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Monday, May 07, 2018 1 comment

Baby bird rescue

I was putzing around at the computer over the weekend, when the wife came in with a pair of rubber gloves. “There’s two baby birds on the deck,” she said. “They fell out of that nest on top of the floodlight. Put these on, and maybe you can put them back and the mom will keep them.”

“Oh crap,” said the one on the left.
“I’ll need a ladder,” I said. The floodlight is just below the roof line, a nice sheltered place to build a nest if you can ignore the humans playing around down below.

I found the ladder and came out to the deck. The kids were all clustered at the far end, near the steps down to the back yard, watching the show (such as it was). I put the ladder where I needed it, donned the rubber gloves, and swooped in for the rescue.

Being a couple of bird brains, they didn’t realize I was trying to help, and squawked up a storm. The agitated parents, watching from a safe distance, joined the squawkfest.

Back home… or at least on the porch.
With a bird in each hand (is that worth four in a bush, then?), I mounted the ladder. The babies either realized they were getting closer to home, or resigned themselves to being eaten, and settled down. Now here's where I ran into a snag: there was very little space between the top of the nest and the soffit board. My plan was to drop each of the birdies back in the nest, but they decided to stop cooperating for some reason as I tried to stick them through the gap. So, I just let them latch onto the rim and left them there.

Looking down, I saw a third baby in a chair below the floodlight. It looked like it had been dead for some time, and maybe the living got chucked out with the dead. Or maybe they decided to follow their deceased brother out of the nest. However it was, we disposed of the corpse.

As close to the edge of the deck as those two were, it never occurred to me to look for more on the ground. Hopefully, that didn’t happen.

Wednesday, May 02, 2018 3 comments

Charlie Talks to the Birds

I had Charlie out in the gazebo Sunday evening, because he likes to be outside and I wanted him to see the low beach chair I found in the garage for him. He saw it, gave me a big grin, and sat in it for a long time.

Soon enough, he got up and played on his slide a little… then he heard the birds. They chirped, he squeaked… and I was thinking, “Is he doing what I think he’s doing?” Yup. I got video. You might have to turn the sound up a little; I boosted it as much as I could, though.



Sometimes, the normal FAR Manor weird gets delightfully weird…

Monday, April 30, 2018 3 comments

Weekend Roundup

Most of Mason’s soccer games are at the local park, but each season they have two or three out of town matches. Saturday’s game was up in Towns County, pretty close to the North Carolina border.

I had Maps plot a course, which skirted Helen (probably very busy on a warm spring weekend) and took us up GA75 toward Hiawassee. We put the top down and I thrashed the Miata up that winding mountain road, a very enjoyable trip once the passing lane opened up and I got past the slowpokes.

Our destination was Foster Park, on Foster Road. Fortunately, Mason wanted to leave early, because Maps treated us to one of its rare hiccups, finding us a 1.5-lane Foster Rd. that ended in a church parking lot. After turning around and driving right past the place we actually wanted, I pulled up Google Maps and got the right directions. (I’ve had Google Maps totally fail as well, which is a good reason to have both.) The upshot was, we got there in plenty of time.

There’s not much to be said about the game itself. Mason took the goalie position for the second half, and only allowed one to get past him (which was pretty good because his teammates were offering little to no defense, and not a whole lot of offense). Since the game started at 4:30pm, I figured we’d find a place to eat there before coming back home—and when the coach texted all of us to welcome us to her alma mater (Young Harris College), I figured she would know a good place. Her son is Mason’s best friend, except for the matter of this one girl (c’mon, they’re all 8!), so hanging out after the game was a no-brainer.

Supper, then home. Maps knows where I live, and helpfully plotted a nice set of backroads. We went down Track Rock Rd, where some of my relatives once lived, and then thrashed the Miata down US19/129 before heading home. Despite having only all-season radials, I never felt like we were going to spin out or anything… so maybe I wasn’t pushing it that hard after all. We only had a couple of tire chirps and one squeal, which was probably because I was on the paint on the inside of a right-hander. It got chilly enough that Mason (who is even more of a top-down fiend than me) was ready to put the top up early on in the drive home, but we did keep the windows down. Definitely a case of the journey being more important than the destination..

And there was evening and morning, another day.

Swingin’
Sunday after church, the wife suggested we take the boys to the park after lunch. She couldn’t stay past lunch, but I figured Mason and Charlie would have a pretty good time. As it turned out, I was right. Mason alternated between the jungle gym and riding his bicycle in the parking lot.

As for Charlie, he enjoyed the swings. He liked the slides. But the big attraction was the large fenced-in playground space. He spent most of his time running loose, and all I had to do was follow him around and make sure he stayed out of the one muddy spot under the big-kid swings. His random sort-of orbit would occasionally take him to the picnic table, where I had left his sippy and diaper bag, and he would guzzle some lemonade before taking off anew. At one point, a bunch of girls started screaming, and Charlie turned around and joined in. If you heard a chorus of Joyous Ear-Splitting Shrieks™ over the weekend, that was probably them.

Of course, like Mason at that age, he generated an Atomic Diaper. I just laid him on the picnic table and took care of it. (Mason, despite being the same age I was when I first changed an Atomic Diaper, has not worked up the nerve to try. Kids these days, y'know?)

At last, the wife returned from her errands. To my surprise, both Mason and Charlie put up no fuss about going home. I figured, in Charlie’s case at least, he had worn himself out with all the running and would zorch out pretty quick. No such luck—he was wound up, and it was closer to 10pm before he finally gave up for the night.

Looking at the extended forecast, spring has finally chased the last vestiges of winter back to the Arctic. The sun is shining, birds are singing… and I got video of Charlie talking back to the birds. Stay tuned.

Friday, April 06, 2018 2 comments

Here's Your Sign

“More” (hungry kid)
While Charlie is still non-verbal at age 2, his speech therapist says he understands a lot more than the average 2 year old. Meanwhile, the speech therapist, daycare, and the wife are teaching him some sign language (ASL). I remember reading about kids who skip the baby talk until they’ve figured out how to speak in complete sentences, and I kind of hope that’s what Charlie will do.

Still, he usually manages to make himself understood. That’s a lot easier when your surrogate parents have raised a handful of kids, and been around a bunch more. I can often tell when a baby at a restaurant is hungry or just wants attention by the edges in the crying. It’s hard to explain, but I’m usually right, judging from what the kid’s doing after quieting down.

Anyway… back to Charlie. A lot of times, he’ll start to fuss when I put him in the playpen (a/k/a “cage”—a nice roomy cage with lots of toys, but it’s still confinement). I’ll say, “You know the drill; I’ve got to get stuff ready to go,” and he’ll calm down and start playing. He really does know the drill.

One recent morning, I was getting him ready for the ride to daycare, and his shirt rode up. Belly blast (blowing loud raspberries on his belly) time! He laughed, then signed “more.”

"More what?” I asked.

He pushed his belly out. More belly blasts!


This evening, I was getting his bottle ready. (He drinks out of a cup now, but still likes his bottle for nighty-night.) Back when Mason was a baby, I'd count down the last ten seconds before the microwave finished up, and I’ve been doing the same with Charlie. Somewhere along the way, Mason started whispering “Tin!” and pointing at the timer, trying to get the countdown to speed up (I point to each number as it counts down). Tonight, Charlie grunted and pointed at the display for the first time. He’s not saying “ten,” but it’ll come.

Sometimes, I wonder if Mason’s fascination with numbers partly stem from those late-night microwave countdowns. Speaking of Mason… as this is Spring Break week on Planet Georgia, he’s spending the week with his dad. He was supposed to come back yesterday, but asked if he could stay until Saturday. Skylar stays with us most evenings, to provide some surrogate noise, but it’s mostly been a quiet week. I’ll be glad when the rugrat is home, though.

Thursday, March 29, 2018 1 comment

Patching Things Up

Charlie is mostly laid back, but he definitely has a lazy eye. A few weeks ago, we got to head down to the 'burbs to see an eye doctor—whether they specialize in pediatric eye care, or have an “in” with the state, what does it matter? Wife wanted me to take a day off work and come along… since it was on a Thursday, I also took Friday and made it a four-day weekend.

I was curious how they would get a squirmy toddler to look where they wanted, and I found out. They have a number of gadgets designed to get a child’s attention—a mechanical owl on the other side of the room, a clown toy that does jumping jacks when you push a button—yet another one of those it’s obvious when you think about it things.

yawwwwwn uh… arrrrr.
The upshot was, Charlie has to wear a patch on his left eye for two hours per day for the next month or so. They gave us a handful of samples to get us started, and (of course) you can get nearly two months’ supply on Amazon for $20 or so (and we did).

The cool thing about the big box is that it has an assortment of patterns—camo, wizard (robe, wands, Harry Potter-esque glasses), rockets… and, of course, pirates! By the time I got this picture, Charlie was well on the way to lala-land. I ended up peeling the patch off (which woke him up a little, of course) and putting him to bed soon after.

It only took a couple days for Charlie to mostly stop picking at the patch while he has it on. Once it’s on, if we keep him occupied for a couple of minutes, he pretty much forgets about it unless he gets bored. So far so good. Getting daycare to remember the patch is kind of hit-or-miss right now, though. Oh well. One thing at a time.

When it comes time to take it off, though, I guess Charlie knows to keep his eyes peeled…

Thursday, March 22, 2018 2 comments

Back in the Saddle

Mason got a mountain bike a while back, and lately he’s wanted to… well, go mountain biking. Imagine.

Raleigh M-60… 1998?
Well, gee. I have a mountain bike, too. It has even been featured on this blog in the past, riding exotic routes like the Pinellas Trail or the Silver Comet Trail.

I hadn’t ridden it much in the last few years, and even less so after Charlie and the knee replacement. But it has been in the dry garage, and even moved around from time to time. It was a gorgeous weekend—we were all running around outside with shorts—and Charlie wore himself out riding a push-truck on the driveway. After he went down for a nap, at Mason’s incessant urging, I rolled the Raleigh out into the sunlight along with its air pump, a few tools, and the tires.

Off with the on-road,
On with the off-road!
The tires, you say? Yup. It came with a pair of off-road tires, with an aggressive tread that made it sound like an old pickup truck when riding on pavement. It turned out I rode a lot more on pavement than off, especially when The Boy and Daughter Dearest were old enough to ride on the roads. So I bought a pair of hybrid tires, swapped them on, and hung up the knobbies for later.

Later, it turned out, was last weekend. As Mason watched with great fascination, I pulled the wheels off, swapped the road tires for the knobbies, then hung the road tires up. This was made easier by dint of the tires being quite flat. Fortunately, the inner tubes held air when I pumped them back up. We took a shake-down cruise: down the driveway, across the expanse of yard alongside the road, around the gravel pile, then back to the manor. You know the old saw about “it’s just like riding a bicycle.” Yup, it all came back to me really fast. The tires and tubes were fine, and Mason was ready to start his adventure ride.

There’s a trail that leads from the back yard down to a garden area (a previous owner cleared it, although I wonder why they didn’t clear an area closer to the house… oh well). Mason found the trail on the other side, that runs to the fence between FAR Manor’s grounds and the in-laws’.

“Want to ride down to the pond?" I asked Mason. He was enthusiastic about the idea, so we went through the gate and I led the way.

The pasture was pretty rough, between all the rain we’ve had recently and the cows walking on it, and it jounced us thoroughly. Through a gate on the other side, past the campsite, and down to the pond. There were some poles and tackle left behind by one cousin or another, so Mason decided to do a little fishing:

Just as well they weren’t biting
I’m kind of glad Mason didn’t catch anything, because it would have been rather difficult to bring the catch home.


You may have noticed I said we rode down to the pond. That was a deliberate choice of words: FAR Manor is on a hilltop, and there’s only a dozen yards or so that isn’t downhill between the house and the pond. Now you can guess what that means… yup, uphill all the way home. This was the part Mason hadn’t really considered. Even in low gear, he complained a lot and had to take a few rest breaks. Surprisingly, I only needed a brief rest, and I never went below the middle chainring on my bike.

I hope Mason elects to continue riding around the manor and farm, though. It’ll build up his legs and his stamina, and he’ll be able to hustle harder in his soccer games. As for Charlie, I have a bike seat that clips onto the rack. I bought it for Mason when he was little, but he wanted nothing to do with it. I expect Charlie will have a more positive reaction.

Oh… and I need a new helmet.

Sunday, February 25, 2018 2 comments

Spring Fever Walks In

Sunny days, everything’s A-OK.
In the last couple of days, Charlie has all but given up crawling. The utility of being able to move around while holding something (especially something you treasure, but aren’t supposed to have) is not lost on him. This is exciting, because he’s progressing, but now we have to uplift anything he wants to grab… which is pretty much everything. Mason and Sizzle’s kids have a bad habit of stashing stuff on a bookshelf full of videos in the living room, and Charlie has demonstrated the ability to reach objects on the second shelf from the top. Put it up top, guys, unless you don’t care if Charlie gets it.

I’ve lost track, but I think we’re in Spring #3 right now. It has been longest and warmest of any of the mini-springs we’ve seen here at FAR Manor. I think I caught Spring Fever on Friday; I was in the best mood I can remember in a loooong time. Making big progress on a major work thing (we’re in the middle of a conversion to DITA, for you #techcomm folks, and I’m one of two people hacking on the PDF plugin) certainly didn’t dampen my spirits. Nor did driving home with the top down.

Saturday was freakish-great; I’ve often said Planet Georgia’s winters get warm when the sun goes away and vice versa, but it was sunny and warm. It reminded me of that amazing November day when Mason had a soccer game. Speaking of which, his team has started practicing for the spring league. Their first two practices got rained out this week, so the coach found us a field for a “pickup practice” on Saturday afternoon.

Maybe this is another kind of Spring Fever thing, but Mason and a girl in his class are playing girlfriend/boyfriend. Not sure what the deal is with oversight on her parents’ side, but she has her own AppleID. Mason uses mine… which means I get to see all the texts they send each other, and get notified every time she tries to FaceTime him (usually 2-3 times per day). They tend to be rather nonsensical online, and a little needy. I’ve since found that teens are often the same, so either Mason and his friend have the emotional maturity of teens twice their age, or teens have the emotional maturity of 8 year olds. Either way, it’s as hilarious as it is annoying. The teens in Blink are a lot more reserved, even the immature but brilliant Sarika (Blink’s on-again off-again love interest). Still, I don’t think I’ll adjust their texting habits… fiction has to make sense, after all.

Charlie’s enthusiasm for life in general goes up a few notches when he’s in the water. So I’ll leave you with a brief tub video, just because I can. Spring Fever is not required when Charlie’s in a tub or pool.


Until next time!

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