recommend you never own a home or anything of value. Just rent an apartment and take the bus everywhere; you are not to be trusted with anything.

I’m not to be trusted either apparently. After several decades of home ownership, I forgot this little thing last fall and now I have the aforementioned busted pipe. Luckily it only sprays water into the wall whenever I want to use the hose. When it comes to plumbing, I usually call in the professionals because I have no desire nor aptitude for such things but my brother-in-law does. He wanted to tackle it because it makes him feel self-sufficient. This is important for a guy so I let him come have a go at it.

That and the fact that it saved me $300.

It was not easy. As usual, it took about five hours after having assumed it would take an hour and a half. As usual, no single hardware store had everything we needed and as usual, the parts did not fit perfectly and the compression fittings that were supposed to hold back the force of the water pressure did not.

After much blow-torching and head scratching he thought he had it. Then, upon inspection, I noticed tiny beads of water slowly forming on the freshly soldered joint. So we started over.

Finally with the sun down and tummies rumbling, we had the water on again. Did I mention that this pipe is inside the wall of my closet so we had to saw a hole in the wall while crouching inside a closet that has too much crap in it? Well, that was the case. Really only one of us could get in there to work and so I just stood around thinking about how that $300 might be money well spent. In the end, it apparently worked. But when I checked it at bedtime, I saw one tiny bead of water forming. I chose to ignore it and go to bed.

This morning, it was gone. Evaporated into nothingness. That leaves me with the question of whether to leave it and hope for the best, call him back and do it all again, or call a plumber and tell him that it “just happened” and I know nothing – just replace it.

I’m still not sure.

OK, so the bad weather that was forecast showed up and did no additional hail damage to my neighborhood.  It did however dump tons of rain (over four inches on average) everywhere so that flooding was pretty rampant.  The schools were closed yesterday because so many roads were covered that not all buses could get through.  The rain ended yesterday morning and left behind some really strong, continuous, straight-line winds.  A friend lost about a third of his roof to this blowing.

Evan and his buddies bought kites and went to the soggy park.  The wind was so strong that the kites did poorly.  In the end, the kites were shredded so much that they flew the plastic sack that the kites came in and those did rather well.

The weather guy (who gets way to stoked about impending tornadoes) tells us that we can expect more of the famous hail/tornado weather tonight.

Well, I’ve got my blankets washed and dried – I’m ready.  Here’s hoping that I don’t have a repeat of the severe headache to go along with it.

Next Page »