Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Man Room Update

The man room is dead. I sold the bar, the bar fridge and the pub table on craigslist. I attempted to sell the pool table on craigslist, but apparently 100 people will email me with detailed questions about a cheap pub table, but not a single one has an appreciation for a quality pool table. The pool table is in storage waiting for the day that I get another man room.

I got the room cleaned out last weekend, with the exception of a couch that I can't get back down the stairs.

I found the builder's drawing tacked up to the wall on the first day of construction.

If I didn't know our builder, and live in the evidence that he can build a whole house, I might be concerned about the quality of the architect's rendering.

The framing happened quickly once Bill and his superintendent Brad started.

The bathroom main vanity area:

The tub and toilet area:


Bathroom, closets and hall.

And the kids watching the sheet rock people unload the truck into our garage:

I wonder if they know they are getting a new room. This is a big deal. Even if they don't know and aren't excited, I'm excited for them.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Little Silver Van

I used to talk bad about mini-vans. I feel bad about it. Not that there's anything wrong with mini-vans; some of my best friends are mini-vans. I just never thought I would own one.

After looking into the big white van and coming up with a big white no-go, I re-thought my choices and motives. The reason I liked the big white van was its pure utility. That made me question whether the Ford Flex was an option at all because it's a lot smaller than our Expedition EL and doesn't hold very much.

I did some more research and concluded that all the people who drive mini-vans can't be wrong, despite the things I've said about them. Mini-vans have walk-through access to the third row, which we need because we will have two carseats in the second row. They also have lots of cargo room to carry strollers and baby gear - not as much as the big white van, but still a pretty good bit. Other than it being a mini-van, there's not much to complain about with the functionality of a mini-van. On the inside, they are just like you and me.

I am a Honda/Acura fan. My last three cars have been Hondas and Acuras and, other than a battery cable or three on one of the Hondas, they were perfect. And Honda's van, the Odyssey, is made right here in Alabama. Naturally, I picked the Odyssey.

It's only 69 inches tall, so it fits in the garage. No measuring required, unlike the big white van.

My only problem with this purchase was negotiating with Heather on the optional features. Because this is "our" car as opposed to "my" car, I think I ran into more resistance and second guessing than I'm used to. Heather accepted my determination that: 1) a mini-van was the correct vehicle; and, 2) the Honda Odyssey was the best mini-van for us, but that was pretty much where her acceptance ended.

I researched the trim lines and optional features on the van and gave Heather my report on what we needed. She shot down every single one of the options. Not some. All. For each feature, Heather asked how much it costs. I told her how much and re-explained the benefits of said feature. She said no. Over and over. She told me I was to purchase this van with no optional features for the cheapest price possible.

Heather said it. Heather is pregnant. I don't argue with pregnant women. We will have a van with no features.

Although it went against every fiber of my leather seat loving, big stereo listening self, I bought a Honda Odyssey with no optional features. There is no Honda Odyssey one can purchase that has less stuff on it than ours. I bet even the one you rent from Budget Rent-A-Car has more stuff on it. I guess this makes sense because the Expedition, with all the kid friendly features and fancy things, is the primary kid hauler. Really, I don't need to know the reason. A pregnant woman told me to do it and I did it. Those are the rules as I understand them.

Even though both Heather and I still drive SUVs, we now own a mini-van. I don't know if that makes us mini-van people. I do know that Heather looked down at me from the Expedition when I got behind the wheel of the van at the dealership and laughed. Maybe she was laughing that we, as SUV people, bought a mini-van. Maybe she was just laughing at me. I know neither of us claim it yet. I've driven it a few times when I could have driven my SUV. I like it. I may have to take back most of the things I've said about mini-vans. I just had to take the time to get to know one.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Snacks on the Go

Today, we went to church and put the kids down for a nap a little later than normal. They ended up sleeping until about 4:00, which I though was going to put a crimp in my afternoon walk plans.

Our normal afternoon routine is: wake up from nap; play/walk; snack; then, bath followed by dinner. The kids usually want a snack by 5:00, so I didn't think I had time to walk and come back in time for snacks. Then it occurred to me that I could take a snack on the road - sort of like what normal parents do.

I packed up bananas, cheese and milk and hit the neighborhood nature trail.

I stopped on a wide spot, so the kids could look out over the pond.

I know most parents would have left the bibs behind, but I didn't feel like scrubbing cheese and bananas out of the stroller harnesses. I'm taking this whole flexibility thing slowly.

In any event, my afternoon walk time got a little longer today.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Search for a Nannymobile

In addition to looking for a new nanny, we've been shopping for a third family car so our future nanny will have a big safe car at the house to carry four kids. The SUV I bought last year that fits three carseats in the back seat will be useless as a family car as soon as #4 arrives, so I want something to drive the kids around in too.

The car needs to have access to the third row without folding down the second row because the second row will have car seats in it. I narrowed down my search to three choices: 1) a Ford Flex; 2) a full size Chevy Express Van and 3) a Ford Expedition EL. Heather already has an Expedition EL and doesn't want another one, so I struck that off the list. I like the Flex, but it doesn't give us any utility that we don't already have with the Expedition. It's just a smaller version of what we have.

This left me with the full size van. I did my safety research and found that Chevy offers full side curtain airbags, containment glass in the back that will keep someone from being ejected in a roll-over, and stability control that helps to keep the van from rolling over in the first place. The one-ton version of the van (the 3500) is also one of the heaviest vehicles I've found without a turret and cannon on top. I am a member of the bigger-is-better camp when it comes to car safety, so that's a huge selling point for me.

I found a 12 passenger Express 3500 in town and test drove it at lunch on Friday. It drove great and I really liked it. I even took it through some sharp corners at unsafe speeds to see if I could tip it over. I was unable to tip it over, but more than able to scare the hell out of Bernie the White Knuckle Salesman.

Friday night I reported my findings to Heather and she approved of the purchase. On Saturday morning, I drove out to the dealership and asked Bernie Whiteknuckles if I could take it for the weekend. I wanted to take it home, see how the carseats fit, see how it fits in the garage, show it to Heather, and just generally see how it works into our weekend routine. Bernie was happy to let me perform the remainder of my road testing without him, and eagerly got his boss's approval for me to borrow the van for the weekend.

Here's the van in our driveway:

It has loads of room in back and the door slides easily.

The second and third row will each hold three people or two carseats, and each has two LATCH systems and tethers to secure the carseats.

The fourth row is split, so you can take out half of the fourth row, seating two people in the way-back with a lot of cargo room, or take out the whole way-back bench and haul just about anything.

As much as anyone can be in love with a big white 12 passenger van, I'm in love. It's perfect for us now, and I think it would serve our family well over the next ten years or so.

Because we have limited garage / parking area, we're going to have to keep the third car in the garage. Heather and I will park side by side (tightly) in the driveway because it just isn't practical to move the nannymobile/van and one of our cars every morning when we leave for work. Moving just one car is a huge pain now. The car-moving results in at least five minutes of debate each morning. I can't imagine the unpleasantries that would fly while Heather and I were getting dressed if we had to move two cars every morning. Our neighborhood covenants prevent us from parking cars on the street, so that's not an option either. Our parking situation just isn't good.

I used to park on the right hand side of the garage until we added the arsenal of strollers, which now consists of a triple jogger, a double, a single and two double wagons. We'll probably add a single jogger and maybe a couple double joggers with the new baby. My car isn't going back in the garage for the foreseeable future.

Anyway, the van worked perfectly on my weekend test. If it passed the garage test, we had found our new nannymobile / daddymobile / vacation car.

Heather's Expedition is about 77 inches tall. A 77 inch truck gives us 6 inches of extra room, as shown here:

. . . unless Ford measured the 77 inches by including the optional roof rails, then we have 3 inches, as shown here:

Because the roof rails are options on Heather's Expedition, I figured we had 6 inches, and the van is only 4 inches taller than Heather's car.

I also measured, of course.

The opening to the garage is this big:

And the van is only this big:

See? No problem.

Just for kicks, Heather wanted to test the calibration of my fingers and have me actually pull the van into the garage. Admittedly it was a little closer than I thought.

Heather and the kids watched from the front door as I pulled the van into the garage. As I nosed in, Heather started waving her arms in a woo-hoo motion. I was like woo-hoo too because it was working and just grazing the rubber portion of the garage door opening. When I didn't stop, Heather ran out the door and then I realized her woo-hoo arm motion was actually a stop-stop motion. They look alike.

Heather: It's not going to fit.
Me: It's going to fit. The first two inches of the opening are rubber.
Heather: It's a lot bigger than the garage.
Me: Trust me.
Heather: I'm not watching.
Me: You have to; I need someone to tell me when to stop if it doesn't fit.
Heather: Now. Stop now. It doesn't fit.
Me: Spot me.
Heather: I'm not watching.

I got the van about half way in and it was taking up all of the rubber seal on the garage door, but not yet hitting the wood.

As the err-err-err of van sliding against rubber turned into the snap and pop of van crunching wood, Heather came back out and gave me the "I told you so" look. Really, it was just a tight fit until the back wheels went up a half inch from the driveway onto the house slab. Then it was wedged in the hole.

The van didn't fit, but I was able to un-stick it with no apparent damage to the house. A cursory inspection of the van showed no damage to it either. Although my van dreams are crushed, my height miscalculation didn't cause any property damage that I can see.

Even though I had use of the van through tomorrow, I went ahead and took it back today. It was a long sad drive. Just me and the big white van that will never be mine. I heart you big white van.

Hopefully Bernie Whiteknuckles won't call me tomorrow asking about the roof of the van.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Death of a Man Room

When Heather and I were shopping for a house in 2003, there were two things I wanted: a wine cellar and a man room. I didn't care if the wine cellar was off of, or part of, the man room. I just wanted a place to store a couple hundred bottles of wine and a place to drink said wine while playing pool.

After we looked at a few houses and our realtor gave a passable effort not to laugh at me for being critical of the lack of suitable wine storage in the houses, Heather had a little talk with me. She informed me that "people like us," buying three bedroom houses, didn't want or need wine cellars. We agreed to disagree on that one.

Having scrapped the wine cellar requirement, my last stand on the list of "wants" was a man room. When we walked in the house we ultimately bought, Heather and our realtor looked around, oohing and ahhing at the kitchen and master bath's pretty things. I went upstairs to find a giant unfinished room with a plywood floor, exposed studs, and no wiring, just waiting to become my perfect man room. I cared very little about the rest of the house after Heather told me that I could "have" that room as mine. Sold.

Even though I may have been a little naive in thinking that fellow poor people had or wanted wine cellars, I possessed incredible foresight in staking out 400 square feet of the house as mine. I didn't know, as I do now, that "our" house is just "ours" because I have a key and I live here. I live in Heather's house. "Our" house would not have fourteen decorative pillows on our bed or towels that I'm not allowed to touch. Somehow, even then, I knew that my man room would be my haven in our home. My only space.

I can put dead animals on the wall.

(That was self defense, by the way)

It's the only place in the house suitable for fish pictures.

I even have dogs playing pool.

Those silly dogs. See - He got hit in the nose. They slay me.

When we found out number four on the way, Heather and I started talking about housing options. We could move to a bigger house (Option "A"). We could turn part of the man room into a guest room (which is a must have for Heather's mom) by putting in a pullout couch and getting rid of the bar (Option "B"). Or we could add a bathroom and closets to the man room, turning it into a big bedroom for the girls (Option "C"). We weighed our options, including the prospect of marketing a house with a romper room for a dining room, and decided to use my man room to make our 3/2.5 into a 4/3.5.

It was my idea, granted as an Option "C," but it didn't take long for Heather to decide "C" was the way to go. I had actually thrown out Options "A" and "B" first without "C," but I accidentally started the conversation by saying we had three options. Heather put me on cross and pulled "C" out of me when no third option was forthcoming. I was planning on keeping "C" in my back pocket, but that's what I get for marrying a lawyer. Bye-bye man room.

We're going to put the three kids in the new bedroom when it's done and make their old room a nursery for the baby. Then we'll split up rooms by sex when the baby is older and on the same schedule as the kids, with the girls getting the new room and the boy(s) getting the room the kids are in now. The guest room / Heather's mom's room stays intact.

The first twelve feet of this corner will be two closets:

This corner will be the bathroom, with be the shower/tub against the far wall and the length of the bathroom coming out as far as the closets opposite the newly formed hallway:

Man Room: 2003-2010. Rest in peace my friend. I'll pour out a little of my 40 for you. Not in the house, of course. Maybe outside. I'll have to ask Heather.