Monday March 17, 2003 11:19 PM
Hoots n' Boots, Kittens, and Pogo-Painting

Ruth has been wanting to paint our living room for a long time now.

We'd selected the color some months ago, but hadn't gotten around to buying it or doing anything more to implement the plan than choose the shade. It was down to a shootout between "Frog's Jump" and "Savannah Moss". I liked the frivolity of Frog's Jump, but it was just a little too Kermit-colored for my taste so the battle went to the classical serenity of Savannah Moss.

I came home Tuesday evening and saw two paint cans sitting on the floor in the entryway, but I ignored them knowing that they'd come up sooner or later and curious about how much Ruth had spent on them. I also didn't mention that I'd seen them because I knew there was now no excuse left for not painting. My attitude towards the paint changed later in the evening when I learned that Ruth had paid nothing for them since her mother had bought them for her as a birthday present. I was somewhat nonplussed, though, when she mentioned to me that she and her mother planned to paint the family room Thursday, Ruth's birthday, while Isaiah was at preschool.

I was nonplussed for two reasons. First, I knew that the job was bigger than Ruth and her mother could handle in a morning- or indeed in a day, and second, I'd always envisioned us painting the room together. When I mentioned these thoughts to Ruth, she changed her plans and we decided to paint the room on Friday night. That would also fit in perfectly with the fact that Isaiah was scheduled to spend his first sleepover at Uncle Mark's new house Friday night so he would be out of the way and we wouldn't have to worry about him "helping" us paint.

Friday Ruth spent a good deal of time getting most of the stuff in the family room migrated to different locations in the house- mainly the living room and dining room. All that remained to be moved was the couch, the telephone/end table, the computer desk, and the entertainment center with the massively heavy TV set in it, though she had removed all the videocassettes from the entertainment center.

Ruth had a surprise for me when I got home- Mama, a cat who had started out as a stray but who had ended up living mainly in our basement entering and leaving at will via an opening awaiting warmer weather for repair, had given birth to three kittens that morning. She'd chosen a box filled with Styrofoam shipping popcorn and an old computer printer for her delivery room. We'd been wondering how soon the blessed even would occur since we'd been referring to Mama as Mama-Grande for some weeks. What was remarkable was that when Ruth went downstairs to do some laundry, Mama went to her and took her right to the kittens who were only hours old.

Uncle Mark and the Denbys showed up about 6:30 to pick up Isaiah. They were all going to dinner together. I strapped Isaiah's car seat into Uncle Mark's car while Ruth loaded all the boy's loot into the other side of the backseat. When we got him strapped in and had waved goodbye as they all took off, we went back inside to get to work.

It took us at least an hour just to get all the remaining stuff away from the walls. We didn't bother moving it to another room since the family room is large enough to just shove all the stuff into the middle and still have clearance to paint the walls. The couch and end table didn't take long, and the entertainment center was easy to move once I'd hefted the TV out of it, but the computer desk took a while. I thought I'd be slick and just remove the monitor and then shift the desk without wasting time unloading all the various sorts of just that were piled in, on, and around it but when I tried to lift it the cheap particle board and fiberboard thing started to come apart. So I bit the bullet and spent about twenty minutes filling two and a half big boxes with CDs; floppy disks; papers; books; random electronic cords, adapters, and junk; and a number of robot toys and models.

Once we had the stuff in the room out of the way we were ready to- finish applying the fancy blue painter's tape Ruth had bought to the woodwork and mouldings. That didn't take long, even counting the time I spent explaining to my defensive wife that she'd done a fine job masking the parts she'd done while I was at work, but that a second line of tape along the bottom of the first had saved my bacon a number of times in the past.

Then, finally, once we were done with the tape and had laid out the two 9'x12' plastic drop sheets Ruth had gotten along with the fancy tape we laid out some paper shopping bags on the tile floor of the entryway and cracked open a can of the green stuff. It was only a couple of days old and had been custom mixed at the hardware store so I didn't have to stir it very long before it was ready to pour into the roller-tray. We had some rollers left over from when we'd painted our living room at the house we lived in before. We also had a roller tray, but evidently we had been somewhat remiss in cleaning it up- it was all caked and covered in old paint. Ruth had implemented a contingency plan for the roller-tray though. She'd borrowed on from her mother. Unfortunately though, that try must have been manufactured back in the 50s or something before paint roller widths had been standardized because it was too narrow to use with the 9" rollers we had. Once more, progress was delayed while I went to Lowe's for a new roller-tray and some plastic liners which would make our job-end cleanup faster and easier and preclude the purchase of a new tray next time we decide to paint.

When we actually got to begin painting, we worked as a pretty good team. Ruth worked around the baseboards and windows with a small detail roller going around the room counter-clockwise while I used a full-size roller along with a ceiling edger and a corner pad in a clockwise direction. I rather enjoy painting but painting a large room with 10' ceilings can be tiring. I'd climb the ladder, edge the ceiling as far as I could reach, then use the roller to fill in from the ceiling down to around the middle of the wall. Then I'd climb down, move the ladder a few feet and do the same thing again. The climbing up and down, standing with my arms in odd positions over my head while holding the brush with one hand and the heavy roller tray full of paint with the other were tiring, but I think what really took it out of me wasn't the physical exertion as much as the thin-ice, eggshell-walking, long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chair feeling of striving not to make a catastrophic green mess for every second of the 3-4 hours it took us to finish the job. I knew Ruth would probly be OK, but I was the one who was refilling the tray in the entryway, carrying it back to the living room, and then climbing the ladder with the tray in my hand. Not to mention holding it while I stood on a ladder and twisted my body into odd contortions. Fortunately we experienced no spills.

We did have an interruption before we finished, though. About 10:30 Uncle Mark called because Isaiah wanted to say goodnight to us. At about 11:00 he called back to say that Isaiah was crying and wanted to come home. We reassured Isaiah and told him he was fine and that he'd have fun waking up at Uncle Mark's house and going to the doughnut shop with him in the morning. At 11:30 Uncle Mark called back and said that Isaiah was still bawling and that he was going to bring him home. Twenty minutes later we had just finished when Uncle Mark pulled up.

When we'd said goodbye to Mark and put Isaiah into bed, I realized I was hungry. When I'd gotten home we'd played the "What do you want to eat? I don't know what do you want to eat" game for a few rounds and eventually just forgotten about eating. It was now almost midnight, though and I decided I wanted a ham and cheese sandwich. The only problem was that we didn't have any ham, so I went to the grocery store (just before closing) and got some home. While I was gone Ruth had heated up some pizza rolls and I thought we could sit down (kind of) in the dining room and watch the episode of Enterprise I'd taped that night on the TV which was sitting on Isaiah's toybox (the green wood one with the stagecoach on the side which had been my toybox when I was his age) in the family room. Once again, there was only one problem- when Ruth had taken all the videocassettes of the entertainment center, she'd destroyed the complicated filing system I'd set up to keep track of which unlabeled videocassette was which. Of course, this was easy to do since the system was based mainly on how deep in the pile a particular tape was stacked. Everything turned out for the better anyway since the tape I'd recorded Cooking School Stories on was still in the VCR and as late as it was and as tired as we both were, a half hour show was better than an hour long one.

I wasn't nearly as sore the next morning as I thought my climbing and posing the night before would have left me. In fact, I was a just a little stiff, but I felt fine and rested. In the morning light, however, my suspicions were confirmed that the whole room would need a second coat of paint. First, though, we went to meet the Denbys and Uncle Mark at the doughnut shop. This had been the plan all along since Saturday was Mark's birthday. The only thing that had changed was that Isaiah was with us instead of him.

I was hoping that the repaint wouldn't take very long so that I might get a chance to work on the wiring on the Scout before I had to come inside and get cleaned up to take Isaiah to the children's play we had tickets to for the evening. This didn't happen, though. After sitting at the doughnut shop till 11, going past the bank and the post office, visiting Lowe's to learn that the only kind of wire they had in the gauge I wanted was designed for construction contractors and twice as much as I wanted to pay, going to the mall to get some of the kind of wire I wanted at Radio Shack, and repainting the family room I wouldn't have had the gumption to go outside and undertake another sizable task even if I'd had the time.

In fact, after we'd done all the running around, I didn't even want to get up on the ladder to reach the high spots of the walls. Instead, in the tried and true manner of the lazy, I developed a new painting technique which may have required more energy and exertion than using the ladder but at least I didn't have to fetch the ladder back in and therefore felt like it was easier. I called this new technique "pogo-painting" and it consisted of me holding the roller in my right hand with my right arm reaching upward as I hopped up and down moving laterally along the wall. I could only employ this technique in short bursts since, as mentioned above, it probably took more energy than using the ladder, but I think it did save time since I didn't have to keep climbing up and down and moving the ladder. Besides, Isaiah got a kick out of watching me hop.

By the time we were done with the second coat, it was Isaiah's naptime and too late for me to work on the scout so I surfed the web a little bit and watched a little TV till I realized that as nice as the weather was I should have been outside. Ruth was working on potting plants on the back porch and I took my laptop out there and joined her. It was sunny and warm when I started typing but the wind was picking up a little bit. Ruth eventually went inside to wash her hands and change clothes before waking Isaiah from his nap. I stayed out on the back porch, though, and before I knew it I was almost unable to type because my fingers were so cold. The temperature had plummeted though the sun was still shining.

We have a tradition on play nights- after we enjoy a play we have a pizza at Pantera's Pizzaria. Pantera's used to be a chain when Ruth and I were kids and we both remember enjoying the distinctive flavor. Isaiah also loves Pantera's but he's not picky about the pizza. He loves to go there because he and I have a blast playing video games together. We don't normally play video games, but we always do at Pantera's.

The play that night was Puss in Boots. Ruth had told Isaiah the name of the play earlier in the week, but he had been calling it Hoots in Boots. I remember seeing Puss in Boots when I was a very little kid- no older than second grade and all I remembered was that there was a cat in it who wore boots. I was as curious about it as he was.

The play was pretty good. I enjoy going to the plays with him. It's fun to watch him experiencing the performances. When we got there and read the program we learned that there was an ogre in the play so we made an effort to prepare him and assure him that there was really nothing to be afraid of. Evidently we did a fine job because the ogre ended up being his favorite character. He was done well- he looked like a monster, but a fun monster instead of a scary one and Isaiah laughed every time the ogre spoke.

By the time we walked from the theater to the van the air was very cold and windy. The brief taste of springtime had been blown to tatters as the winter struggled to keep hold of the sky.

Stepping into Pantera's is like stepping backwards into nostalgia for a timeless image of the quintessential pizza joint. It's not dirty, but it isn't exactly clean. There are dark wood booths along the walls and big tables for softball teams to drink a few pitchers and eat a few pies around and there is always classic rock booming from the jukebox. The pizza is good and not too expensive, too, but Isaiah's favorite part is the videogames.

They used to have one I really liked, but it has been replaced. I was somewhat disappointed until I shoveled in three quarters (I remember when the expensive games were 50!) and realized that biggest difference was that the old game was supposed to be a speedboat and the new one was a snowmobile. Other than trading a shallow v-hull for skis and a mono-track the differences were minimal.

I selected the track Isaiah wanted. It was (of course) one of the easy tracks and it was called Spooky something or other. Isaiah is at the age where he is fascinated by spooky things as long as they aren't too spooky. I remember being that age and it's very fun. The little tinge of fright added a real zest to things as long as you could control just how zesty it got. We played one game while Ruth sat at our table waiting for our number to be called and one game after because Isaiah did a good job of eating all his supper.

Another good thing about the age Isaiah's at is that frequently when he's had a big day he'll fall asleep on the way home. I don't mind carrying him upstairs if the tradeoff is no fussing and whining about it being bedtime. We'd all had a long weekend and I was ready for bed myself as I unbuckled his carseat and put the hood of his coat over his snoring head to carry him in when we'd gotten home.