Saturday, January 29, 2011


is getting even less cool.

When we bought our house, the staircase to the second floor was open on one side. On your way up, you might put your hand on the railing against the left wall, but on your right side was a sheer drop to the kitchen floor. This is all well and good for those of us taller than five feet; by the time we're high enough on the steps to fall off and hurt ourselves, we're high enough to catch ourselves on the overhanging ceiling. No problem.

Except for a toddler. As she learned how to crawl, then toddle up the stairs, Gwendolyn could easily have pitched off the fourth-to-top stair and fallen to her death on the kitchen tile below. So in July of last year, we did something to change that.

With the help of my father-in-law and the hemlock from our property (yes, we're still using this wood), we constructed a railing and spindles in order to make it just a little harder for our daughter to hurt herself.

I failed to take photos of the project in its early stages, so here are the images of the last few steps. In July we had the unfinished railing and spindles in place:

Since that day, of course, its muster has been tested over and over again by the most important user.

It turns out that spindles make good hand-holds for someone shorter than four feet tall.

Instead of the usual polyurethane, which chokes the user indoors and requires thinner to clean, I tried out "polycrylic," a water-based acrylic sealer and protectant. It went on smooth, dried fast, cleaned up easily, and did not yellow the wood as polyurethane does. Awesome.

And since I had more than enough for the railing, I decided to put a protective layer on the table top I made two years ago for GBaby's room.

Now at the top of the stairs, the only way to get to the kitchen floor is down a forty-five degree slope, rather than a vertical drop. (She's taken the forty-five degree route as fast as possible twice now, and come away with nothing broken except her sense of security.)

And four inches between spindles leaves enough room to grab, poke, and tickle but not enough for head or shoulders. Perfect.

Thanks, David, for the help, Sara for the support, Gwendolyn for the inspiration, Yahweh for the wood, and Bobby for the shop!

~ emrys


Our daughter learns most things by imitating her parents. Sometimes those things we intentionally try to teach her, like brushing her teeth or how to say "blueberry" ("blbzhry"). More often, however, she is learning things without our encouragement. But never without our example.

For instance, Gwendolyn is gradually learning how to discipline our dog Sadie. Mind you, she can't yet say Sadie's name--our dog, and all dogs, are named "Gah" for now--but she can order the mutt around. At the supper table two of the most frequent commands the adults use are "Bed!" (to get her away from the table) and "Stay!"

Gwendolyn, ever interested in efficiency, currently skips the first command and goes right to the second. But her skills of enunciation have not yet developed to the point that she can say "stay" the way the rest of us do. She points a directive finger at the dog and shouts, "Die!"

You must imagine the glee of the adults when, at the supper table with her aunt and cousins, Gwendolyn spotted Sadie across the room, raised a disciplining finger and with all the confident presence of a two-year-old yelled, "Die!"

We're grateful that Sadie didn't obey.


Saturday, January 08, 2011

The Incognito Stay-Puff

Gwendolyn had one of her first sledding adventures today. It's good that Emrys is a big kid because I'm not the biggest fan of cold or climbing up hills. G is already heeding advice regarding eye protection and snow after Emrys' experience with sunburned eyeballs. Those stylin' shades didn't come off the whole time we were out, or for the ride home in the dark either.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Family Gift

Two years ago my brother- and sister-in-law gave us a gift of two frames with leaves designed to hold the names of four generations of family members. In the last month I finally finished them, reattached leaves that didn't stick properly, and hung them in our living room:

On the right side is the tree of Tylers, starting with my brother and I at the bottom:

On the left are the Wheats, with Sara and her brothers at the bottom:

What a great way to take all my family research and make it an attractive addition to our home. Thanks, Adam and Lara!
~ emrys