Tuesday, May 09, 2006

the vacation (that wasn't)

I know it's been about two weeks since I've posted, but I've been busy.

Last week my wife went on one of her annual "girl trips". This is where she and 4 or 5 of her friends take a trip without the guys. This year they went to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. I stayed home and took care of the boys. Doesn't seem quite right does it. I take a week off work so my wife can go on vacation. While she's gone I have to do all the work at home that she'd normally do and then some. And then when she gets home, I get to go back to work. What a deal.

I think they had a great time. I didn't get all of the details and I'm not sure I want to know them anyway. What I do know is this: the sun was shining every day, she spent a lot of time at Cabo Wabo, only bathed twice the whole week and says she can't look at tequila or margaritas again for a long time.

My "vacation" went something like this.

On Saturday morning I had a load of 20 yards of mulch dumped on my driveway to be spread in the flower beds and around the trees in our yard. For those of you who don't know how much that is, it looks something like this:


(not at all an exageration*)

*well, maybe

My plan was to spread the mulch on Saturday and Sunday but as usual the weather got in the way. It rained off and on every day of my vacation except for the last day. Of course the boys wanted to help me do it. And they wanted to get paid for it. Their idea of "help" is to fill their little red wheelbarrow with mulch, get about half way to the flower bed, and acidentally dump the mulch in the grass. I quickly decided that rake detail might work a little better so I gave them both rakes and said "I'll dump the mulch, you guys spread it out". That worked pretty well. They actually helped me for about 2 hours on Saturday which is about 1 hour and 50 minutes longer than they helped me last year. It took me till Monday afternoon to get the mulch spread and I did about half of it in a cold drizzle.

Instead of paying them the 5 dollars I'd promised, I took them to the comic book convention on Sunday morning which ended up costing me a lot more. This is a local convention they have every other month in an old, rundown Holiday Inn on the east side of town. Have you ever been to a comic book convention? Let me tell you about this one. First, my boys were about the only kids there. The clientelle was mostly men age 30-55, most of whom are probably single and still live with their mothers. There was a seperate room where these guys sat in folding chairs and watched Japinese anime on a 17 inch TV. Most of the videos featured scantily clad young girls with big eyes and big breasts who fought demons and villians while managing to act vulnerable and helpless at the same time. Those are fantasy women for these guys. It's the closest many of them will ever get to a real live girl. There seemed to be a brisk trade in bootlegged Japinese anime porno which sold about as well as the comic books. There were also a lot of action figures and comic related toys for sale. I heard one guy say he really wanted some Darth Vader figurine from 1982 but it had to be "mint in box". Does it make him any less of a loser if he doesn't actually play with the figurines? After about 45 minutes the boys had picked out their comics and the inevitable Yu-Gi-Oh cards and they were ready to go. Back out into the rain.

In addition to the mulch I had many other projects planned for the week.

Last fall I built a fire pit in the back yard. S said "I either want a swimming pool or a firepit". That was an easy one for me. "I'd be happy to build you a fire pit honey". So I got about one ton of stone, several bags of mortor and built one. It turned out pretty nice and only took about 9 hours to build. Now S wants a patio around the pit so she can put some furniture around it so we won't have to drag the folding chairs out and sit them in the grass. No problem, I've worked with stone before.

I went to the local stone center to pick out the flagstones I was going to use. I'd also decided to go ahead and get stones to build a walkway from our driveway to our deck that I'd been planning to do for a couple of years but had never gotten around to. I calculated the square footage of stone I'd need to cover the areas, picked out my stone, then asked my friend Pat from the stone center how much stone I'd need. "About two and a half tons" he replied. "Ya gonna take that with you?" I just looked at him. The prospect of laying that much stone was daunting and I didn't think I could fit it in the trunk of my car. "No Pat, I think I'll have it delivered". "That'll be eleven hundred dollars. We can get that out to you on Wednesday". Great.

Tuesday it rained all day.

Wednesday it rained all day.

Thurday morning I start on the stone. First I have to dig up the grass (possibly the worst part of the whole project), then I have to put down a layer of sand, level the sand, lay the stones and put more sand on top to fill in the spaces. Sounds simple right? It's not. First, the stones aren't uniform thickness so to get a relatively flat surface you need different levels of sand under each stone. The stones aren't flat on the bottom either. You have to lay a few stones together then pick them back up to adjust the level of sand underneath. Pick it up, put it down. Pick it back up. Scrape off a little more sand. Put it back down. You also have to put the stones together like a jigsaw puzzle. None of the shapes are ever quite right. I would use a rock hammer to try and shape the stones but inevitably they'd break in the wrong place. I started the patio at 9 AM. By 5 PM by back ached, my legs were sore, my fingers were raw and I was convinced the mole that's been digging tunnels in our back yard was standing there laughing at me, but the patio was done.

Friday morning. The sun is out for the first time that week. I start to work on the walkway and quickly realize that my friend Pat has greatly overestimated the amout of stone (non-returnable) that I'd need for the project. I finished the walkway in about three hours and still had about 3/4 of a ton of rock left. What to do with it? Why not build another walkway? This one would extend from the other side of the deck through a small garden area around the side of the house. By this time however I was sick of laying stone. And most of the pieces I had left were smaller and didn't go together very well. I basically threw the stone out in a semi-random fashion, poured sand over it and flattened it out as best I could. This is the least stable of the structures I built and I hope no one actually walks on it cause they'll probably trip, break a leg a sue me. It's nice to look at though.

Amazingly, despite the rain and the countless hours spent working in the yard I still managed to run the household in S's abscence. I got the kids up, got them breakfast and off to school everyday. Helped them with their homework, read to them at night, brushed their teeth, cooked, did the dishes, did the laundry and cleaned. Took the boys to a movie, The Wild, (I don't know about you but I think these computer animated movies from Disney and other studios have been awfully boring and unoriginal of late. Even my boys are starting to think they suck), took them out to dinner, took number 2 son to tennis lessons (number 1 son can't play right now because of his fractured tibia) and went swimming in the neighbors pool (in the rain) twice. We also managed to watch all nine hours of The Lord Of The Rings on DVD. The boys loved those movies. All-in-all, a pretty productive week. What I need now is a vacation.

The week was almost over and I was physically wiped out so I bagged the other projects and decided to spend my last 2 days off drinking. Pale Ale and red wine in varying quantities over the next 2 days soothed my aching muscles.

In the end it was all worth it. S came home and saw what I'd done and was thrilled. It looked better than she had imagined. I scored some big points with this one. Haven't figured out how to cash them in though. Any ideas?

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