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Week 33: Repaint a Bathroom

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That bathroom was asking for it. The walls were the color of dust, the ceiling was peeling, and The Hub hated the shower curtain. It was time to revamp.

And it excited me no end because I love redecorating especially when I do it myself. Strangely, I feel a huge sense of accomplishment when I’m melting in a puddle of sweat while pushing around furniture or installing new shelves. I love breathing new life into old.

But first, a family meeting. The Hub and The Tactless Child wanted to paint the bathroom walls yellow. I wanted shades of blue and green. The One Who Spits wanted all the colors of the rainbow. So obviously, yellow won. It was the perfect opportunity to get some paint mixed to my specifications at the hardware store. I’d always wanted to do that, just never had the reason to until then. I picked a shade called sunburst and got a complimentary color – waterflow – for the window frame and door. I went to sleep that night planning my assault on the bathroom. How exciting is my life?

I started feeling creative energy mid-afternoon. So I gathered paint cans, paintbrushes, roller brushes, and got to work. I momentarily forgot that The Tactless Child and The One Who Spits were minutes away from waking up from their nap. Big mistake.

I was halfway through the first wall when a little voice asked behind me, “What are you doing?” The Tactless Child wanted to help. She picked up a brush and I put her to work on a low ledge. Seconds later, another voice announced, “I want paint, too.” The One Who Spits was up. He got the second brush and started on the wall while standing on the ladder. That was a double treat for him.

Things went smoothly for a few minutes. After doing all the ledges, The Tactless Child decided she had better things to do and left to do them. The One Who Spits kept at his task until the spot he was painting (his short legs limited his reach, you see) was more yellow than yellow. I put him down to wipe off some paint that had dribbled down the tiled part of the wall (good thing I got water-based paint). It was then that I learned never to take my eyes off a child with a paintbrush and some paint. While I was dealing with the tiles, The One Who Spits picked up my roller brush and proceeded to paint the toilet seat cover. He did this very fast and very quietly so that when I turned around he had already started painting the floor. I scrambled for my wits and pulled everything out of reach from The One Who Spits. He had accidentally painted over his toes, too, so I got him to the shower stall and scrubbed away. My focus was on his feet so I didn’t notice that The One Who Spits had dipped his right hand in the can of paint while I was blubbering over the floor. When I looked at his face, I saw Braveheart, only this one was in diapers and had yellow face paint instead of blue.

We didn’t finish the bathroom that day because of a nervous breakdown. Also, we ran out of paint and I haven’t had time to buy more – work stepped up. There is still a faint yellowish hue on the bathroom floor which, I think, will stay forever. So now, we are blessed with one of our bathrooms looking like a star threw up in it. Such is life.

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Week 27: Refinish a Medicine Cabinet

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This is a step-by-step guide for anyone who, like me, loves vintage stuff and fixing them up. I found an old medicine cabinet (made of wood, with a glass door and no mirror) in our house and thought it would be perfect to store The Tactless Child’s many trinkets. Problem was, the cabinet was old and weary. The outer layers of the wood were peeling off, the glass on the door was about to fall off, and the whole thing was dirty. So, between writing assignments, this is what I did:

Step 1: Using the stick end of a broom and standing on a chair, inspect the entire cabinet. The broom and chair are vital. Otherwise, a lizard might jump out from its hiding place behind the cabinet and land on your arm, causing you to fall over backward in fright and, in the process, whack your head on the cement wall behind you.

Step 2: Once clear of bugs and cold-blooded creatures, clean the cabinet using a damp cloth.

Step 3: Fix whatever needs fixing. To secure a loose glass door, remember that super glue doesn’t work. (It doesn’t matter if they put on their label a picture of a smiling man hanging upside-down wearing shoes that are supposedly super-glued to the ceiling. It was proven this afternoon that if his shoes were super-glued to a ceiling made of glass, this man would fall to his doom.) Instead, be observant enough to notice that small nails are poking out from the bottom corner of the door frame, the corner that’s sticking out. This means all you have to do is nail the bottom frame back in place. This will secure the glass and make less of a mess. Hand a toy hammer to any hovering child to avoid him using the real hammer and dropping it on your foot.

Step 4: Sand all surfaces except for the glass. Make sure to keep crayons and extra sandpaper nearby in case a kid tries to help by eating all the dust from the sanding. (Best to begin Step 1 when said kid is taking his nap. But if he refuses to sleep, your best bets for a successful project are crayons and extra sandpaper. Drawing on sandpaper is new and interesting for young children, and this childlike wonder will prolong your solo minutes on your project.)

Step 5: Decide what color you want to paint the cabinet. To make a quick decision, just use whatever’s available in your home. Coffee can be mixed with water and painted on for a vintage-y effect. Egg shells can be broken in little pieces, washed and dried, painted or colored with marking pens, then glued to the cabinet. Magazine pages can be made into a collage then applied to the cabinet. Without buying anything, you can still be as creative as you want.

Step 6: But if you have leftover paint, and it’s the color you want, then paint away. Two reminders, though: One, line the glass door with masking tape, right inside the wooden frame, to avoid getting paint on the glass. Two, paint with no little children around. I didn’t once and The One Who Spits inevitably became The Red One Who Spits.

Step 7: Leave to dry. Add another coat of paint if you want.

Step 8: Hose down any little child who finds his way to the paint. Don’t use kerosene to remove paint on pudgy hands.

Week 12: Make a Birdhouse

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Some days ago, The Hooligan got it into her head that it would be really fun if we made a doghouse. (Thank you very much, Playhouse Disney.) I had some issues about this. First, The Hooligan wanted a real doghouse – meaning, she wanted a real dog to fit inside. This was not feasible – the biggest thing I’ve ever built is a popsicle-stick house. Second, though I liked the idea of handling power tools, we didn’t have any; and I wasn’t about to cut wood using a butcher’s knife. Third, our dog isn’t the doghouse kind – it’s more of the under-the-car or in-the-sunlight-on-the-cement-driveway variety.

But since I needed a Week 12 task, I decided to keep an open mind. That was when The Hooligan presented me with the blueprint. She’d designed a doghouse with three floors. The first one, said The Hooligan, is where the dog will eat. The second floor is where the dog will sleep. The bathroom is on the third floor.

Our dog doesn’t need a bathroom, I told her. She likes to pee by the trees.

But she can’t flush her pee there, The Hooligan pointed out. She added, I want us to paint all the walls pink.

How about we paint the walls pink, but we make a house with just one floor, I compromised.

But if there’s just one floor, where will our dog pee, The Hooligan asked, very particular about our dog’s toilet habits.

I’ve seen birds outside our window in the morning, I said. How about we build a birdhouse instead?

Can we put a TV inside so the birds will want to go in, The Hooligan asked, easily swayed.

It was getting dark, and we still had to pick a nice tree to hang the birdhouse from. So I salvaged bits and scraps from everywhere that, together, would resemble a birdhouse. By this time, The Hooligan’s interest was slipping away rapidly. After 30 seconds of helping me glue popsicle sticks on an orange juice carton (sticks = overhang; carton = house), she got “tired” and proceeded to play with something else; the birdhouse and the doghouse already in the distant past.

The end product wasn’t so bad, considering that I put it together with a rusty cutter and school glue. The birdhouse now hangs on a tree outside our bedroom window. On the first day, The T-Rex helped me put grains of rice inside; the rest, he shoved in his mouth. Apparently, though, birds don’t like grains of rice. So on the second day, The Hooligan put two pieces of Skyflakes crackers. Both were covered with ants in 3 minutes. This morning, in an attempt to attract birds to the house, The Hooligan stood beside it and vocalized. Unfortunately, no bird took up the tune. By the end of the week, I think I’ll have to give in and buy birdseed.

Week 6: Rat Showdown

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In my high school, our library sat at the dark end of a bright corridor. The hallway right before the library entrance was colorful, with both sides of the wide hallway peppered with posters announcing auditions and club meetings. Somehow, though, it always seemed as if all light was replaced by a grayish haze every time I stepped up to the library doors. Three feet away from those double glass doors was a quiet wooden staircase leading up to darkness. It was easy to miss. I never saw anyone on or near those stairs.

I first noticed it middle of my freshman year. A friend who had the same thirst for masochistic terror dared me to go up those steps and see what was at the top. Though I was (and still am) a sucker for dares, it took me three years to do it. By then, we were about to graduate from high school and that staircase had become an icon of horror for my friend and I. We imagined the room at the top held headless nuns (our school was run by them, but with heads), Freddy Kreuger, or ghosts of World War II soldiers (our school, rumor had it, was turned into a temporary hospital during World War II).

About a week before we put on our togas, I went up that staircase. As I climbed the steps, I remember feeling my heart beat so hard I thought I was going to have a heart attack. There was no door at the top. It was very dark but I could see that the steps led to a huge room. I stayed long enough for my eyes to adjust and see that it was just a stock room of old furniture, it looked like.

Just when I was about to pee in my pants, my friend called out from the foot of the stairs, “Here, let me turn on the light for you.” A flick and a dim bulb snapped on, covering the room with a yellow shroud. And then, I swear to you, I saw a head and a shoulder rising up off a couch that had its back to me.

That staircase had maybe 20 steps. I took it all in two leaps.

So anyway, my point is, today, I faced fear again, but not exactly that kind. At the end of our long driveway is a bodega where The Hub hides everything else that he can’t keep in our room, like a rusty filing cabinet, moldy cassette tapes (he’s the only person I know who still keeps cassettes, apart from those guys in Makati Cinema Square), and a rattan trunk with its bottom pushed in.

The bodega is dark, damp, and infested with rats as big as cats. I’d long been wanting to show those rats who the boss is, but I was too chicken – until today. Maybe it was because of the fact that today was The T-Rex’s first birthday. Most probably, it was because I wanted to get the ball on this blog rolling again and what better way to do that than to face my fear of rats?

I strode in with rat poison, a flashlight, and an umbrella (to whack any wayward rats). I made a lot of noise while laying out the poison because I heard rats don’t like loud sounds. On my way out, I saw a huge rat gnawing on a basket right by where I was going to pass. I tried to blind it with my flashlight, scare it away by hitting the floor repeatedly with my umbrella, and ordering it to scram (“Go away! Shoo! Alis diyan!”). But the rat must have been deaf and blind because it stayed put. Finally, I just said what the hell and walked past it.

Who’s the boss now?

Week 5: Bake Something with The Hooligan

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About a year and a half ago, we bought a new oven. And for a year and a half until two days ago, the oven sat in our kitchen with nothing to do but hold dish towels. So last week, I thought I better use the oven for something other than storage before it keels over and dies. Why not bake with The Hooligan, then?

We were supposed to bake Sunday. But then The Hooligan couldn’t decide whether she wanted to bake cookies (she doesn’t particularly like them but does like the idea of dunking them in milk, which I support all the way) or a cake. When she finally decided on a cake, she added that she wanted a rainbow cake with green icing on the side. Now, my baking ability only goes up to simple-minded recipes, nothing rainbow. Forget about making icing. So we ended Sunday with me issuing a migraine-induced ultimatum: bake something brown in color (because aren’t all baked things brown?) or not bake at all. The Hooligan chose not at all.

Monday, the migraine was gone but so was The Hooligan’s attention span. She saw me putting fertilizer at the base of one of our trees. So then she proceeded to fortify the rest of our plants – and the cement path – with generous doses of fertilizer for the rest of the afternoon.

Tuesday, we baked. I didn’t give The Hooligan a choice of what to bake, otherwise we’d bake in 2012. Plucked a recipe by Roshan Samtani for Yummy magazine – Oatmeal cookies with dried mangoes and cashew nuts (I deleted the nuts. Picky eaters, we are). Chose cookies because I was after the health aspect – I was counting on The Hooligan dunking our creations in lots of milk.

Putting the ingredients together was easy enough. We got flour on most of the furniture and in the T-Rex’s hair but everything else worked. The Hooligan was a worthy assistant. She put herself in charge of measuring all the ingredients (sort of) while wearing the flour sifter on her head as a hat.

I made the mistake, though, of placing the cookie sheet on the second lowest slot (is that what you call it?) of the oven, thus turning the bottoms of the cookies black. The second batch turned out better – all I could hope for at that point was to not burn the damn things.

All our effort was to no avail, however. The Hooligan decided to dunk her cookies in water instead of milk, which, obviously, didn’t work. So she ate half a dripping cookie, no milk; and I ate 10 cookies (spread out over an hour)