Sunday, July 25, 2010

Baby Pterodactyl

That's what Brian and Heather call our darling little girl.

Here's why.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

2010 BTR Park Criterium

Alex hasn't been able to do many races in between weddings and vacations this last few months. He finally got the chance to get back in the saddle last weekend out in Kalamazoo. His parents were out for a visit, so Barb stayed home with Abby and Mel and I spectated. Unfortunately, we had to get up at 5:30 am in order to get there in time. Fortunately, I wasn't driving and Mel was sitting up front so I got to sleep on the way out. The race was a 1.1 mile loop around what I would call an industrial park type area. It was actually really pretty, surrounded by wetlands chalk full of blooming flowers.

Alex was leading or in the top 5 riders for most of the race, which was, in typical criterium style, 40 minutes of riding plus 2 laps. But on the last lap he got bullied out of the front and as a result didn't get a chance to sprint for the win. Too bad, since this was one of the only races I've ever seen where category four racers get prize money! But next time around, I'm sure Alex will have a better strategy for that last lap, and then we'll be rich!

Alex is the guy in the blue jersey with the orange bike and black helmet with yellow stripes.
First Row: at the starting line & one of the million laps where Alex was in first place.
Second Row: the sprint finish & dad
Third Row: flowers & evidence I was there

The Deck

As many of you know, Alex and I decided to build a deck this summer. I was going to wait until it was COMPLETELY finished to do this post, but since I don't know when we'll have time to put the finishing touches on, I decided to just do it.

I have to say that when we first decided to build a deck, I thought it would be pretty easy. I mean, all you have to do is nail some boards together, right? Wrong. Building a deck, especially if you follow all the city's rules, can be kind of complicated. For example, take a look at page 1 and 2 of the deck building guidelines, provided by the city:

Pages 3, 4, and 5 get even more complicated. For example, you have to make sure your deck can support 40 lbs of live load per square foot. How do you figure that out? Well, you first have to find out what type of soil you have. Given the same surface area, clay can support less weight than sand or gravel. So if you have clay, you need to put in wider diameter footings than if you have sand or gravel. Or, you can just put in more footings per area supported. And you need to space the joists depending on their dimensions and the type of wood. That's right, you have to know what type of wood you're buying. Anyhow, I'm sure you're bored to death by this point. To make a long story shorter, after a lot of reading on the internet and an old issue of Decks magazine (provided by my mother), I came up with a plan. I know it doesn't look like much, but I re-drew it at least 5 times. I then had to take this plan to the City Planning and Development office to get it approved. I was nervous. I had to sit in the waiting room while The Guy looked at it. I felt like I was back in college on test day I had so many butterflies in my stomach. But it was approved! (Note the comment in the upper left corner)

Once I had the plan approved, I had to pay $50 to get a building permit. Awesome. And then, FINALLY, we got to start building. Step one was to pour cement footings. This sucks. I recommend making someone else do it if you ever want to build a deck for yourself. First off, my Plan called for 10 inch diameter footings. Lowe's only sells 12 inch or 8 inch diameter footing forms (see here if you don't know what footing forms look like). So I bought the 12 inch, cut them down the side, and then duct taped them into 10 inch diameter. After I dug the appropriate holes and put the footing forms into them it was time for inspection #1.

The footing placement was approved and then the fun began--filling the holes with cement. I hate cement. Not only did the cement work suck, but it was really hard to make sure the top of all the footings were at the same level. I had to go buy a 12 foot 2x4 to stretch between footings to check level.

After the footings had dried, we made yet another trip to Lowe's and bought the fun stuff--lumber.

Making the frame for the deck was tricky only because it's important to make it square and level. An additional complication is that our deck rests right on the footings. Normally, deck posts are 4x4's or 6x6's notched at the top to hold the frame. Since there is no space between our frame and the footings, the only part of the 4x4 we needed was the notched part. So basically we needed 2x2's which don't exist at Lowe's. So I had to cut the 4x4's into 2x2's.

Those bolts you see in that first photo? They were a ROYAL PAIN IN THE PATOOTEY to put in. Just drilling the holes took forever--turns out wet, treated lumber is harder to drill through. I almost had an embolism on the last one. Thankfully Alex stepped in and saved me. The only other real difficulty was that it turns out one of the corner footings was off by a few inches. Oops. Not bad enough to redo it, but annoying.

Once the outer frame was done, we started putting in the joists. That was fairly easy once I figured out a method for getting the right placement for the joist hangers (so that the top of the joist was exactly even with the outer deck frame and the joist itself was straight up and down). The one annoyance was that we had to dig out the area that would eventually be under the deck so that the joists weren't sitting on the soil. Most of what we dug out was old hay from the dog house but the rest was grassy roots and clay. Really fun digging.

Once the frame was built, on to the decking. We thought this would be the easy part, but it really takes forever to nail in decking. Sooooo maaaaanny naaaaiiiilllss.

Finished at last! But then we had a party and found out that it is really annoying to try to keep babies on the deck and dogs off the deck. So we went back to the drawing board and decided to add a railing.

NOW, it's finished. Except we have to stain it and add a gate...

Here's a little slideshow of the beginning to end.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


I came home today to a pile of packages on the doorstep. They were from Abby's awesome Aunt Olivia. She has had the best evening ever. I can't wait for Rowan to get a load of this tomorrow morning!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Remember When Abby Turned One?

Way back when Abby turned one, her Aunt and Uncle sent us an awesome birthday video. Unfortunately, I have become senile in my old age (frequently forgetting to do simple things like zip my pants) and I forgot to post the video to our blog so that everyone could enjoy it as much as we have! So, a mere six and a half months late, here's Abby's birthday video. If you want to sing along, the lyrics are posted below.

Abby’s Song: Meow Meow, Woof Woof
By Matt and Beth Mettler

I Live in the State of Michigan
Until my Mom’s Dissertation’s Done
She’s a Scientist
Get’s Religion Pissed
Grew Up, Among Creationists
That’s My Mom!

I have two cat, meow
They are both my favorite
But I like Rambo the best
They’re my cats!

I also have a couple of dogs, woof woof
Charlie likes to lick my face
And Ella makes the world - A wonderful place
They’re my cat’s!
Woof Woof

I like cups, spoons n’ bowls
I like colors and Cheerios
My name is Abigail
Some call my Abby
I love my family

Meow Meow
Woof Woof
Mom and Dad
(x 4)

I live in the state of Michigan
It’s terrain doesn’t let my Daddy get his climbin’ in
He’s a cyclist
Beer enthusiast
Learned of life, from behaviorists
That’s my Dad!

Chorus (with Round)!

Thursday, July 1, 2010