Friday, May 20, 2016

Possible Wood Source

I don't want to speak too soon but may have found some firewood outside of our regular source, TB. The ongoing drama goes something like this: I call TB three or four times before he finally gets back to me and lets me know he can get logs for me. I can then get the cash in hand (he prefers cash) to give to him upon delivery. While it takes a few calls to finally make contact, at least we make contact. This year I haven't heard a thing from him. Now I know I'm neurotic, anal retentive, OCD and all that good stuff, but I also know that things change from year to year. Guys go in and out of the business, availability changes from year and year, and the price of oil, gas, and propane must come into play, as well.

With this in mind, I once again had a need to make contact, especially since we had no standing wood as a backup. This coming winter is cut, split, and stacked, but there is no year 2 at the ready, and we always dip into year 2. Since I have not heard from TB for awhile, I figured it was time to look elsewhere and called a few other loggers that I know. I didn't hear back from any of them with the exception of DS, who also happens to be our neighbor. He could also be considered a friend, though I never see the guy, and was A's track coach, but that's another story.

As I mentioned, he did call me back, and said he could get me the wood. His trailer is small, however, so it's only about two and a half cords, which is fine with me. I asked for 2 loads and he said he could do it. Now it's just a question of when, which means that my neurotic mind won't rest until I see that wood on our property.

Boy, the things I go through to stay warm. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Mike Brocklebank for the pic.

Helping Hands

I recently started to ask the kids to start washing their own dishes after lunch, and they were more than willing to help their old dad out. This is a good thing on a number of levels, first and foremost that it helps out yours truly, is often at wit's end trying to do everything under the sun while training to be a real man. It's also good for the kids to have some responsibility while also gaining an appreciation of all the little things that go into making the day run smoothly. It also affords dad a brief moment right after lunch, when he happens to be the most drowsy, to grab a quick snooze.

One final and important perk is that it forces me to lighten up and let things happen as they may. Sometimes I get all uptight and anal retentive about how the dishes get done (I know I'm not alone on this one), and having the kids do it teaches me that things don't have to be done a certain way, or rather, all ways are generally fine. As the saying goes, "Lighten up, dude."

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Kim Siever for the pic.

Fan Club

It's truly amazing what can happen if you give a kid a soldering iron. I know when I was a kid I loved soldering things together, and I had a sense the same would be true with N. I had it in the back of my head to get him one, but put it off because I figured I could get it cheaper online. However, I just sat on it and at some point it became clear that he wanted to do some electrical work. I finally broke down and got him a decent one and from there he just took off. For the record, it's a nice soldering iron because it has LED lights that illuminate whatever you're working on. How cool is that?

Either way, with soldering iron in hand, N went to work and started wiring all sorts of things together. We have countless wires and parts lying around and I told him to help himself to my tools and whatever extraneous parts he wants to play with. One of the results is this fan, which is pretty darn cool. He plays it down and thinks it's no big deal, but I for one beg to differ. He took some wire and attached a motor to it, then fabricated a fan from an old CD (remember what those are?). He then spliced a USB wire so that it can plug into his computer and run off it as a power source. All in all a pretty cool device.

I'm interested to see what else he produces. Until then, thanks for reading.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Screen Time

In the spirit of being a DIY maniac, I am attempting to fix something that needed to be fixed from the day we moved into this house: the screens on the windows in the basement. There are four windows down there and because they are at ground level on the outside, they are extremely exposed to the elements. Consequently, they get really dirty and the screens take a beating, so much so that they are falling apart. Some of them literally have no screens left on them, which is a little puzzling now that I think about it. Either way, they are in need of replacing. This is especially true since N has become a gadgetry wizard and is down there a lot cutting, drilling, and soldering various projects in the works. I think it's good to get some ventilation down there.

I was at LaValley's and decided to pick up what I needed to do the job, which I assumed was just some screen. Little did I know that there is a process to putting new screens in that require a special tool and some practice and a whole lot of patience. The first order of business, however, was getting those screens out. At first glance I had no idea how the things came out because it's not obvious. Plus, it's so dirty down where the windows are that I'm not exactly enthused about putting my hands down there. Finally, the windows and frames themselves are covered in dirty, cobwebs, and dead bugs.

I had to break down and get my hands dirty (an understatement if there ever was one) to clean up the windows, but that still left me with the problem of getting the screens out. Again, it wasn't obvious, and I toyed with the idea of breaking the frame to allow the screen to come out. This is not a good idea, but I was clueless as to what else to do.

Since I was also busy toiling away at finding the darn septic take, I did what any self-serving dad would do in the situation: I had my kids do it, specifically N, who is mechanically inclined. After I made lunch I originally asked him to come outside and help me with the digging to find the septic hatch, but I managed to locate it soon thereafter. By the time he came out to help me it was done, so I instead asked him to tackle the screen situation. For the record, I admitted to him that I couldn't figure it out.

He went ahead with it, initially coming to me and saying that he thought it was just one big unit that didn't come apart. Basically he was saying that he didn't think the screens were removable and that we would have to take the entire window out to accomplish said job. I told him not to give up so easily and keep trying. Sure enough, a few minutes later he returned with the screen in hand. I, for one, was impressed. He said he just worked with it and realized how to remove the thing. How cool is that?

Now that the screen is removed, the next job will be to actually put the screen in, which I'm finding is not as simple as it seems. Then again, what else is new in my life? There will surely be a story to come out of this, so stay tuned for more.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Art Appreciation

Being the totally objective dad that I am, I think A is a pretty killer artist, and at the very least, she enjoys it. From a very young age she's just been naturally drawn to... actually drawing. It's pretty cool to see. She would wake up and come downstairs and immediately start to draw and doodle. Now that she's taking classes in school she's had a chance to get some instruction and feedback, and I think it's been positive for the most part. She has a good relationship with her art teacher, and I'm glad she's found someone who is as completely and thoroughly objective as her old dad.

Just recently they had an opportunity to meet with some admission counselors over at the AVA Gallery from some art colleges. I wasn't sure where the schools were but I was guessing they were from the New England area, though I later learned one of them was from Chicago. The schools were all small and specialized in art, and I'd never heard of most of them. The prospective students were to bring a portfolio of their work and meet with the counselors and talk about their art. It was also a good chance to get some constructive criticism about their work and some insight into what they should do for the future.

I'd heard they do similar things in Boston but that they are heavily attended and the students only get a minute or two with each counselor. Up here in our small town there are fewer students so they can more one-on-one time. At mom and dad's encouragement, A put together a portfolio and went with a few of her classmates. All in all it was a good experience and A came away from feeling good. She enjoyed talking to the counselors and giving some thought to college, though in reality it's a ways off. She was one of, if not the youngest kid there and even the counselors commented that she's got a good head start and a lot of time to keep fine tuning her craft, though their feedback was positive.

I think it was exciting for A to get a taste of big college life, and at the very least it gave her an opportunity to organize her work and get some constructive and objective feedback from people in the know. Dad's opinion will only get you so far, though on that note I'm very proud of her.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Katerhnach for the pic.

Up and Running

After all that drama and angst, it turns out the lawnmower was not as bad as I originally thought. In fact, there was nothing even wrong with it. As I mentioned before, I did everything I was supposed to do as a real man in training: I changed the oil, replaced the air filter and spark plug, put in a new blade (this was extra), and I even cleaned the carb. After all that, the thing wouldn't start despite repeated tries on my part. I took it into Joe's and the person helping me tried and couldn't get it to go, either, so I had to leave it there for repair.

A week and a half later I called them and they said there was nothing wrong, after all. The mechanic primed it and gave it pull and the thing started. Can you believe that? It's a bummer because I had to sit and watch the grass grow during that time, which was a warm spell, and I had to drop $30 for their time even though no repairs were done. I think he tightened the pull cord, which I guess is not nothing. On a bright note, however, it also means that I'm doing everything right and at the very least had not destroyed it. Sometimes you just have to look at the bright side of things.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Kristin for the pic.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Weather Permitting

We had a crazy day planned yesterday and the hardest part is for mom to go to work and have to leave earlier than she'd like to because we need to do child transport. The way it was slated to work out, N had LAX practice, A had to be a party, mom was at work, and I had to be at work, as well. The plan was for me to bring A back home from school, have lunch, then take N to LAX while A got ready for her party. N's LAX was in the early afternoon but I had to be at work in the early evening, so I was going to have to drop him off and then head out. That meant mom was going to have to leave work earlier than she wanted to, drive across town to get N, then get A and take her to her party. I was going to pick up A after work and bring her home. That's a significant amount of back and forth.

The easier plan would have been for me to take both A&N with me to work in the big city, drop them off with mom, then head to work. Mom would then take A to her party, which was nearby her work, then bring N home, which all in all is a much more streamlined and efficient approach. The biggest setback was having to be at LAX. I was thinking N could simply skip practice, but he enjoys it and I like to watch his team. The thing going against it was that all the older kids (N's age) were away on a school excursion so half the team was absent. They were all returning that day, but in the afternoon, so there was a good chance they would be too tired to head straight to a LAX practice, or more to the point, their parents were too tired to deal with it. Then, I heard on the weather that morning that there was a 90% chance of rain, and while LAX players are hardcore and will practice or play in a hurricane, it was another reason to stay at home.

As the hour approached to head to practice, I really didn't want to go, but N was still keen on attending. I was scrambling to find an excuse to skip out and started calling around. I learned from EP that her husband, who is the coach, was out of town, and that the other coach was out of town, as well. The third coach's son was on the school excursion, so he probably wouldn't be there, so that meant half the team gone and three coaches missing (there are four). Even still, I called the rec center and they said that practice was still a go, and N was still into it, so we headed out to practice. For the record, I went begrudgingly.

Then, as luck would have it, the rain that was forecast starting coming with full force. It was pouring when we hit the road, and all the while I was thinking how stupid this was to be going to practice. Half the team wouldn't be there, probably none of the coaches would be there, and anyone who showed up was going to get soaked. Even N said he didn't realize it was raining so hard, and about two miles into the drive we decided this just wasn't going to happen, so we turned around. I was so stoked, and even N seemed a bit relieved, not so much about missing LAX, which he loves, but because he didn't want to get soaked. For the record, when we got home, I checked my email and the rec center had in fact canceled practice, albeit at the zero hour. At least we made the right decision.

This also meant our plan was going to be simplified. I called mom and we revised our plan. I would take the kids with me, mom would meet us, and it meant one single round trip versus a lot of back and forth. Happy planning, happy family, happy home. I love when that happens.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to OnurTurkcu for the pic.