Thursday, March 10, 2011

Ice Ice Baby!

I can't believe I skipped the entire month of February! I suppose I was too busy celebrating my birthday. I got to go on an awesome trip to Niagara Falls - it was quick, but really, there's not much to do there short of looking at the falls. I'm definitely not into all the kitchy entertainment offered. My kids were dying to do all the crazy stuff, of course, but we kept pretty much to my idea of fun. And really, how much fun can a 40 year old be? Anyone for Denny's?????

The frozen-ness of everything was incredible! I'm from the deep south so we really don't get to see snow like what we experienced. I'm grateful that there was no snow falling from the sky while we were there, we got to see PLENTY of it piled all around us and floating atop the Great Lakes and the Niagara River. There was about 10 or more feet of ice floating on top of the river just under Niagara Falls, everything around the falls was caked with ice and the portholes behind the falls were completely frozen shut. We still paid to take the Journey Behind the Falls (at a much reduced rate because of the frozen portholes) which allowed us to go down and peek out near the bottom of the Horseshoe Falls. It was pretty cool.

What the heck?? I think it's a Boy!

I chose to take my kids on this trip, something we would not normally do during the school year. We took them out of school because I wanted them to be with me to celebrate - I hope it will be a great memory for all of us. I know that I am so grateful that I was able to take the quick trip and enjoy my celebration with the people I love the most!

Back to reality. We recently purchased two horses! The horses are residing at their regular barn until we can get some fencing done around here. We've had horses here before (20 years ago!) and things have become run down, broken, rusted, etc. from non use. There are several trees in the woods that have fallen across areas of the fencing that need mending and we've got tons of new fence to add. We took down a lot of the old fence over the years! Gah!



So here are my new kids - Magic and Hazanny. Magic is a Quarter Horse and Annie is an Arabian. They are sweet as can be and I think will be a lot of fun for my girls (and ME!). I'm totally a horse girl and I have missed my horses soooooooo much. I'm so excited to have this new opportunity. Of course, I am married to a city boy who has barely even touched a horse so I'm on my own with this adventure. Hunk is happy to pay for the stuff, but he's not so keen on the involvement of it all.

Today was probably one of the worst days ever, it's not life threatening or anything, but got totally blindsided by life altering news. I needed some time to pound things out today, so I spent a majority of my day in our old barn. I haven't been down to the barn much at all in the past 20 years since the other horses left. The barn is a good 300ft. away from our house, so it's kinda out there. It has become a catch all storage unit for my dad's tools - in fact, he converted the stalls to a workshop, which means we need new stalls (blergh). We've got various yard appliances parked there and who knows what else. The barn needs a lot of attention with the impending arrival of my new girls so I decided to get started today. I forgot how much I love being in the barn, it's big and airy and it still smells like hay. It was very good therapy for me today, that's for sure. I also unloaded a trailer full of fencing wood - it was heavy and very labor intensive, but I got to throw stuff around, make a lot of noise and just get some of this crap out. I feel better, but damn, this just sucks.

Monday, January 17, 2011

What a week!

We've had a ton of snow here - it started LAST Sunday evening. Hunk was at the airport sitting on his plane when the first flakes began to fall. The airline said they were going back to the gate because the de-icing line was so long, this turned into sitting at the gate for over an hour until ultimately the flight was cancelled. Unfortunately, all that waiting had allowed the heaviest snow to move in completely which made for a horrible ride home for him. I'm surprised he made it. There were hundreds of vehicles that he passed already stranded on the roadside, but thankfully he had no big issues and made the drive safely.



Monday morning we awoke to 5-6 inches of snow, more than we have seen in many, many, many years. The thing is, usually we get snow, then sun and everything melts within a day or two - no biggie. This time the temps stayed down and here I sit 8 full days later and I still have areas in excess of 1" thick solid ice. School was cancelled for an entire week - add two weekends to the front/back of the cancellation and today is a holiday so we have had 10 full days at home. Needless to say, I'm more than ready for Tuesday morning to finally arrive so that the kids can go to school and I can try to restock the house!




We had great conditions for sledding and of course, we got some great photos and videos! I've included a photo of the treehouse project - it is a full deck now and I'll be adding the walls/roof and fun stuff once the weather warms up.


Right now my focus is on my birthday which is looming over the horizon...yes, the big 4-0. I've got a fun trip planned in a very limited opening of freetime that I will have, but I'm still trying to psyche myself up. It seems like such a milestone, mostly because everyone makes such a big deal out of the number itself, but I just am kind of blah about it. In reflection, there are so many things that haven't happened yet, things that I thought for sure would be fond memories by now. I'm not unhappy with where I am in life, but I don't feel all grown up or anything. It's kind of surreal.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Snowmen!












That Bakerella has got nothin' on me....nothin', I tell ya! I made these cutie cake snowmen for my GS troop. They have no mouths - it would be baaaaaad for little girls to hear these pricks repeating the string of cussing that was coming out of my mouth while working on this project. Bakerella makes it look so easy. They weren't really too difficult, but mine are lumpy, bumpy and my lack of patience made them....meh. Alas, they are for little girls, and they will think they are perfect!!
That treehouse thing - yeah, it's toooooo cold to proceed. It is a full tree deck with rails and a slide, just no "house" yet. We did decorate it for Christmas - lights and giant candy canes. I should take a picture!! It's playable, so that's what matters right now.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Progress!

The treehouse is underway. It's not as I had envisioned, but nevertheless things are moving along.

I've tried to design the thing twelve ways from Sunday by using tree bolts and having the design be completely within the tree. I think that would be SO cool. BUT. I want a larger platform and I'm working around 4 trees, so it's been challenging. Plus, I'm not a builder so there's that. I was worried about my house not having enough support to handle my kids plus their friends, so plans ended up changing. I'm a little irked, but in the end my kids won't care - it's still a treehouse to them. For me, it was a personal challenge that I didn't win. Oh well.

I consulted my dad on the supports, etc. and he suggested that I build the treehouse with 4 stilts - basically a deck surrounding the trees. It's the exact opposite of my vision, but I'm moving forward. Got the stilts set today and my dad came and helped get it squared - a difficult thing to do when you can't use your diagonal (the tree is in the way!).

An interesting thing about my tree is that it has a barbed wire fence that runs through it. There was a fence running near the tree WAY before I was born and the tree grew over one of the wires and eventually absorbed it. The fence has been gone for more than 30 years, but there's still a spot hung in the tree. I'll be trimming it soon, but I don't have the proper tool yet. This tree has obviously been through some stuff, so maybe it's a good thing I'm not drilling into it.


My building inspector came by today, just to make sure everything was going well. And to take a pee on a pile of fresh dirt. Can you believe how big my kitten is!!?? She walked along every piece of wood today, walked the entire square like it was her own personal balance beam.





It looks like lots of boards, but all the angled boards are just there to keep the posts leveled while they set - I made concrete today - yeah baby! I'm also all splintered up.





Tomorrow the floor frame is going up! That will be it for a while since next week is holiday week and we have a lot of plans.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Being Thankful

Yesterday I took my girls & our troop downtown to deliver warm items to the homeless. We made 100 lunches and tied over 200 fleece blankets to give away - we hit the areas where folks are set up fairly permanently and visited those under bridges. It was quite an experience for the kids....ended up taking 12 girls along. The attitudes washed away and the girls spent some quality time talking to the people who we served. I've got tons of great photos, but can't share them because of the girls in them. They all gained a new respect for the comfort they live in. A great way to enter into the Thanksgiving season!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Kindness gone wrong

My dad has always been a very giving person. Throughout my entire childhood and teen years I experienced his many random acts of kindness and selflessness as he helped both people we knew and also strangers. Many weekends of mine were spent begrudgingly raking an old person's yard and there were countless people who lived with us during stints of distress in their personal lives. This often cramped my life, but he never let me "opt out"....this was what we were doing and I had the opportunity to make the most of it, or to make myself miserable. I often chose the latter...I'd rather be listening to Pat Benetar and dreaming about when John Travolta would finally answer my fan mail. Sadly, he never did.

Even though I didn't always enjoy what we were doing to help someone else, the lesson was not lost on me. I think my dad probably wanted to choke me on several occasions because of my attitude and I'm certain he thought I was a total lost cause, but the seeds were planted. I have a large desire to volunteer and I'm typically thinking of others and how I might help them. I constantly drag my children along on my adventures and chid them when they are less than happy about giving up (insert tween/teeny bopping activity here).

Over the years, I've seen my dad get burned on occasion by an ungrateful recipient. This is to be expected as some folks are looking for an opportunity, not a helping hand. It was something that has turned me into a bit of a skeptic and I've spent a lot of time trying to learn how to read people. I believe I have a knack for discernment after all these years of watching and learning. Yet, it didn't prepare me for my first real encounter with what I feel like is someone trying to take advantage of my family's kindness to them.

Jason is a college senior, I met him when a friend of mine sent him over to our house to move a play structure. We had a big structure and were giving it to her, it required a professional dismantle and a big trailer to haul it, since the structure was not costing money she was paying for the moving fee. She found a neighbor who is very handy and also has a very handy son, in college. What college kid doesn't need money?? Enter...Jason.

Jason spent a day at our house dismantling the mammoth play set and that kid worked his tail off. He was polite, resourceful and seemed to be really handy. I asked my friend how much he was charging her for the work he was doing and it was insanely low. It was a HOT day and I knew that he had overcome many obstacles in getting the set taken apart. I also knew what a big task was ahead of him in trying to re-build the set in her yard. The price was not enough, in my opinion. When he finished at my house I gave him $200 for taking such care with our property and working so hard. My friend couldn't afford to give him more, so I was basically giving him a tip on her behalf.

We used Jason a year later to do some yard work for us, where he once again worked his tail off. We got a great result and I felt that his price was more than reasonable. Since he brought in 2 day laborers to help him I decided to give him another tip. I know those guys get paid in cash and I felt the price wouldn't justify the work with the additional helpers. Jason was VERY happy with the amount of money in the envelope. I was VERY happy with a job well done.

During the yard work, Jason noticed that we had an old truck parked in our shed. He inquired about it and I told him we were probably going to sell it soon - we hadn't had a need for it over 6 months. He became very interested in the truck as he was driving a truck owned by his parents. The value of the truck was $2,400, but the A/C needed a recharge and it had a radiator leak. I offered him to drive the truck for a couple weeks, see if he liked it and then we could talk about it. He jumped on the chance, took the truck that day and said there was no need for a test drive, he wanted it. We decided that we could come up with a project where we buy the supplies and he would provide labor in exchange for the vehicle. We agreed to a price of $1,500 for man hours. Quite a bargain considering the value of the truck. I liked Jason, I respected his work ethic and I remember being broke in college. I wanted to help this kid out.

Today, I feel like I am being taken advantage of. We gave the truck away (kept the title) in June. Jason went to summer school and it was SOOOOO hot that I told him we would wait for cooler weather to start anything. He was thankful, and kept on driving the truck. In September I approached him about a project that we wanted to begin - I inquired about a price for grading with a backhoe (which his family owns) and possibly some plumbing on a water feature we are adding to the yard. I asked him to give us a price on those two items and we could weigh it against the price of the vehicle. Unfortunately, Jason sees this as an opportunity to milk me for cash. We can't reach an agreement on him coming to work without it costing me close to $4,000 in cash. This is down from the $8,000 price that he started with. We approached him with the project that we plan to DIY OURSELVES, we only wanted him to grade and possibly run plumbing. I didn't expect him to do it all for free, but I expected that I could get a price on each part and make decisions based on the $1,500 labor owed. I also offered to pay him an hourly cash rate while he was here - it would be very difficult for him to just work for free. Granted, his lack of cash isn't my problem and he probably should not have taken the vehicle knowing that he couldn't offer labor hours in barter without putting him in a flat broke situation. I've been more than willing to accommodate his schedule and his need for "walking money".

Jason wants a lump sum of cash, he needs it and he is trying to get it from me. There is a huge problem in trying to get him to understand that I have already fronted him $1,500 in the form of a vehicle, I would now like some work out of him. The work should not COST me money, even though I am willing to give him *some* cash. I finally broke it down very specifically and asked him to come & just trim some trees this weekend - what is the price per tree and let's split it between car equity and hourly rate. He still doesn't get it. His offer is this.....tree trimming, eventually doing the grading and the plumbing is $4,000 cash + plus the car title. He wants $750 in cash up front this weekend, then two more installments over two weeks of $1625 cash. And the car title. *blink* I think the kid is smoking crack. We don't even KNOW when we will need the grading and plumbing and he wants to be paid now. I didn't know college kids required retainer fees.

I repeat - what is the price for JUST TREE TRIMMING this weekend and we will address grading and plumbing IF we ever get to that part of the project. He still doesn't get it, his price for this weekend is $750 upfront cash, for yard work. When he owes me $1,500 in labor. The kid wants $125/hr, plus barter credit against the vehicle. I guess he has high expectations for his life after college, but the reality is that most of the population of America makes much less than $125/hr. and get a free car out of it.

This kid must need money desperately. I really do feel for him, but I have extended this more than most would even entertain. I feel at fault for placing trust in him, I should have given more time to get to know him better I suppose. I now face a very hard decision of an ultimatum. I don't want to go there, but it seems like it is the only way he is going to see that he actually owes ME and not that I owe him. I know that this will be the end of the relationship as well and that I could be putting him in a dire situation with no vehicle. Again, not my problem, but I'm not a robot and I don't want to do that to anyone. I also don't want to get screwed. He won't communicate with me by email, he prefers phone calls. At this time I will only respond to him via email because I feel it is the only way for him to see IN PRINT what is really happening. It is also giving me a paper trail if I happen to have to repo the vehicle, at least I'll have my side of the story. What a frackin' shitstorm.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

My head is in the trees

All I can think about lately is the treehouse - I'm ready to get started, but I have yet to get my first big necessity.....attachment bolts. I didn't find what I wanted at the local big box home improvement stores so I'll be ordering online and spending more than I had planned to. Oh well, what in life doesn't cost more than you wish it did?? I'll feel better about getting the bigger, better attachments - especially since I'm a novice builder. I'll post a picture of them once I get them in hand, I think they are going to be huge.

I've been working on design ideas and I keep changing my mind, something that I am definitely going to add is a widow's peak. It will be a small lookout tower that will rest high in the trees above the actual tree house. This project keeps growing in my head....

In other news, I'm dealing with a lot of crap in general - first, my grandfather. He's been someone I've always looked up to, but lately it seems that he is just pissing me off. I don't agree with his ideals, his morals or his view in general. It's really hard to start seeing someone without the filter after so many years. I want him to be my hero, but honestly, he is a racist and a chauvenisitic pig. That's hard to say about him, but I'm just being real. He is old and he is easing his way into dementia so I'm just riding along as usual and playing nice. I wouldn't want to ruin our relationship before he passes (at least, ruin it for him - it's already gone for me). I hate that my memories of him are now shrouded by what I've realized is his true personality. I can think back and see it all along, but as a child I just wanted him to be a hero and I looked past so many things. He was so completely rude to me a few days ago that I left his house in disbelief. He is just selfish. Period. Selfishness is something that I detest.

My grandmother on the other side of the family is slowly going down hill - she now has home healthcare and really just stays in bed most of the time. She has lost her desire to be on earth, but she trys to keep it positive on the outside. I'm inheriting her dog. I'm not a dog person, we have 3 cats. I've been spending a lot of time with her dog so we can all get used to each other - judging by the amount of dog bling I've purchased I could be getting converted. The kids are excited to get him - he is a black lab, very big. He has been an indoor dog his whole life, but that is not an option at my house. I'm kinda worried about the cold weather and how we will handle that. I'm hoping for the sake of the dog that grandma doesn't give in before the spring. The dog can stay in her house as long as she is there.

Funniest thing about the dog - I've always seen the cartoons where dogs bury their bones, etc. I thought is was just a cartoon thing. NOT. I gave Bo a rawhide and then he disappeared into the woods - near the treehouse spot - once I eyed him I saw him digging a hole. He dropped the rawhide into the hole and proceeded to cover it up by nudging dirt and pinestraw with his nose! It was the cutest thing ever! I'm anxious to see if he will actually remember where it is in a few days!!