Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Card Time

I recently sent out our Christmas Card. You could say that the annual Christmas card was my blog before I had a blog.

I get a kick out of reading other's Christmas cards/ annual updates. I love to see what my friends and family are up to, but it's also a secret obsession of mine to critique the grammar of each letter. I must of inherited the desire to cut up other people's writings from my English-teacher mom. One of my favorite styles to read is when their letters are written entirely in the third person. As if they have hired a writer to update us all.

I shouldn't be critical, but it makes me feel better about myself. Though I'm known for making a lot of mistakes on this here blog as well. I'm awful with the words 'there' Vs. 'their' especially.
For those of you who weren't worth the price of a stamp, here is this year's Christmas card:

Hello Sports Fans, Merry Christmas to all. We hope you are all happy and healthy. We are all doing very well in the great northwest. We find ourselves in awe of how blessed a family we are. But I'll skip the sappy stuff and get right to the much anticipated annual family recap: Abby Rae has gone from her terrible two's straight to terrible teens. She sweet talks her way out of trouble, begs for what she wants and has even slammed the door shut when upset. To my delight though, she ended her "dancing" career in the spring and now has taken up gymnastics. Now I know I ridiculed her dancing lessons as a waste of time doing what most the world would consider more like seizure-like motions rather than dancing, so I think gymnastics is a happy median of an activity that will have some benefit later on. For example, if she ever finds herself under fire by a machine gun, she can now do summer-saults to avoid the bullets. Though we don't expect her to become an Olympic gymnast, since she's already as tall as them, we are thrilled for her enthusiasm of the sport. Abby also started pre-school this year and I'm pretty sure she's considered the top of her class since she tells everyone else what to do. The rest of her time is spent playing with her princess dolls, dressing like a princess and then expecting to be treated like a princess...just like I want. Caleb started Kindergarten this year and loves to go school every day. He mainly likes riding the bus, but since the bus takes him to and from school, he has to stay there all day. Caleb's sports career took bad turn when he broke his left arm during his 2nd soccer game. A splint, surgery, 3 pins, cast, and another splint filled up the next couple months. Unfortunately, when he broke his arm, he stretched his radial nerve and has slightly paralyzed his wrist, fingers and thumb. The good news is that he starting to get movement again and he should re-gain complete function, though it may take up to 6 months. All that said, Caleb hasn't missed a beat. He's figured out how to do most everything he did before with one hand, and the stuff he can't do with one hand he's learned to not care about...like buttoning his pants...totally over-rated. It's been great to see him over-come this obstacle. Even though we have stressed about his hand, he simply keeps going like nothing ever happened. In fact he insisted on staying signed up for basketball this year and has already started attending practices. Caleb has stayed interested in Legos, riding his 4-wheeler, watching basketball with me (Go Jazz and Zags!) and is excited to go snow skiing when the snow hits this winter. The real princess of our home, Monica, continues to guide her scrapbook kingdom. Her business and website (www.transparenttouches.com) have stayed steady through the country's economic downturn. Maybe the CEO's of GM and Ford should take a lesson from her. Aside from being boss of her own company, she remains the boss of our home making it all run smoothly with her iron fist and sweet, sweet banana bread. I am still both a male and a nurse, other-wise known as a murse. Working at a large hospital brings with it certain excitement and challenges, along with lots and lots of sick people. I continue to work on my do-it-yourself skills around the house. I planted a 2-acre lawn in the spring for the kids to play baseball and soccer and I'm proud to say say that I still am using a push mower to cut the mega lawn. Other than working on Wallace Park, I have also almost completed building a large shop. It's essentially a 3-car garage to store some toys in. It's by far the biggest project I've ever taken on and I've needed a lot of help from family and friends. At printing, I still have some finishing touches, but I'm hoping to have it finished in the next couple weeks. We made our maiden voyage to Southern California and Disneyland this year and had a great time. Abby, especially, was enthralled by the princesses of Disneyland. Added to our beach time was the San Diego Zoo, Lego Land, and Sea World. Other than a few trips to Oregon, we've spent most of our time enjoying our home and Monica's parents' lake house. We can find all kinds of fun and excitement we need within 20 minutes of our door. I've also started a blog that has provided me with a great forum to write about our family adventures. Please check it out at www.jailfreewallacefamily.blogspot.com and feel free to sign up for all the updates to be emailed to you. We thank all our loving family and friends for fun times that they add to our lives. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it...oh crap!

On Wednesday, Monica and I had the sweet idea of going to downtown Spokane after the kid's school for an afternoon of seeing Santa and doing some shopping. It started to snow in the morning, but wasn't a real concern since we we're driving the Tahoe with it's new (used from Craigslist) snow tires. As we made the 10 mile trip, up and down a few hills, we started seeing some funny stuff with cars slipping all over the roads like Caleb standing on a bar of soap in the bathtub. One young girl had gotten stuck trying to climb an icy hill. We hooked the tow rope up to her and quickly pulled her to the top of the hill. But in the commotion of us pulling here out of the way of moving traffic, several other cars had stopped and also gotten themselves stuck on the hill. We ended up helping another car up the hill before traffic was flowing again. Once downtown, we did the Santa thing ($25 for a picture with an old fat guy with bad breath!!?? Are you kidding me?) and let the kids shop for their grandparents. By the time we got out of the mall, the snow was starting to pile up, probably over a foot by then. It was around 3:00, with rush hour just starting to pick up. It didn't take long to see we weren't going far anytime soon.

As downtown Spokane sits, there is a very steep hill to the south (cleverly called the South Hill) and no cars were getting up those roads and to the north there are a few steep hills that were being closed by the police because the high amount of cars and semi-trucks slipping (including the same hill that we had assisted on earlier). When we realized we needed to get out of that area of town, it was too late. Downtown had become a parking lot of stranded motorists. We helped pull out a few more cars that were stuck. One girl's car wasn't stuck, but it had stopped running and wouldn't start. She was in middle of the road and when I told her that I could pull her to somewhere more safe, she told me that she couldn't even get her car out of park and into nuetral. We tried it anyway and our big bad Tohoe pulled her skidding car about 200 feet out of harms way. Chevy rocks! (except for that loosing $3 billion dollars/year problem).

With cars every direction moving at a snail's pace, Mon and I decided to takes some food to a nearby homeless shelter. Though it was a charitable thing to do, I actually think Monica just wanted me to know where the shelter was located in case I complain about her tater-tot casserole again. We headed to the nearest hamburger shop and bought 30 hamburgers and fries. We then spent about 30 min. driving two blocks to the shelter.

We were having a little bit of a hard time explaining to Caleb and Abby what we were doing. Caleb kept asking silly questions like, "Why don't they just get jobs so they can buy their food?" Ahh kids, they just don't get it, do they?

We walked to the reception desk and explained our plan of passing out the burgers and fries and within seconds we had several lines surrounding us. We encouraged the kids to pass out the food, but they were a little shy and somewhat greedy. Abby, for example, kept passing out individual fries instead of the containers of fries. The guys had a funny look when she handed them one fry. It also didn't help that Abby was eating the fries as she was handing them out. I'm not sure she learned much from the experience.

We received lots of 'Thank You's' and 'Merry Christmas's' and it turned out to be a great time. The rest of the evening was spent in traffic. It took us 2 hours to cover the 10 miles home, but we finally made it. Spokane ended up having a record 24 hr snowfall that day over 24-30 inches in certain areas.








Friday, December 12, 2008

Building a Shop: Week 8

With the frozen nights, climbing on the metal roof has become a more dumb idea each day. I took a few moments of sunshine (although it was only 20 degrees) to climb up there to try and finish the roof. I had to change my pants after a couple slips before I realized my roof-climbing season was over. I was able to get all the metal roofing on except the top ridgejust not all screwed down. With snow in the forecast, my father in law, Stuart, helped me nearly complete all the metal-trimwork on Wednesday. With the 20-foot ladders fully extended, standing on ice, we came up with an idea of basically screwing 22 feet of top-ridge together, walking it up the ladder and then carefully laying it on the roof ridge, putting in 2 screws on one end and then hoping it stays there until April. With the snow starting to really come down, our plan worked like a charm. Now we just have to wait until April to see if it was a good idea. The good news was that it ended up snowing several inches and then froze. All the weight of the frozen snow is basically holding down the top ridge. It was a Christmas miracle to finish the last few pieces as the snow starting to fall. I suspect well have snow on the ground until Spring, so it couldn't have been better timing.
All that is left is installing the garage doors. Projects that I can complete inside the building, protected from the elements.

Again, a big thanks to Stuart and my other friends. There is now way I could have finished this mammoth-sized project without you.





Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Building a Shop: Week 7

Heavy Metal dude! Ok, bad joke. Placing the metal has gone fairly well. My Father in law, Stuart (aka my BFF), has stepped away from his alleged "job" and been a huge help every day. We're not exactly sure what he does for a living, but let it be known that it's the dream job of everyone who likes to do stuff other than work. He's been a tremendous help and I'd be working on this place through March if it weren't for all he's done. Thanks Stuart.

Working with the metal has come with a learning curve. Measuring, cutting and placing 18 foot sections takes some patience and skill. The factory provided me with just enough metal to fit the building with only inches to spare. So finding the right size of metal took some time. I placed all the metal sheets on the driveway instead of having to sift through a stack each time I needed a piece. With the metal all laid out, I would find the right sized piece, cut to size and correct angle and very carefully carry it over to the building. While carrying this 16 feet tall metal by myself, I'm pretty sure if a breeze came up, I would have been flown to Canada. Lucky for me though, no wind. Just freezing cold. We got the roofing up and mostly screwed down, both the sides and the back all done. The top 2 feet on the sides are not metal, but a see-through fiberglass to allow for natural lighting. With only the front to do and just a few more sheets of metal on the driveway, Monica took a mental vacation and backed the car over the metal. She feels bad for doing it, I feel bad for letting her out of the house. Seriously, it was easy mistake. We're talking about 16 foot sections of metal on a gravel driveway that had been there for three days, it may as well been invisible, it was so hard to see.

Since ordering new metal would take 2-3 weeks, I decided to hang the bent metal. Plus it will always be a reminder to refer to when I ask Monica to bake me brownies or rub my feet.

The finish is in sight.
.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Christmas Tree hunting

We're spending the week of Christmas in Oregon with family this year. With only two more weeks at home before we leave, Mon and I have contemplated not getting a Christmas tree this year. I know, I know....do it for the kids Clint! We compromised with the kids and got a tree, but we didn't pay for it. We went old-school and walked around our property (OK, maybe our neighbors' property, but who's really looking?)and cut one down.

When I announced to Caleb and Abby to put on thier coats so we can go find a Christmas tree, Abby made an interesting point. She said, "I'm not going if we have to swim through a river, but I'll go if we don't have to swim through a river...are we going to swim through a river?" Since there was no swimming during this year's Christmas tree hunt, we all set out to find the tree that looked the least like Charlie Brown's tree. We did find a decent one and hauled it all the way to our deck...about 15 feet away.

One last gem from Abby as we were placing the tree on the back deck for the night. Some ducks flew over and 4 year-old Abby yelled at them in her cutesy voice, "Go away ducks!!" When Monica questioned Abby about yelling at the ducks, she explained that she didn't want the ducks to poop on our Christmas tree. Well said Abby. The last thing we want to use to decorate our tree, is duck poo.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Building a Shop: Week 6

Raising the roof! For most pole buildings, the roof either has metal with insulation underneath or metal on top of wood sheeting. I chose the sheeting for several reasons, the most important being durability and the chance to walk on the roof easily when it's all done. I have a feeling with Caleb's throwing arm that I'll get to walk on the roof a lot to retrieve Frisbees and sticks.
Placing the 5 X 8 feet sheeting took a little work as you can see on the video below, but we got her done. Just repeat the video 32 times to understand what it took to place all the sheets.

video

I borrowed a new toy from my friend, Frank-the-tool-man, a man-sized nail gun. Frank has every tool known to man. I'll never have to buy a tool again as long as he's around. Thanks Frank. The nail gun was a lifesaver (unless I accidentally shoot myself, then it will become a life-taker) that helped the sheeting go up quick.
Next up: Metal.



Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Toys For Sale

While working on the shop, Caleb and Abby have been playing with my tools and the scrap wood. Both have made "houses" out of scraps and nails. And yesterday Caleb hammered together what looks like a small table but insisted on calling it a "stand". Monica and I know exactly what Caleb is referring to when he calls something a "stand"; a place to sell/buy stuff. I'm not sure of the origin of this word in Caleb's vocabulary, though it is consistent with other kids selling lemonade or cookies from a "stand" during the summer. Yesterday, after building his "stand", Caleb told me he had planned selling some of his toys on said stand in our driveway. Though this idea was totally ridiculous since we live out of town and the end of our 1/4 mile driveway is a 45 mph road, it was however an improvement from the last time Caleb built a "stand". Two summers ago, Caleb and Abby found a bunch of shells left over from the previous owners of our home and decided to set up a table and sell them. Not a bad idea except they set up their table in our garage...1/4 mile away from the road...far away from any traffic. We thought it was very cute and begged Monica's parents, Grandpa and Grandma Foster, to come over and buy some shells. They did buy some, but I'm pretty sure in good Foster-Fashion, they got Caleb to lower the price. I digress.

Caleb's new stand was to sell toys. I played along for awhile as he gathered up some broken toys and put them in zip lock bags with hand-written price tags. He wrote $10 for 3 Hot Wheels. He wrote $11 for a couple toys he got with his Happy Meals. And I think he wanted $12 for a remote control car, remote not included. I tried to explain to him that the prices were a little high and that the toys would only be worth what someone was willing to pay. He didn't quite get the concept though, he just smiled and told me what Lego set he could buy with his $33. I did convince him that setting up his stand at the end of the driveway wasn't going to work and discussed some other ways of selling stuff. I told him about using the computer or that I could take his toys to work and ask other parents to buy them for there kids... In other words, the only thing I could think of from keeping my son from selling his Hot Wheels on a highway shoulder was to buy them for twenty times their worth.

Think of Caleb as Citigroup wanting to sell a bunch of crap and me as the U.S. Government willing to buy all of it at an inflated price. Smart kid.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Giving Treats to the Poor

Every couple weeks or so, both Caleb and Abby are asked to provide treats for their classes. Yesterday, Monica sent two boxes of granola bars with Caleb for his class to share. Last night, we were all gathered on the couch talking about our days and Monica asked if the kids liked their granola bars. Caleb answered, "I decided to change that."
Monica asked what it meant to "change that"?
Caleb said, "I decided to give the granola bars to the poor people instead".
We're pretty sure that this means that Caleb took his class's treat and put them in boxes for the school's food drive.
What's a parent to do for that? Monica and I tried for few seconds to explain that that food was intended for his class, but it was quickly stopped by our beaming smiles full of pride. What a good kid.
He's well on his way to being jail-free.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Creation of a Shop: Week 5



Raise the roof! In five days the shop has gone from posts to framed up.

Most of the framing was done this week. It's actually looking like a building now. We had a roof raising party with a few friends (Thanks Stu, Scott and Brian) when we raised and placed the trusses.

For the most part it's gone smothly since I placed the posts. Surprisingly, the buiding is actually level and square (plus or minus an inch), which I'm sure makes my Dad happy. After another few days of work, I'll be working on the roof and then the metal shell.

We raised the trusses with a couple cable jacks that sat on the posts.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Good Morning Daughter

8:00 AM
Me yelling upstairs to Abby's room: "Abby, breakfast is ready. Please put your clothes on (from your pajamas) and come downstairs".

8:05 AM
Abby come down stairs in her pajamas and eats breakfast.

8:25 AM
Me after Abby's done with breakfast: "Abby, please go upstairs, to your room, and put on your clothes, Mommy has set them out for you".
8:30 AM
Me: "Abby, PLEASE go upstairs and change your clothes." Abby runs upstairs.

8:40 AM
Abby comes downstairs talking to a doll in her hands, still wearing her pajamas. Me: "Abby!, upstairs now!" Abby runs upstairs again.

8:45 AM
Abby walks into the living room still wearing her pajamas. She sees me and yells, "Stop looking at me!". She turns around and runs upstairs again.

8:46 AM
I yell upstairs, "Abby do not come down her until you've put your clothes on, do you understand?"

8:50 AM
I hear Abby on the stairs talking to herself in her typical cutesy voice. And then I realize who I'm dealing with: a girl who no longer is young enough to listen to her Dad. She's sitting on the stairs, (note she has not come down the stairs yet) reading a book IN HER PAJAMAS!!! (see actual photo)
8:52 AM
I go outside to work on the shop contemplating living with a teenage girl for the next 14 years.



Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Creation of a Shop: Week 4

Let there be height!!
With manly help of some good friends and family (the best home teachers and father-in-law in the world), we were able to set the gigantic posts. The posts were either 6"X6" or 6"X8" and 20 feet long, thus not easily moved. But with much effort and some rebar to set the braces in the rocky soil, we placed all 13 posts where they needed to be and made them sit straight.
To avoid having to fill the huge holes entirely with concrete, I created a few poor-man forms around the posts. They worked out great for when Mr. Concrete man brought his truck to fill up the holes. The crappy forms are all now covered with concrete so Mr. Inspector can't see the against-code forms.
With all the posts set in place, I was able to remove the braces and bring in some gravel around the site to flatten out the ground inside and around the shop.
It looks great! If I'm not mistaken, it even looks like a shop...kind of?







Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day '08

Is it going to be a Maverick Nation or Obama Mania? One thing is for sure, we won't have to watch or listen to all the crappy political adds for a long time.
A few weeks ago Abby learned the Pledge of Allegiance and it melted my heart. A beautiful young American promising to unite our great nation under God's guidance. How different would this election be if that's what all the crooked and creepy politicians focused on?

video

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Creation of a Shop : Week 3

This week I had to go back to making some bacon to build the shop. (No, the shop is not made out of bacon). Even on my few days off, I didn't get anything done on my massive project. I started to feel pretty down on myself wondering if I was getting into something over my head. I needed to find a power to pull from, to lift me and carry me through building the shop
Let me introduce you to the power of the 'stache...

It has rejuvenated me. I will get this thing done!......My mustache has given me an amazing shot in the arm. Never underestimate the power of the 'stache!! (And if you were wondering, I won't be able to sleep in my bed until I shave either).

Saturday, October 4, 2008

For the Love of Sleep

I've worked the night shift for almost 8 years now. I understand the need for sleep, though I do think sleep is a little over-rated. I can function fine on less shut-eye than most, but I do need some.

This week has been a test of my theory that only a little sleep is needed. Caleb has been acting very weird at night, only sleeping 1-2 hours and then not being able to get back to sleep. It's been one of the hardest weeks of my adult life. Nothing seems to make sense. He broke his arm 2 weeks ago and had a couple hard nights, that made sense though. But now he's not having any pain, he can turn himself in bed fine, but the boy just won't sleep.


This is what she's suppose to look like


I've tried everything from threatening him, yelling at him, sleeping with him, and comforting him, but nothing can keep him asleep for more than 2 hours at a time. Of course all the commotion at night wakes up Abby too, which causes a surreal moment of the entire family wondering around the house at 2 AM. My last idea was to tell him that if he couldn't sleep, he could close his door and play quietly in his room. So at 3 AM, Caleb would wake up, turn on his light and starting playing with his Lego's. I even checked on him a couple times while he was playing and he just smiled and asked if I wanted to play with him. The kicker to all this is that he hasn't been tired during the day either. Monica and I have been walking around like zombies and Caleb hasn't even taken a nap to recoup from his sleepless night.


A moment of Peace as Caleb sleeps


I'm fairly sure this is a phase, I hope this is phase....please, for the love of all that is good on earth, let this be a phase...

Friday, October 3, 2008

Creation of a Shop: Week 2

With no more jobs to hire out, the rest is up to me and my trusty Kubota tractor to finish the pad for the shop. Code requires that each post hole (our shop has 12 of them) be 32 inches wide and 36 inches deep. For most people, these holes can be dug by simply renting an auger for a few hours, but not for those of us Bible believers who have built our houses on a rock...literally. I was able to use my little back-hoe to dig 10 of the the 12 holes. Unfortunately my ability to dig has a couple down sides. 1) I keep digging the holes too wide, which means I'll have to buy more concrete at $115 cubic yard to fill them. 2) Even my powerful mini-tractor can't dig through solid rock. 3) Someone put the phone line where I needed to dig....three times.

Yes, I listen to AM radio every day. Yes, every other commercial on AM radio says, "call before you dig!". Yes, I dug before I called. Yes, I dug up our phone line. Yes, three times.

The good news was that I received a lesson on phone lines from our good friend Tana. (Thanks Tana, you rock!") After Phone Line 101, I was able to splice the broken line to give us phone and Internet service until Quest came out and put in a new line. For wire, all I had was speaker wire, and it worked like a charm. One note for you future phone service workers out there, the phone wire has a metal sheath around it that is very, very sharp. I've got about a dozen cuts on my fingers to prove it. I dug a trench the entire length of the shop for the phone company to lay down a new line that wouldn't travel under the shop and they came out a few days later and repaired the wire correctly, though the Quest guy was impressed with my speaker-wire fix. Thank you very much.



For the two remaining two holes that were solid rock, I rented a jack-hammer to dig down through the rock. After two full days and a bottle of Ibuprofen, I had dug each hole about 30 inches down. I was six inches too shallow, but I was hitting rock that wouldn't break up, so I gave up.



The county inspector came out at the end of the week and spent a whole 3 minutes glancing at the holes (even the shallow ones) and signed me off to start building. All the lumbar was delivered soon after. Next week...setting the posts...stay tuned for more pics of a ruggedly handsome me.