Monday, December 22, 2014


We are in the middle of potty training with Zadie.  She's about 90% pee-trained, but about zero percent poop-trained.  Gross.
She escaped naked from the bathroom after an epic poop clean-up:

"Zadie, what happened to your underpants??"
"They died."

Yep, pretty much.

Look who's ONE YEAR OLD!!!

December 9

Crawling, walking, climbing everything!, maneuvering stairs - up and down, 10 teeth, stacking things, destroying while exploring, and answering questions with yes or no shakes of his head.....  Can you believe he's already a year old??

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Home Improvements 2014: Staining a Concrete Floor

We've received lots of compliments about the basement floor.  I promised I'd document the process later, so here it is.
I researched and researched (Google and I have gotten pretty intimate over the last 6 months) on options for the floor, and came up with concrete staining as my choice.  I knew I didn't want paint, and tile was going to be a huge job.  I really liked the look of stained and sealed concrete.
I called a decorative concrete company in the area to get an estimate.  With a quote of $4-6.50 per square foot (1000 sqft basement = at least $4000!), we decided we'd try to do the work ourselves.
There are two types of stain:  acid stain and water-based stain.  I didn't want the acid stain because I didn't want fumes or chemical burns on any of the kids.  (I don't know if that would be possible, but didn't want to risk it.)  I finally found some Eagle Brand stain on Home Depot's website, so when we were in the store, I asked an associate about it, and got a big ol' "Uhhhhh........"  They sent me home with info on Behr's concrete stain, which had horrible reviews, so that was out.
Paul mentioned what we wanted to do to the men that did the surface finish when the floor was poured.  Mr. Mages directed Paul to Carter-Waters in Olathe - and I'm so glad he did!  It was exactly what I'd been searching the internet for - in a real walk-in store!  Concrete finishes is kind of the niche market these guys apparently have found, so they know about all of their products, could answer any questions, printed off fact sheets and application instructions, and sent me home with exact pricings.  So helpful! They recommended Elements Stain by Butterfield Color. All that was left was to choose a color.....
Which is where the stress began.
I'm a pansy when it comes to color!  (Which is why all but one room of our main floor remains white.)  I wanted to play it safe, and go with boring brown (everything goes with brown!), but Paul wanted something with a little character.
Let's just say the color chart is not true to real life color.  
But we'll get back to that in a moment.
One of the things that is recommended in every do-it-yourself concrete staining tutorial is grinding the concrete with an industrial floor buffer that has grinding pads, to remove any residues or imperfections.  I totally did not want to do this.  Time, mess, etc.  And I'm just generally cheap and lazy.  So, I asked the guys at Carter Waters, and they said nope, we didn't need to worry about that as long as the finishers didn't use a curing agent or sealer when they troweled the surface.  Ding!  No problem.  So we got to skip that step since the concrete was brand-new.
The stain instructions said that cleaning with Cho cleaner was required prior to putting down the stain.  It's a slightly acidic cleaner that strips the concrete and opens up the substrate to absorb the stain.  One 5-lb bucket of powder made 5 gallons of cleaner.  

We looked at the expanse of concrete and decided that wasn't going to work.  So we wet down the entire floor prior to putting on the cleaner, to keep it all from soaking in in the first room.
So......Wet the floors.

Just ignore the attractiveness of me in my nastiest clothes.  So flattering.
Splash on the cleaner.

Scrub with a push broom.  (I didn't get too serious with the scrubbing.)
Quickly neutralize the acid of the cleaner with baking soda water.  Wet vac up the excess water.
Rinse.  And wet vac again.
Lots of water in these first steps!  And wet vacuming is maddeningly slow with a Shop Vac.  I don't know if there's an industrial-sized vacuum you could rent for this, but it may be worth it.
(Sorry I don't have pictures for each step, but when we work on a project, I'm more focused on getting it done than I am photos for D-I-Y tutorials.)
Then let it dry........  Don't rush this.  I think we did.  The concrete looked dry, but I think that below the surface there was still moisture.  (If we were doing it again, I'd wait a full 24 hours for drying, rather than 6-8 that we did.)  

Then comes the fun part!  Putting on the color!
Okay, so back to the color dilemma......
We didn't really discuss our color ideas prior to going to the store, so to avoid a public scene, I let Paul make the decision.  He asked the associate's opinion, and went with that.  So, the name of the color is "Weathered Bronze."  Envision what you think that should look like.
And then feast your eyes on reality:

More like "Weathered Mustard Mixed with Cow Manure."  Thank goodness we did a test patch.
I could tell Paul wasn't thrilled with the color, but I'm not sure he wanted to admit it.  After two days of looking at our sample patch, I finally told him I couldn't do it.  I didn't want to cringe every time I walked down the stairs.  
So back to the Butterfield Color site I went.  I pored over their gallery photos, and finally came up with a look that we both liked.  Unfortunately, they don't say what the colors are on the photos, so we had to guess.  We decided to go with "Cordovan Leather" and layer over a darker brown to take some of the red out.
In Paul's defense, my "boring brown" (Kona Brown) wasn't that great either.  It looked like a big coffee stain on the floor.

You mix the stain with water.  One quart of stain base makes one gallon of stain.  
The stain is supposed to be applied with a "high pressure low volume" sprayer.  Our local rental store didn't have one to rent, so we went to Home Depot to buy one.  However, we got a "high volume low pressure" sprayer on accident.  The difference of pressure is not that great, but the difference of application is.  The HVLP that we got sprays bigger drops (think cheap spray bottle), whereas the HPLV is more of a fine mist.  (Both of these attach to an air compressor.)

Safety first!
The application with the sprayer went surprisingly fast.  You just do overlapping circular motions so there are no lines, and just go-go-go!  (You can't let it form dry lines.)  One of us would spray, and the other would be ready with the stain to refill the canister.

The specs say one quart of base (gallon prepared) will cover 200-400 feet.  The men in the store said easily would do the whole 980.  It was actually somewhere in the middle, with it covering about 2/3 of the floor.  In the boys' room we had to use the weathered bronze, but with the dark brown layered over, it didn't end up too bad.  (We went and bought the correct type of sprayer for the second coat.)


Added to the fact we were applying the stain more heavily than intended, was the fact that I think our concrete wasn't fully dry.  This resulted in some puddling.  Which had me upset initially, but after it was finished, added character and dimension to the effect.

And then it was wait nervously for it to dry to see if we'd like the end result.
We did do a very light second coat of the Kona Brown over the red (Cordovan Leather) to kind of tone down the red.  I honestly don't think it made that much difference, but we had the brown to use, so - hey.  Nothing wasted.

The stain's data sheet recommended a certain seal over it, but the men at Carter Waters said that wasn't necessary, and sent us home with a wax.  You mop it on with a microfiber pad, then let it dry.  To get the glossy look, we rented a floor buffer.

The instructions said two coats of wax.  It took about 6.  The wax was just soaking into the concrete, so when we buffed, it wasn't shining, and I was getting frustrated.  So finally, I just glugged a bunch out and then spread it so it was still white on the floor, and let it dry.  Then I took the buffer to it, and - instant shine!

The dark spots are where the puddles were.  Prior to the wax, the puddles were glossy, and the rest was matte, but waxing it put the same gloss over all the floor and made the "puddles" look more like marbling.


We're so pleased with the result!  It wasn't really that hard, just a lot of time.  Total cost, including 3 quarts of base, the cleaner, and the wax, buying two sprayers, and renting the buffer, was about $400.  That's a tenth of the quoted cost of having someone else do it.  I'm thinking maybe we need to start up a side business!
These last two are a super-close up of the texture and coloring..... And also a super-close up of the creepies that invaded this fall.  I swept multiple times a day and would collect at least a dozen of these each time.  I sprayed Home Defense around the perimeter of the basement (per the instructions) and the outside foundation.  It wasn't until I sprayed up along the top of the foundation from the inside that I noticed a difference, but they weren't entirely eradicated until our first hard freeze followed by a long cold spell.

Gross, gross, gross.
Here you can see the speckles of dark brown over the red.

And the creepiest thing is they "crunch" when you squish them.  Worms are not supposed to "crunch."  I was terrified to walk barefoot down there.
However, I love the "crackle" look that the stain took in some areas, like this.

Friday, December 19, 2014

The 60-Second Pick Up!

Earlier this week, by a stroke of inspiration, I came up with a kids cleaning idea that may change my life.  Definitely my house!
I was sitting on the couch, and getting frustrated at the "kid-clutter" all over the floor - shoes, socks, dirty clothes, toys.... you get the picture.  The kids were running back and forth, chasing each other, so I hollered out, "Boys!  Get in here.  We're going to take 60 seconds and pick up this room."  So I started counting.....  It definitely wasn't just 60 seconds, as I stopped to instruct, "26.....  27...... That goes in the bathroom.  In the hamper not on the floor!...... 28..... Put those on the back porch.  Hang them up....... 29....."  But they really jumped on it, racing to see if they could get it picked up before I got done counting.  I was so pleased with the result that I gave both boys a dollar when they were done.  (I never give monetary rewards - I'm too tight!)
I've employed it at least once daily since then.  (No payouts these times though.)  Nathan has caught on that it's not exactly a game, so he doesn't race any more - he can't seem too eager to please! - but at least he still contributes without arguing. We've used it on the living room, the front room, the dining room, and the back porch.  Tomorrow I'm going to see how it goes for the bathroom.
I think the reason it works so well is that they know they only have to clean until I reach 60, so it's not an open-ended task.  As soon as we reach 60, they get to go back to playing, and Mommy is happy.
And when Mommy is happy, everybody is happy. :)

Life..... Beyond the Home Improvements

So there is more to life than our home improvements.  And I haven't talked about it in a while.
Where to begin?
I mentioned a month or so back about Gideon's sleep schedule.  Well, apparently that week was a fluke.  He's probably only slept two nights through in all the time since.  We just finished weaning, and I think we have finally (finally - finally - FINALLY!) established a daytime schedule, but I have had to fight tooth and nail (and other pertinent body parts) for it.  Tough love, lots of clinging, crying, and screaming.  (And not all of that coming from Gideon! :) )  He gets up in the morning about 8, goes down for a nap at 1, sleeps for 2-4 hours (oh how I wish 4 was the norm!), and then goes to bed at 8.  We're past the point that I have to deliberately keep him awake, but not to the point that he can entertain himself.  He still wants me to carry him everywhere.  So even though the rest of my body has gone to flab, I have some pretty serious biceps.
We wrapped up weaning right as he turned a year.  At 24 pounds, and 30 inches tall, he was definitely getting too big.  Not to mention he had started doing "baby yoga" positions - while nursing.  There was more yanking and biting going on than actual nursing.  However, switching him over to "real food" wasn't easy.  He just didn't want to eat.  He'd spit it out or slap away my hand with the spoon....  Let me tell ya how that went over!  But as I figured, once he got hungry enough, he began eating real meals.  Although I have to watch, because his appetite now exceeds his concentration level for feeding himself.  So he'll stop eating what's in front of him, but can eat two or three more servings if someone feeds it to him.
The best, most glorious thing about Gideon having a sleep schedule is that it exactly coincides with Zadie's.  I put him down for nap at 1, and come down and put her to nap within 15 minutes usually.  (She sleeps in our room, since naptime is too precious for me to risk having one wake up the other prematurely.)  Then I do school with the boys.  I would prefer to get it over with in the morning, but I guess the good thing is that by afternoon, the boys have had their time to go outside, play with Legos, do whatever, so this is their "bored time" and I give them something to do.
Whereas fights with Nathan last year were daily, if not hourly, this year they are much fewer.  Math is still reviewing (remember, we couldn't start school til October when we moved back home), so it's easy for him and he loves it when he already knows what he's being taught.  (We're still working on patience and the concept that "practice makes perfect.")  He's figured out that reading might be helpful - aided, I think, by the fact that all of his friends are now reading well - so he wants to try at it.  I did spend a chunk of money on supplemental materials for him - flashcards, phonics work pages, etc - and the new things really piqued his interest.  Not to mention we now have 5 different methods for going over the same material every day, but since it's all different, he doesn't get so bored or frustrated.  He can sound out most short-vowel words, but he is still very slow to put them together.
Jacob has got the school thing figured out.  Sit down, get it done quickly, then get back to playing!  His school is still pretty easy.  He knows a lot of the stuff already from Nathan learning them.  So some days in math we can do 3 or 4 lessons.  He is eager to please with his reading, although he gets bored if he thinks it's taking too long.  Frequently he'll ask to go get a drink, then just disappear until I hunt him down.
We took a break from music over the summer and haven't started up again.  Part of it is the craziness of life lately.  The other part is it's not worth it for me.  I'm not going to beg and plead and barter and fight with my son to play an instrument.  I have too many things to do to waste time arguing with him over every little thing.  When he decides he wants to play and practice the way it's supposed to be done, we'll take it up again.  And we're getting close.  He got his violin out this week and found all his music and set up his stand.  And when the holidays are over, I will press him a little more.  It's something we can do in the morning while the little ones are awake.
As for Zadie...... Oh, Zadie!  She is such a handful.  My brother has a phrase he uses, "a swirling vortex of drama."  And that pretty much describes her.  She is happy and carefree, but she can turn on the screaming screeching in an instant - and then go back again!  Oh, my goodness.  If this is what all girls are like, it's a good thing we only have one!  She is all girl.  Everything pink, sparkly, and girly is HERS.  She loves clothes, jewelry, shoes, and dolls and babies.  She's such a little mother.  At the beginning of summer, we were probably only understanding 10% of what she said, and I'd say now we can understand 90%, now that we've figured out her annunciations.  She has not what I'd call a lisp, but she mis-pronounces certain letters.  She jabbers constantly to us, to her toys, to herself.
I had surgery in August to repair a hernia.  I had the same surgery two years ago, but they didn't put in a big enough patch, and it tore another weak spot.  The hernia was about the size of my fist - disgusting.  I am the proud bearer of a 4-inch mesh patch holding in my insides.  Recovery took longer - I'd say 10 days - before I felt on top of things, and a month before I was back to normal.
Jacob inherited the same weak belly genes.  He's had a tiny hernia since he was a baby, but it has always "reduced" (gone back in).  This autumn, I noticed it pooching out more often, so finally checked it and it wouldn't push back in.  Even though it wasn't an emergency, we made the decision to get it fixed now so it can be well-healed and strong by the time he's a teenager.  Hopefully it's the last we'll have to deal with hernias in our family.
I finally got on top of the house.  I have conquered 4 "baskets-o-crap" and have two left.  (In case you're not familiar with the term, a "basket-o-crap" is what you get when you're in the middle of cleaning and sorting and you need the table.  All of that gets shoved into a box or basket to be dealt with later.  Sometimes it's a month later.....)  I kind of laid it down to everyone about pulling their weight around here.  We all live here, we all keep it clean.
So life is returned to normal.  I'm looking forward to the youngest being a little less "baby" so I can do a little more without him on my arm.  But we are happy, healthy, and growing closer with each other and God, so life is good!

Thursday, December 18, 2014


I actually did eat some snow!  It tasted like grass.  A little bit.  Except watery.
--The 7-year-old

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Overheard: That's Jacob!

Working on a project:
"Jacob, I need Daddy's square.  Do you know what that is?"
"Yeah.  It's a triangle."
(Pretty good for a 5-year-old to know what a carpenter's square is!)

At Thanksgiving:
"Jacob, what are you thankful for?"
"My family.  My warm house.  And our mighty God!"

Trying to calm him down at 2 AM after a bad dream:
"God's taking care of you while you sleep.  Can God see everything?"
"Does God know everything?  Does He know what you dream about?"
"Can God do anything?"
"Except sin."