Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tis The Season

Deck the Halls/Walls and Roofs!
Here it is, the week before Thanksgiving, when all through the house....Barb is pulling out Christmas decorations. It's times like this when you realize how much you under-appreciated your oldest son's enthusiastic outdoor decor.  "Bear" if you read this...Mommy loves you and misses you.

Seriously, Terry had said this year he WAS NOT going to put up lights.  If I wanted them up I had to get Jared to help...and if Jared couldn't help I was on my own. (It helped that Terry was working on the neighbors back door).

Rising to the Challenge
This past Saturday I bravely went where no mom has gone the shed to get out the 8 foot ladder.
I then got up into the rafters of the garage looking for the boxes of Christmas lights.  I had decided I wanted the icicle lights on the front of the house...that's all no less.

I did break down and asked Jared via many strings does the front of the house take...and it's four. Very diligently I tested and fixed four strings of lights and then got the ladder around the front of the house and started work.  It went pretty smoothly until I reached the awning that hangs over the front bay window.  As I was repositioning the ladder, Terry showed up to make sure "I didn't fall off the @#$ ladder".  All in all it was pretty smooth sailing.

Our new neighbor had promised her son she would put up lights this year, so when she got back from the store, she borrowed the ladder and we got her lights up too!  Girls Rock!

So I figured, why not put up the 8 foot Santa, and the 8 foot Reindeer....and the net lights for the bushes and more icicles on the lilac bush.  So by this time...Terry figured I needed help (since the big guys have to be staked and tethered to the ground).  Once we were done, it did look good!  I left them on until just before dinner and then turned them off.

Terry came up from downstairs and said "Why'd you turn the lights off? Don't we need to make sure they look good in the dark"? And flipped the switch on.

Everything blew.  Apparently adding the extra four strings to the lilac bush was too much and you are not allowed to connect more than six strings of lights together of one power source.

I think that's some kind of "man rule" that only guys know about.

Needless to say...Menards loves us.

Tales from the Tank #5

Once the tank was filled, we needed to wait 24 hours before adding fish.  So the next evening we found ourselves at the local pet store ready to purchase fish.  Now the "New Tank Setup" takes fish that you don't really care about - they just need to "poop" up the tank so to speak - and six was the limit. It's all that stuff about nitrites/nitrates, PH, and CO2 in the water...No one told me I was going to need a degree in chemistry!

Our initial purchase were little bitty tetras, two yellow with red tails and four that are grey with a red stripe on their body.  Now, they are just like kids, all they do is eat, poop up the tank and sleep. (I have no idea if fish really sleep..i just made that part up :-).  But you're not supposed to become attached to them so that when you're ready to graduate to more fish - you can flush these.  Sounds rather inhumane and Terry has already mentioned to friends there is no way I'll be able to flush the little suckers. 

It's been about three weeks now and we ran out to the pet store just the other night because I was sure we could get just a couple more little bitty fish for this huge tank.  But nope, the PH levels were "just starting to increase" and I definitely need to give it the full six to eight weeks.  Needless to say....things have slowed down a bit on the fish tank for now while we wait for the water to get "ripe".  I have to say the little buggers know when it's time to eat - they can be little pigs!

In the meanwhile....we gravitated to Matt's room and decided that his 10 gallon tank could use some sprucing up.  So off we go to purchase "bubblers".  I love bubblers and apparently so do goldfish since they seem to like to sit in the bubble stream and get massages.  Oh...if I was only a goldfish.

Wait...on second thought, nah I'm glad I'm not.  I don't like "poopy" water.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Tales from the Tank #4

My sister just asked "So where's the rest of the story?" (She already has an inside, cuz she's heard most of this already).
As we left off in the previous blog, Tales of the Tank #3, Terry has just purchased 25 feet of amazing Aquarium Hose designed to fill, clean and remove the water from your new fish tank.

We returned home from the amazing fish store with our new purchases, we were ready to go.  He tore into the package like a kid with a Christmas present and got everything out and went into the bathroom (which is less than 25 feet away).  He then tells me we're gonna need an adapter for the faucet and where's the one we had when we had the waterbed? We had a waterbed in the 80's.  So the search began for the adapter we had somewhere in the house.

After searching cupboards and drawers with no luck, he looks at the clock and decides it's too late for the hardware store, so he wants to run to Wal-Mart.  But WAIT....he can't leave cuz his new favorite show is about to start. Sons of Anarchy.  We run downstairs to start the DVD recorder - which only Matt has mastered and end up watching the first 15 minutes before he heads off to Wal-Mart in search of an adapter. 
I am warned:  "You better pay attention so you can tell me what happens".

30 minutes later he returns. No adapter. He went over to Lowe's but they were closed.  I did pay attention and brought him up to speed on who killed who and exactly what happened.
Unwilling to give up, he decides we'll try to do it without the adapter.  So we extend the hose, and while trying to get water to go through the hose, he pushes a little too hard on the faucet, can't figure out why no water is coming over to the tank - and decides to check one more place downstairs.

Thank goodness he did, because for some reason when he got to the basement, there was a puddle of water on the floor under where the sink would be.  He yells "Barb...get down here". There is water in the furnace room, water in the back room and he can't figure out why. So it's left to me to clean up the mess.

He comes back upstairs and looks under the sink...and yells "Barb...get up here". (I think the running up and down the stairs helped me post a 2 lb loss at weigh in last week).

The entire cabinet under the sink was filled with water (ok, not that much cuz it had already run down the walls in the basement). I got that cleaned up, dried up and stuff put back.  THEN he figures out, pushing up on the faucet, caused the water to back fill under the sink.  Wow, that would have been nice to know BEFORE we did it.

In total defeat we decide to give up for the night. It's now about 11pm. As we are cleaning up the mess we have in the living room, bathroom and everywhere else, Terry says, "You'd think for $45 they would have included the @#$% adapter."

As he winds up the 25 foot of hose...he asks, "where should we put it?". I replied, just put it back in the plastic bag, and we'll store in the end table.

As he picks up the bag and the wire ties, he picks up the cardboard the hose was wired to and starts to curse.  There on the back on the cardboard insert - still attached with a wire tie - is a lonely little hose adapter just waiting to be used.  (I still laugh out loud over this one).

An hour later (about 12:30am), we have a fully functioning 40 gallon tank, treated with clorine and filled with "Fish Tank Approved" decor....just waiting for fish. Did I mention I have to be up at 5am?

Moral of this story: check all packaging before you run around town at 10 p.m. looking for the missing piece.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Tales from the Tank #3

Tuesday night, (aproximately five days after purchase), we find ourselves at the fish store, pump/filter in hand to get some expert advice.

Nothing's wrong with the pump...yup...just if you don't latch it down just so, water water everywhere and oh yeah, a new little $5.00 seal around the top won't hurt. So why not.

Then the owner dude says, "So, how'd you fill the tank?". Here's the rest of the conversation: Terry says, 5 gallon bucket (8 times). Dude says, tired of doing that yet? Terry says, @#$ yeah.  Dude says, I've got just the thing you need.

So about $90 bucks later, we walk out with a new bridge (Fish Tank Approved), a few more plants, and this handy dandy thing called a Aquarium Hose Kit. 

It's 25 feet of tubular beauty designed to alleviate all back, arm, neck and shoulder pain associated with filling a 40 gallon fish tank..5 gallons at a time. LMAO.

Oh yeah, it also reverses the process and sucks all the water out if/when you need to clean the tank. Go Figure.

Tales from the Tank #2

With any good DIY project, you run right out and get all the material you need...or think you need based on semi-accurate info or just plain old guessing.

So, we (Terry) discussed the advantages and disadvantages of making a cave like structure using cement. After consulting some highly qualified people (Mr. P. and my dad) we ended up with some kind or mortar (with no sand etc., since eventually it wears away in water?). Ran right home and mixed some up.

We were gonna make rocks and caves and anything else we could think of.  Then after it had solidified, we tested it out in water.  Eventually after an overnight stint in some plain tap water, we decided the slimy feel and bit of pink tint was not a good thing. 

In the meantime, we found some other stuff and drilled holes in it etc. We had recieved this awesome piece of driftwood, but decided there needed to be a hold in it so the fish could swim through. (At this point we still have no fish). So we put this ceramic thingy in the tank too, with the piece of drift wood, the plants and stuff we bought and decided it was time to fill the tank.

40 gallons of water is a lot when you fill it in 5 gallon increments. LOL

Then, we get everything just so, hoses for the pump all hooked up and it's looking good. We start the pump and water starts leaking from the sides of the pump.  Panic sets in and we shut it down, try to figure out the problem. Terry didn't have the sides latched quite right.  So we try again, and there's just a teeny bit of a drip out the sides - but enough to cause concern so we shut it down and study the directions etc.  So I called the fish store in the morning, but he said bring the pump in so we an take a peek.

Well, now we were gonna have to wait another day, because we were not missing football because of a silly fish tank. But that's ok....remember, we are taking our time!

Tuesday morning I'm in the bathroom brushing my teeth and Terry yells "Barb! ...get out here!". The ceramic thingy we stuck in the tank did not have a "baked" finish, and the paint was starting to flake. When I reached in to pull it out, orange paint just sort of floated off and contaminated the entire tank. I tried to call our friend to see what we should do, but Terry said, "Dude, it has to be emptied".  Great...just want I wanted to do, hand bail 40 gallons of water after work. Yee Haw!

But low and behold, about 10:30 in the morning, some crew digging near the new Federal Court House construction project hits a major natural gas main and the job site Terry is working on gets evacuated for the rest of the day! That sucks, cuz it's a short pay check but heck...why not work on the fish tank?

When I get home, he has emptied the tank, cleaned all the gravel, carried the tank to the shower (by himself) to rinse it with hot water (did I mention he has some major guns from lifting all that heavy sheet rock?)

Now we have a majorly clean tank, clean rock, clean plants and I have thrown out anything not acceptable for a fish tank. Apparently you are not supposed to put just anything you want in a fish tank. Funny, but I don't remember that rule in our handout explaining "New Tank Syndrome".

After the ceramic pot incident - we have decided to purchase any and all "Fish Tank Approved" logs, rocks, wood, plants.....Who the heck has time for DIY projects anyway?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Tales from the Tank #1

A couple Friday's ago, after arranging to buy the 40 gallon fish tank, we head over to the J's house and grill some burgers and check out the new 75 gallon tank. It is absolutely HUGE.

After a bit, we get the tank and stuff loaded up and bring it home. Thank goodness Matt was home that weekend because I am a wimp so he had to help unload it from the truck. We were so excited....we now had a HOBBY!! Whoo Hoo!

So we got up early on Saturday and headed out to "other" pet store on the far side of town. We walked in and immediately feel as though we have entered the twilight zone of fish tanks. (insert twilight zone music here). There seriously must have been 150 fish tanks - filled with all kinds of fish from tiny neon tetra's to the terrible maneaters...piranha!!

So as we walked around in a daze - not really knowing where to start, this great young gal steps up and asks "May I help you".  (She didn't realize how much help we really needed).  So, after a few explanations of what the color coded zeros on the tanks were, the things we needed to do, she promptly handed us the "New Tank Syndrome" flyer and sent us on our way.

Now, "New Tank Syndrome" is much different than "Empty Nest Syndrome".  NTS is pretty much an explanation of how you need to get the water just so, before you start adding a bunch of fish (cheap or expensive).  If the PH and bacteria levels are not just so....any fish you add will die. (Great - Just Great - I have already experienced fish death with the of course, I said to Terry, "NO WAY am I going to go through that again with an eight dollar angel fish". So we decided to follow the advice of the NTS handout and slow down. 

So, being the cost concious DIY people that we are - and now that we were gonna "take our time". We decided that if this was truly going to be a hobby...we would make some of the pretty rock formations ourselves.  You can already see where this is headed right?

Terry & Barb decide on a Hobby

So, with all our new found "free time", Terry sits in front of the computer crawling "craigslist" to see what we should buy. A camper (been there done that). A motorcyle (ok, but then you can't take anyone with you to the games). A dunebuggy (we don't live near a beach). Or something else? Four Wheelers, riding lawn mower. There was even a day on the way home from Pella, he tried to talk me into a tractor. Yes a tractor. I said, It won't fit in the yard, and I already have one for my Farmville Farm, so NO.

So, now we have to back track to when Matt left for school. I have been given the duty of taking care of the 10 gallon fish tank with three goldfish (raised from teeny tiny little things) and six snails. Then the worst of things happened. Snails started dying. OMG...I told Terry, "I have failed as a fish caregiver".  So we started asking questions at the local pet store ( know the one - PET SMART).  Apparently gold fish are the dirtiest little fish around so they tend to poison snails.  Then the snails die and the goldfish now have a "snack".  So I had to break the news to Matt that the snails died and he says "Oh Well".

Then low and of our friends posted on Facebook...she was getting a new 75 gallon fish tank and needed to sell her old one.

Terry and I are now the proud owners of a 40 gallon fish tank. 

A Little Background

So here's a tidbit or two about things leading up to the creation of my new online journal.  For the last seven years I had been pretty involved in volunteer activities at the high school my boys attended. First with different fund raising events and stuff for Band and the last three with the Athletic department - managing the concessions.  I would never have been able to do any of it without the help and support of my husband, who was just as involved. (I needed a "grillmaster") LOL.

So with any good begin to suffer from burnout...and sometimes the only way out is to go cold turkey and resign (which I did - about four months after he did). That was six months before the youngest graduated.  Then we got busy with planning a grad party, prepping stuff for the youngest to go to college, remodeling the breezeway between the house and the garage and so on.

Then the oldest son decided at age 21 it was time to be on his own.  This is a very good thing and as a parent we always hope that we've done a good job teaching them responsibility and how to manage on their own and it's very surprising when it turns out that you may have actually done a good job.  So, the day after the youngest son's grad party...we were helping the oldest move out.

Then low and behold...less than two months later the day came to move the youngest to college. It's an exciting time for them as young adults, but I must one ever says anything about the "Empty Nest" except that's its a fun and exiciting time.

Really? Seriously? So on any given day (except for the last nine Saturday's and Monday's) it's 6:30 in the evening, dinner is cooked, eaten and the dishes are done and I spent all day yesterday cleaning the house.

What in the heck do we do with all this free time? 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Children left Home? Help for Parents from Flown The Nest

Children left Home? Help for Parents from Flown The Nest

Dog Walking 101

Funny thing happened a few weeks ago.  I was walking Sophie (our Chessapeake Bay Retriever) and we were on our way home from the creek where we were playing in the water with a tennis ball and a 30 foot lead. (She a bit afraid of the water- which Terry says is my own fault).  Anyway, on the way home, the last thing you want to do with an 75 pound dog is stop - turn her head to the squirrel sitting six feet away and say - "Sophie, see the squirrel?" To which any red blooded dog would reply with a "Yep" and promptly take off. Pulling their innocent, unsuspecting owner down to the ground in a beautiful bellyflop (which would have gotten a 10 from the swim judges at the local high school).

Thank goodness she was on a 30 foot lead...otherwise typing this blog would be impossible with just one hand/arm...which she practically yanked out of my shoulder.

Oh...and did I tell you we live on a busy street and I was a block from home, laying in the neighbors yard?
Yep...that was me. 

So Barb, Why a Blog?

The Answer: I'm not really sure. The thought popped into my head a week or so ago with some funny things that happened. But then I started thinking....this is so funny I wish I could share it with everyone - not just the the couple of people here. Before I knew it, I had asked my niece, "how do I start a blog?".  Even though part of her info says...Don't Ask Me...she was very helpful and most of all encouraging. She is very check out her blog at

So as I start this, I'm asking for forgiveness up front if I make any blogger blunders etc.  Basically this will be filled with thoughts, questions and funny stories too numerous to remember in a end of the year Christmas letter (which I have always wanted to do, but never found the time).