Friday, January 7, 2011

Adventures with Grandpa - Christmas 2010

OK, before we get started, I must admit that some of these adventures don’t directly involve Grandpa, but he was here, so there you go. And as a prelude to this madness, I must admit that I was further behind on my Christmas stuff than I usually am. Yes, I’m always running around frantically trying to get everything finished up into the late hours on Christmas Eve, but this year was worse than usual because I was out of town for the first two weeks of December (I won’t say where I went, because I might lose my readers’ – maybe I should change that to reader’s – sympathy, if I ever had any). So the setup to this story is that I was gone for the first two weekends of December. The third weekend (the last weekend before Christmas) was spent dragging out the tree and a few other decorations and throwing them together, along with repacking the post-Christmas-decoration-piles and stacking them back in the garage, cleaning house and shopping. (Yes, I was tempted to skip the Christmas tree this year, but if I did that, where would we put the presents? Under the coffee table? Couldn’t do it.)

The week of Christmas I worked a full week (four ten-hour days). Couldn’t very well ask for more time off; all of my backup staff at the office had already taken it off, and some people called in sick. After work I was running to the mall (horror of horrors) and other stores to grab last-minute stuff. Because of that, I hadn’t been able to get much sleep all week, which doesn’t help anyone’s general coherence. Friday, Christmas Eve day found me closeted in my bedroom with piles of boxes, Christmas wrap, ribbons and bows, unwrapped gifts that must be stashed at any second should anyone need to enter the room, and a dwindling tape supply. Of course the scissors, tape, gift tags or marker disappeared in between every wrapping job, adding further steam to my approaching breakdown.

This brings us to Grandpa’s arrival. All my kids (except Jill and family, who weren’t here) were going out to dinner with their dad on Christmas Eve, so I had made plans for Grandpa and me to go out to dinner with my friends, Julie and Jeanne. Julie and Jeanne’s parents have been dead for a number years and they don’t have any children, so we often spend time with them on Christmas Eve or Morning, and this year we decided to go eat at a favorite buffet. It was Friday, which was crab night! Yay! We wanted to get there early, though, try to beat the crowd, so I called Dad on Christmas Eve morning and asked when he was coming. I mentioned that I would like him to be here by 3:00 so that we could go eat dinner with Julie and Jeanne. He said he would, then casually asked if I had any projects around the house that needed working on while he was here. I’m a big fan of projects, and at first I couldn’t think of anything, but then I remembered the ceiling fan in my bedroom. I bought several ceiling fans at the beginning of summer and I put the others up by myself (yay! So proud of myself), but I didn’t get the one in my bedroom done because I couldn’t get the existing light fixture off the ceiling. He agreed that we would give it a try. Yes, I wasn’t thinking straight. When would we do said repair? Christmas Day? Surely not on Sunday, the day after Christmas. Blame it on my total lack of sleep.

Of course Grandpa arrived around noon on Friday (Christmas Eve). The first thing he said after greeting everyone was “Where’s that ceiling fan?” I knew it was futile to try to stall him, so I showed him the box, but told him about the problems I had when I tried to put it up myself. First of all, there was insulation glued to the top of the ceiling fixture, underneath the light bulbs. When I pulled it loose before, trying to find a screw or something that would release the thing, insulation, meaning fiberglass, had rained down upon me, getting on my skin, clothes, hair, bed, and floor, causing extreme itching and tiny cuts, not to mention a mess. I had to shower and clean up the whole area afterwards, and even that didn’t relieve some of the discomfort from the tiny cuts on my hands and arms. I warned Dad about that, and he agreed that we should try to guard against that, so I ran downstairs to the garage to get a few tarps to throw in the bed, a couple garbage bags to cover our clothes, and some gloves to protect our hands. By the time I came back (and I swear, I was only gone a couple of minutes), Dad had already removed the glass cover on the fixture and was tugging at the insulation, resulting in a shower of fiberglass. I gave up, set aside my tarps and gloves, and started to help him. Of course the screw I had tried to remove was stripped, but he clipped it off with some wire cutters, and we soon had the fixture off the ceiling. I also must mention here that the ceiling fan was going above my bed, so we had to stand on the bed to do all of the installation, which is never very sturdy. I was worried that he might lose his balance and tumble off the bed any moment, so I was hovering next to him to try to catch him if that should happen. Then we had it mostly put up when I remembered that there should be another separate wire for the light kit, pre-wired by the builder who obviously tried to hide it from us, which meant we had to take the motor and everything else down again to dig for the wire in the ceiling, but eventually we found it and put everything back up. I won’t mention the constant searching for dropped screws and other bits and pieces; those are par for the course with any home improvement project. Sometimes, too, I suspected that Dad was deliberately weaving while standing on the bed so he could watch me leap into action and try to catch him when he wasn’t falling at all. Hey, he has to get his amusement somewhere! When it was time to connect the light kit (for the second time), Dad got a call from Uncle Frank, so he left the room to talk to his brother. I finished up the fan, removed all of the wrap, ribbons, gifts, boxes, gift bags, etc. from the bed and put the bedspread in the washing machine and put on a clean one. I vacuumed, and by then it was time to get ready to go out to eat.

When we were on our way to the buffet, Jeanne called to tell me that Sunset Station, home of my favorite crab legs, wasn’t serving them today. It was Friday, the usual day for them, but since it was Christmas Eve they changed the menu. There was no line there at all, but she suggested that we go to Green Valley Ranch, another casino owned by the same company, who had advertised that they have crab legs every day. I truly didn’t care that much about the crab legs, but since it was closer, I agreed to meet them there instead. When we got to GVR, the line was very long. The people ahead of us in line cheerily informed us that a line like that meant a two-hour wait. I didn’t really believe her, but was a bit nervous. Time was short, as you know! Lots to do at home! We waited for Julie and Jeanne to arrive. When they did, we discussed going back to Sunset Station, where there was no line, but you know how that goes. By the time we got there, the line might be twice as long as this one! So we stayed. Dad wasn’t happy about the long wait, and it was more than an hour (but not two!) before we were seated. And, surprise surprise, no crab! Just my luck!

Even though the wait was long, we had a nice dinner and headed home. I told Dad that unfortunately he was on his own until the rest of the family returned. I still had lots to do in my bedroom. I set him up with the TV and his favorite, the Hallmark Channel, and returned to my room. I reassembled all of the boxes, bags, gifts, wrap, and ribbon on the bed and commenced the wrapping process. I was also watching my current favorite (true crime) on the TV in my room. At one point I heard a funny sound. I thought, hmm, what was that? Maybe it was on the TV? I reversed the show for a minute or so and yes, I heard the sound again, so I thought it was one of those weird background sounds you sometimes get on this type of show. A few minutes later Chica, my ever-faithful doggie companion, whined because she wanted to sit by me and her way was blocked by all of the stuff stacked on my bed. (Dobby was hanging with Grandpa, as shown in the picture.) I cleared a path for her and she joined me. Soon after settling down next to me, she stood up and threw up all over my side of the bed, on my heated throw, bedspread, and floor. It’s kind of amazing how much stuff such a tiny stomach can hold. (Chica weighs under eight pounds.) I jumped up to go get something to clean it up and discovered what the sound was that I’d heard earlier. Yes, it was her throwing up on the other side of the bed, down the doggie steps, and on the carpet on that side. Chica has been seriously ill, but she’s been better lately. I didn’t know if this sudden illness was something she ate or a bad recurrence of her disease, but I carried her downstairs to the family room/kitchen area (all tile) and started the clean up. All of the boxes, bags, wrap (you get the picture) had to be moved from the bed again, all the bedding removed, including the cover from the doggie steps, sheets, blanket, and heated throw this time, and added to the growing pile by the washing machine. Dad was going to be sleeping in Jimmy’s bed, so all of his bedding had already been added. I had to find more blankets to put on the beds; I even had to bring in a big bag of bedding from the garage because the supply inside the house was totally depleted! (Seriously, if any of you have need for extra blankets and such, I have bags and bags of them in the garage that aren’t being used that I’d be glad to give you.) I penned Chica in the kitchen/downstairs family room with the rest of the family, who had all returned by then (tile only except for a few throw rugs), and returned to my labors upstairs. Every so often I would get another call that Chica had done it again, so I would have to come downstairs and clean up another mess and/or carry more rugs to the pile in the laundry room. When everybody else went to bed, Chica proceeded to whine and cry, alone in the kitchen/family room, disturbing everyone’s sleep. When I finally finished wrapping the last stocking stuffer (yes, we wrap those) and, with Jimmy’s help, got everything set up around the tree, I joined Chica in the family room and slept on the couch with her so that she would settle down and stop crying. Yes, I was worried that I might wake up in the morning to find her dead. The vet said that it was a good possibility. But I tried not to think of that.

Christmas morning (not very many hours later) there were a few more large puddles on the few remaining rugs, but she was still alive. We dragged ourselves out of bed and commenced with the Christmas festivities. We opened our presents, cooked a big breakfast, and cleaned it all up before opening the stockings. Chica seemed better but we held off letting her have anything to eat until later in the day. She was better. I continued washing all the bedding (some of the blankets and bedspreads are still spread over the furniture upstairs, even though they’ve been dry for quite a while). Later that day I remembered another project that I needed Dad’s help with. I hated to mention it, since I knew it wasn’t anybody’s favorite chore, but the toilet in my bathroom had been “plugged” for over a month. The trouble began before Thanksgiving, and I tried using the little plunger substitute I had, a gadget that blasts air into the pipes, many times to no avail. I had bought two more plungers and an auger (I usually borrow Julie’s but decided I needed one of my own) and still couldn’t get it to work. I guess you wouldn’t say that the toilet was plugged, it just wouldn’t go down the way it’s supposed to. My interpretation of that was plugged. I mentioned the toilet to Dad several times, and he was a bit reluctant to offer his services. Can you blame him? Finally on Christmas Day afternoon, I mentioned it again and he agreed to take a look. For this project, he didn’t mind being “suited up” with a full apron, rubber gloves, and a pair of goggles. (Actually I’m exaggerating about the goggles, but I thought it was a funny addition to the costume.) Armed with a plunger, he went into the bathroom. There was nothing in the toilet but water (it hadn’t been used for a while), so he tried flushing it and of course it didn’t go down. He removed the tank cover. I protested that the tank was fine, there’s something down the drain somewhere, but he ignored me and looked inside the tank while flushing. The little flapper thing in there that releases the water in the tank was coming up when flushing, but it was immediately slamming back down, not letting the water go from the tank into the bowl, so not giving sufficient water pressure to make anything go down the drain. If you just hold the handle down a little longer (but not too long so it gets stuck on the floater thing), the toilet was flushing perfectly. Thank goodness for Dad’s toilet expertise. I can fix what’s needed in there eventually and, miracle of miracles, I can use the toilet in my bathroom once again!

We removed Dad’s toilet repairing armor, I turned the Hallmark Channel back on, and the rest of the day was completely lovely. Later in the evening we all gathered and watched my new DVD, “Despicable Me.” I love that video! Yes, Dad liked it, too. And I had my Christmas wishes fulfilled. A ceiling fan in my bedroom and a fixed toilet! What can be better than that?

On Sunday, Joanna and Shayler left to go home, and Dad, Jenny and I went to church. Jimmy had to work (he thankfully got a seasonal job at Target). We had a pleasant evening. Our church begins at 2:00 PM, so by the time it’s over, the day’s about gone anyway. Later that night, though, the cause of Chica’s illness was revealed. It was something that broke all of our hearts. Under her bed, Jenny found a torn-open empty box of Bella Toffee. Dad had bought a number of boxes from Matti to hand out to his customers, and he brought two extra boxes for us, one for me and Jimmy, and one for Joanna and Shayler. He put the boxes under the tree with his other gifts. Apparently Chica discovered one of them, because only one was left. She normally doesn’t get into stuff like that, but since she’s been sick, she’s been on steroids, which make her very hungry and increase her desire to try to get into the trash and anything else that’s available. She found a gold mine under the tree sometime Friday afternoon. I was relieved to find out that she was sick from eating something, rather than her illness, but we were all very sad at the loss of that wonderful treat. We opened the second box and had a piece. It is so delicious that it’s pretty hard to stop eating once you start, so who can blame her? We still mourn its loss, though! That’s really good stuff! Bad dog! Bad, bad dog!

On Monday morning Dad left to go home before I got up, and I get up pretty early, since I leave the house to go to work around 6:20 AM. And once again, the Christmas holiday is over. I hope yours was as fun as mine!