Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Clearing the Air

I like to write about projects, DIY stuff, upgrades, and updates, but we all know that the majority of stuff we do in our houses is routine home maintenance.  Am I right?  Gutter clearing, fixing squeaky doors, and leaky faucets.  Not so exciting or glamorous, and easy to put it off and forget about it.

Well today I was embarrassingly reminded of one simple home maintenance task that we had let slide for waaaaaay too long.

Air filters.  A classic case of "out of sight, out of mind" for us.  Air filters are part of your furnace/AC system that clear the air.  They catch dust, gunk, anything that would go from the part of the system that cools the air to the part of the system that puts it back into your house.  Air filters are a good thing.  

We get our oil furnace serviced annually by the company that delivers our oil as part of our contract.  And today was the day!  Exciting, right?  Who thinks about heat in JULY?  Nobody, which is why they were available.  

So they come in, go to the basement and do their thing.  Checking the things that need checking, tightening bolts, cleaning things out.  Or rather, I think that's what they did down there.  I didn't watch.  And then one guy came up and said, "Can you come down here, I want to show you something."  And he showed me the grossest, gunked up air filter.  See below.  But not if you're eating.  Seriously gross.

Apparently, homeowners should be replacing air filters every 30-60 days.  And if you're doing drywall (like we are) or have a pet (like we do) then 30 days is the rule, especially in the summer.  I'm not gonna lie - I'm not sure we've replaced the filters EVER.  And we've had the furnace/AC for 4 years.  I guess we've been having "signs" of needing new ones desperately for a while and didn't realize what it meant.  First off, our duct work in the basement has been having some condensation on the outside - big drippy drops of water.  And our vent covers are pretty dirty looking, and I'm sure that once the new filters are in place they'll do a better job of catching stuff.  And finally,  we've been having a pretty gross smell from the vents and also in the basement.  

New filters aren't terribly expensive - these were the "mid-range" from Ace Hardware and were about $5/each. 

The installation was pretty straight forward.   Flip off the whole thing first to eliminate the risk of injury from anything that might be going on in there. Then pop off a side panel and slide the filters in place!  Seriously simple! 

I'll post an update on here after a few days letting you guys know how improved things are with new filters!


Saturday, July 6, 2013

Kitchen Reno - Walking on Broken Glass

Well, not really walking on it, because that sounds like a bad idea, but dealing with it for sure.  You gotta deal with broken glass when it happens.

So back when we started the demo phase of this awesome kitchen project we got ourselves a dumpster and then when it was full we had the dumpster truck come and haul it away.  All told it was only here for about a week and a half.   It was really plenty of time, but with the way these projects go, we weren't finished chucking things out.

In fact, we've had a big bit of rubbish leaning up against our garage for about a month now.  The glass doors we replaced.  Now with regular house debris, we can usually break it down and bag it up, but how do you do that with 2 sliding glass doors? 

Answer: with a hammer.

Yeah, it didn't sound like an awesome idea to me either, but it was better than keeping the doors in the garage until the end of time.  

Jason did the deed - he lay out 2 layers of thick plastic sheeting (we had it from various other projects) and carefully laying the first door down on the ground, he whacked it with a hammer until the glass was broken (2 panes).  He used the hammer to knock as much glass from the frame as possible and then he did the whole thing again with the second panel.  

There was a lot of glass.  Enough for 2 pretty heavy bags.

Then he used his handy-dandy drill to unscrew the frames and pull apart the aluminum.  It was pretty quick to deconstruct it all, but messy.  Taking the frame apart released the plastic/rubbery stuff that held the glass in place, scattering tons of tiny shards into the grass next to the driveway.  The job wasn't without it's hazards.  Poor guy suffered a grievous injury.

After bagging that up, Jason vacuumed the grass. Yep, he pulled out the old shop vac and went to town on the grass as if it were 1970s style shag carpeting.   He actually sucked up a drill bit that had fallen and gotten lost in the grass, so that was a win.

All that's left from the doors is the aluminum frame which is disassembled and in a pile on the driveway.  Jason is planning on taking it down to a scrapyard to see if we can get a bit of cash back for it.  Every penny helps, right?

So that was an exciting Saturday.  Yeah, I know it's not as visually stimulating as back splash, granite counters, or cabinet hardware, but you gotta write about something as you wait for joint compound to dry, right?  


Monday, July 1, 2013

Thoughts on Parenting a Challenging Kid

Year three for Chris was a tough one.  He seemed to take "terrible twos" to new heights in terms of shenanigans, difficult behavior, and meltdowns.  He destroyed furniture, drew on walls, smeared poo, screamed, ran around like a lunatic.  He threw food, dumped cups of ice water, and generally caused chaos wherever he went.  He pushed us to our limits on many occasions.  There were times when I just walked into the bathroom, closed the door behind me and burst into tears.  How could this little person push me over the line? 

I read books and sought advice from friends.  The more I read and talked, the more I felt as if it was my fault that things were like this.  I was told that he wouldn't do this stuff unless I was "letting him get away with it" or that we "need more rules".   I felt hopeless and miserable.  

I started to wonder what exactly people thought was happening in a house like mine, where there's a wild one.  Do people think that I sit back with my eyes shut and let the walls crumble around me?  Do they think we equip him with sharpies and scissors and let him loose?  The truth is that even if there are rules for behavior, some little ones will challenge them and a time out isn't a deterrent.  He just wasn't connecting the behavior with the time-out in a cause & effect way.  

Over the year we got better at being his parent.  We turned around his dresser so he couldn't climb the drawers or empty them out.  We took the shades out of the windows so he couldn't pull them down and took all books from the room to prevent shredding.  We installed gates EVERYWHERE, bought cups with lids for us and put knob covers on any door we didn't want him to open.  Yeah, it might sound like lockdown, but we turned our home into a place that would reduce his temptations so there would be less frustration for us (and more sanity) and more days where we had no time-outs or yelling.  We were ALL happier with things this way.  It's not pretty, but it's not forever.  

Somewhere along the line things started to change.  I'm not sure when exactly, and I honestly didn't realize how much things had changed until a friend who I rarely see said to me "From your posts on Facebook, it sounds like things are getting better".  And I thought....yeah, it had been a while since there was an "incident" so extreme that the world would be amused at hearing about it.  I started to think about my little boy (who was now 3 years old) and how far things have come in the last 6 months and it's remarkable.  He's still him but he's a better listener, time-outs ARE an effective deterrent for naughty behavior, and we even put the shades back in his bedroom.  He's not a perfect child, but his behavior is so changed that we feel hopeful for the future.  

So what was it that helped?  I think setting him up for success by extensive childproofing his spaces was really important.  But the biggest factor was just him growing up.  Maybe his behavior was related to the frustration that comes with limited verbal communication, maybe it was impulsiveness, maybe it was lack of cause & effect understanding.  I don't really know for sure, but things are better and I'm thankful.

To parents of a challenging child, who are at their wits end, who are in tears, or finding themselves saying "NO", "Stop that", "Don't touch", "Put it down", "Let go", or "Please do not eat that" more than they say anything else, please know it won't be forever.  It's not like a light switch.  The change can sneak up on you, and one day you will find yourself in a much calmer, happier place and wonder how the heck that happened.  



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