Monday, May 30, 2011

Planting Seeds

The family walk!
I am willing to admit that I am a complete and total nerd, but I like to think that can be a good quality.  Case in point - our family's Saturday evening.

Let me start by saying that this was not totally typical of family time at our house.  First, we had all of the children here at once.  This is unusual because with older kids, dances and time with friends often take precedence over unscheduled family time.  While we set aside Monday evening as a time for our family, Saturday's rarely work for familial togetherness.  Really, this Saturday wasn't so great either.  There was one of the aforementioned church dances scheduled, and one of our kids had tentative plans with a friend.  Like many parents, we decided to "take a stand".  We wanted time with our kids and this was going to be the night.

In some quarters, this event was met with celebration, while others were less than impressed.  "Can we please go?  Pleeeeeeeeease?"

"No, not this time."

"No, really, I'm serious....  PLEASE."

"No, really, NO."

Well, this went on throughout the evening.  "Why can't we go?"

"Because we want to have some family time."

"No, really, why?  What did we do wrong?"

"Nothing, really, we just want to have some time together as a family."

"Seriously...  Why do we have to do this?  Tonight?"

"Look...  We are going to spend some time together and you are GOING TO HAVE FUN!  NOW LET'S PLAY YAHTZEE!  WHERE'S THE YAHTZEE?!?!?!" 

As you can see, this was, at times, tension fraught.  Bolstered by our seven year old's sheer delight at sitting around the table playing a game with his family, we decided to soldier on.  And, in some ways, it was fun.  Two of our kids were having a raucous time, while the others looked like their world was about to end.  This is somewhat unusual because more often than not our children are pretty good sports, but I can also say that we haven't been as consistent with extra family time for a while.

Following a Yahtzee game that was finished in a record 75 minutes (nine people and one Yahtzee cup, what can you expect?), my wife was determined that we go on a family walk.  Not just any walk...  She made us line up in age order, marching up the street, led by a stroller pushed by our diminutive six year old.  Now, the point of this exercise had nothing to do with instilling military precision into our kids, although this is an interesting idea, we just wanted to see what kinds of looks we would get from passing motorists.  And looks we got - mouths agape, smiles and some doubletakes.  I guess you just don't see families like ours walking to the local park en famille.

Our destination, the park, was deserted.  This allowed  us to take over the swings, slides and teeter-totters with abandon.  We swung (swinged?  Enswingulated?), played freeze tag and tried to get our oldest son to join in.  For some reason, he'd assumed the position of a J.C. Penney underwear model, not wanting to admit that he was with these people.  I can't imagine why.

The evening ended, almost, at home with a round the piano singalong.  Before the cockles of your heart are warmed, I must tell you that this was met most reluctantly.  Our daughter was game, and we let her pick the songs.  Unfortunately, this led to a medley of every love song from 1990's Disney films, but at least she was playing along.  I can assure you, though, that the answer to "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" was a resounding, "No."

Disappointed that, overall, our dream of family togetherness did not go well, we had one of our little family meetings and it was straight to bed!

Now, here's where the seeds come in.  The last thing I expected was to have another "fun" family night in the near future.  But, as we gathered around the table for a very casual dinner of nachos, our oldest son asked if we could all play Yahtzee.  Another one of our children wanted to go on a walk to the park.  And, vintage copy of the Mitch Miller songbook in hand, we had another family singalong, complete with one of the kids accompanying on guitar.  And this time...  it really was fun.  Had we not plowed through Saturday night, Sunday night wouldn't ever have been so fun.

So, to you parents, take courage!  Don't give up, because just when you think you've failed in your goal of creating a united family, you might be able to reap the harvest of those seeds you've sown.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Simple Home Repairs

Men get a bad rap. Think of the endless jokes that abound about duct tape repairs undertaken by the dense, male handyman. Just a few weeks ago I saved over $150 simply by employing duct tape as a replacement seal for my front loading washer. A call to a trusty plumber confirmed my fear that the seal alone would cost well over $100, not to mention his own hourly fee, probably not much less. Now, I do have to replace this “seal” after every other load, and duct tape isn’t as cheap as it used to be, but I am sure that even with the three rolls I’ve gone through this month, I’m saving a fortune. Oh, and then there are the bricks. The ones that I need to prop up the front of the washer so that any remaining “drippage” will flow back into the washer itself. And then I did needed to by some heavy duty plastic and a large tray to place under the machine… just to catch the few remaining drips. If you ask me, it’s an ingenious solution. Maybe not that attractive, though…

Back to my point… It’s not only men who are masters of substitution when it comes to household repairs. My wife, and I am sure she is typical of countless women, has her own tool box of solutions. Her favorite? Fabri-Tac. In her mind it can hem a pair of pants, serve as a substitute for tedious sewing in curtain and throw pillow making and repair just about anything that it loose or broken. Need to glue a tea cup together? Fabri-Tac! Hang a sink skirt on an enamel sink? Fabri-Tac! Fix a heavy falling finial on a wrought iron curtain rod? You guessed it, Fabri-Tac!

Now, the actual success of this remedy is another matter entirely. Although I am repeatedly reminded of my own shortcuts (painting around heavy furniture, mirrors and picture - you can just paint when you tire of their current location, placing a sofa in front of uneven, homemade draperies, the list goes on) I dare not mention the fact that that iron finial has been hanging by an ever lengthening string of Fabri-Tac. And the need to reglue that sink skirt every few days, and also replace the pins and nails that hold the edge to the crumbling plaster wall, is really just a minor nuisance. The curtains are not so bad either. If you balance the fabric very carefully on the rod, you really can see where the glue didn’t quite take.

For me, Fabri-Tac and duct tape are really minor league stuff, mere child’s play. If you want to get really serious, it’s all about Super Glue… Gel. That’s right… Super Glue Gel. Here, at last, is a product of such permanence and strength that it can handle a real man’s projects - curtain rods, cupboard handles, cupboard doors, even! There is no end to the usefulness and durability of Super Glue Gel. So strong is this product that I have three separate sets of curtain rod hardware on one set of windows. At the mere change of rod style, I can have formal rods, cafĂ© rods, even double-tiered valance and drape rods. Those babies are never coming off.

I know that there’s a right way and a wrong way to do things. But that’s so dull. It takes a true artist to decorate an entire room with only duct tape, Fabri-Tac and… Super Glue.