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Wednesday, September 05, 2018 No comments

The Greatest Rev

Mason’s latest obsession is cars. Muscle cars, sports cars, supercars, anything with eye-popping horsepower and price tags (and insurance quotes to match). Getting in any car with him means being subjected to an endless monologue about this car or that car he’d really like to see (or own), punctuated by excited shouts as he sights a Porsche or the like. I presume he has fallen into a sea of Youtube videos. eyeroll

So I was taking him to soccer practice, and he said, “Rev it!”

“This car?” My Miata has stock exhaust, and it is in very good shape. Even if the redline is around 7000rpm, it doesn’t make all that much noise. But if I was a Sheltie in a previous life, Mason was a bulldog. “What’s the greatest rev you ever did?”

Ours was grey-green, but otherwise the same.
Source: Wikimedia Commons
“I didn’t do…” then I burst out laughing, remembering what was truly my greatest rev. I told him the story:

When I was in high school, we had a 1971 Buick Electra 225 “Deuce and a Quarter,” the car Sinbad immortalized in a comedy bit (see below). Thing was, he wasn’t exaggerating much. It was one of the last pre-gas shortage Detroit big-iron beasts, with a huge engine to match (455cid, almost 7.5l in modern measurements… over four times the displacement of my Miata!). That thing could swallow enough cargo to choke some SUVs these days, and give a full-sized RV a run for its money when it came to guzzling gas. And it could get out of its own way fully loaded, let alone carrying only a 140-pound me behind the wheel. The SOB probably could have pulled a fifth-wheel without breathing hard, if we could have found a way to hook it up.

The best memories of my high school years revolve around that car. If I get some requests in the comments, I'll tell some other stories about it, but this one is about my greatest rev.

I lived in Michigan until graduating from college. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the way they do things Up North, you can’t just put everything on hold until the snow melts; it might stick around until April after all. So you plow the roads, and throw down rock salt to melt the ice (or salt and sand, the latter to give you traction if it’s too cold for the salt to work). In quiet subdivisions, I’d gas it hard around corners in the winter—ostensibly to get practice recovering from a skid, but in reality to dick around. But I digress. The thing about salty roads, it rusts iron. Rustproofing had become a thing in the mid-70s, and Dad had it undercoated.

But that was just the chassis, not the muffler pipe. Somewhere around the summer of 1978, the salt completed seven patient winters of work, and the long stretch of pipe between the exhaust manifold and the muffler rusted through.

You’ve probably heard a Civic (or a similar car) with a modified exhaust, or some ding-a-ling just put in a straight pipe. Now, imagine the racket coming from an engine four times that size. It didn't take much revving to make that thing HEARD. Mom literally could hear us coming home from a mile away.

It had to happen, sooner or later. I dropped a friend off around midnight, in a quiet-ish Grand Rapids neighborhood, and told the land yacht to set a course for home. I tried to go slow to minimize the BLAP BLAP BLAP BLAP of the unmuzzled V8, but I got the blue lights after about two blocks. The cop wasn’t horrible about it; he wrote an R&R (Repair and Report) ticket, which meant I had a week (or two) to fix it, then take it up to the cop shop and demonstrate it was fixed.

Other Brother tried the easy route: cutting the ends off a beer can, then opening it sideways and wrapping it around the rusted-through zone (by now, the pipe had come apart). It worked! for about ten minutes, until the heat of the monster V8’s breath melted the aluminum.

I decided that since I’d gotten the R&R, it was up to me to fix it right. Somehow or another, we knew the diameter of the muffler pipe. I went to the auto parts store, bought two splices and a length of replacement pipe. I hacksaw’ed out the rusted part, plus enough to fit the replacement length, applied splices and clamps, and gave it a test. Just a hum, the way Buick intended. I took it to the cop shop, where they approved my fix. As well they should have—it outlasted the rest of the car.


And now, I will shut up and let Sinbad tell you all about the Deuce.


Monday, September 03, 2018 2 comments

Gazebo life

As spring began to slide into summer, I told the wife, “I want to get one of those screen gazebos to put up down at the patio.”

“That’s a good idea,” she replied, “but let’s put it in the front yard where the grass doesn’t grow anyway.”

I was okay with that—it was more likely to be used if it was near the door. We got a 10' by 12' model, and I spent a weekend putting up the framework. The wife got some of the farm help to put the canopy over the top (it's close to 15' high, almost 5m), then I put up the screens.

Done, yay! Until the first rain, and the shade finished killing off the rest of the grass, and the floor got kind of mucky around the edges and sticky in the middle. I thought about de-commissioning the patio, since it doesn't get much use these days, and using the rubber tiles to put in a floor. Then I remembered when Mason's soccer practice moved to an artificial turf field during a long rainy spell in the spring, and started looking up turf on Amazon. I found a reasonably-priced roll of turf ($45 for 6' by 12') and ordered two. I still put some of the rubber tiles to use, filling in the space between the front sidewalk and the turf.

Play area
With a dry, mostly clean floor surface, I started taking Charlie out there in the evenings. The screens keep the bugs out, and I moved in some patio chairs and a couple of outdoor tables. Back when Mason was about 3, we bought a little slide/pirate ship/castle thing, and its new home became the gazebo. Life was good… except that it started getting hot, and we didn't have any way to run a fan.

For whatever reason, FAR Manor has a major dearth of outdoor outlets. This is something I'd wanted to remedy for a long time, and I finally got to work. I bought a GFI outlet and cover, let them sit for longer than necessary, then gathered tools and pulled an outlet in Mason's room. I drilled through the wall to give me a point of reference, then used my Dremel to carve a GFI-sized hole in the siding. To my surprise, when I ran the power cable from Mason's room up and to the right, I hit the hole on the first try! Soon, I had everything wired up (and pushed some silicone caulk into the drill hole).

Light strings
With an outdoor outlet in place (at last!), I rummaged through the Christmas light stuff and found what I needed: an outdoor power extender. The cord was the perfect length to run from the outlet, under the fake turf, and into the corner of the gazebo. The box has a stake to keep it in place. I grabbed a small fan off the shelf and plugged it in, then went to Five Below and got some LED lantern light strings. Soon after, Amazon ran a sale on a 33' LED light string (with remote) for $10 and change. The lanterns spread out to the corners from the center of the ceiling; the LED string runs around three sides of the gazebo. The combination is just barely adequate for reading, but that has not been an issue until this weekend. The days are definitely growing shorter.

The outdoor office
More importantly, the fan keeps things tolerable during the muggy evenings. (Except last week, when we had a couple of absolutely gorgeous days while I was working at home… I plugged the work laptop into the outlet and enjoyed it while it lasted. Pleasant days in August are rare on Planet Georgia.)

Charlie loves to hear, "Do you want to go out to the gazebo?" I found a tote bag that's perfect for carrying my iPad, a couple of Charlie's books, sippy cups/water bottles, and other incidentals. We can do one trip for both out and back inside. While we're out there, he plays on the slide, pushes cars around on the artifical turf, climbs into my lap to read a book… and hones his misdirection skills. Last week, as we were getting ready to go back in, he put his face up to the fan. While I watched carefully to make sure he didn't try to push fingers through the tight screen, he palmed the remote for the LED string. I had no idea until he came down the hall with a big grin, holding the remote to his ear and pretending it was a phone.

He showed the wife his misdirection skill this evening. While he was in her lap, he pointed to the couch. She looked that way; he swiped the toast off the top of her BLT, and commenced to nomming. Little rat. He's gonna be a stage magician if he keeps this up.

But I digress. I think, once October starts getting close to November, we can hang shower curtains over the screens and use one of those outdoor heaters to extend the season. Mason's old play table (with sand) might be a good addition for the colder times… especially since cold doesn't bother Charlie much. Maybe I can get Mason to show Charlie the play table, and maybe he won't teach Charlie to scatter the sand in all directions?

An outdoor space, especially without bugs, is a welcome addition to FAR Manor. Let's hope it can last for a while. And if you're in the US, I hope your Labor Day weekend was long and pleasant.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018 1 comment

Give Peach a Chance

Soon after lunch last Sunday, Daughter Dearest caught me in the kitchen. “Can you take these and toss 'em in the woods?” she asked, handing me a bowl of peelings and similar.

“Sure, I’ll dump it in the composter.” I hadn’t been out there in a while, and judging by the overgrowth between the driveway and the composter box, neither had anyone else. Oh well. I stomped down some weeds, keeping a wary eye on the briars, and so I was almost at the composter before I saw what was next to it:

Quoth 3 year old Mason: “Too heavy!”
A peach tree, bent to the ground under the weight of its own produce. The peaches are a reasonable size, but still pretty hard, so I figure they were taking their time ripening in the deep shade around the composter.

As far as I can guess, a peach pit must have been tossed in (or near) it at some time—the trunk is not two inches from the base of the composter. I was delighted, as you might guess, nearly as much as when we started getting persimmons from the tree near the road.

Wife is all, “They probably won’t get ripe. There’s too much shade.”

“All I’m saying,” I replied, “is give peach a chance!”


Wall to wall and 10 feet tall
One life lesson I learned from playing D&D: always keep a 50-foot length of rope handy. What I have these days is clothesline, but I knew it was in the deck box with the inflatables. I grabbed it, and the hatchet, and got to work. Some trimmed branches piled nearby became stakes, and I enlisted a nearby oak. It has held up for over a week, now, during which we had a pretty substantial gust front ahead of some rain.

We’re already plotting a transplant operation come winter. There’s a gigantic white pine across the driveway from the front door, that seems to be dying from the top down after a lightning strike, and a couple of trash pines next to that. Those will meet the chainsaw (and become firewood for campsites and other outdoor fires), we’ll pull or dig the stumps out, and hope for the best with the transplanting.

So, on occasion, we do get a pleasant surprise at FAR Manor.

Thursday, July 26, 2018 4 comments

Stay on, your toes

The Boy continues to embrace the whole home ownership thing. He has a pretty decent garden spot (mostly hot peppers, with a few other things) and is talking about adding a room. A really good thing, he's been keeping up with his glucose and insulin for the last six months or so.

Of course, there are downsides. About a month ago, a bad storm came through and dropped a tree limb on their newest car, totaling it. At least it was parked, which means comprehensive kicks in (lower deductible) and no ding on his driving record.

Then there was the garden incident… at least, as best as we can figure. He was weeding when his foot started burning (wearing sandals), but the pain faded quickly and he kept at it. He saw a blister later was all.

A few days later, he had a pretty heavy-duty infection in his foot, and ended up in a hospital in Carrolton. We grabbed a hotel to spend the night down there. The surgeon told everyone, “we’ll do what we can, but he’s probably going to lose four toes.” Yeowch!

So they wheeled him in, and we flipped out our tablets to wait for the news, whether good or bad. Finally, a nurse called us into the consultation room. The surgeon said, “the infection hadn’t gone to the bone, or got into the tendons, so we cut out the infected tissues.” So far so good… everything was still attached. For now. Even better: “he still has pretty good circulation in his feet, that helps.”

They wheeled him back to his room, and the surgeon came by to tell him what was next: they would leave his foot wrapped up for a few days, then the wound care specialist would come by and check for any further infection. At that point, they would decide whether his toes could stay attached a little longer. The way he talked, it sounded like a 50/50 proposition.

This is the GOOD side!
We went home, but kept in touch via text, until we returned to the hospital for The Unveiling.

No infection! Yay!

The wound care specialist came in and said, “three things if you want to keep your toes: don’t smoke, don’t walk on that foot, and keep up with your insulin.” There were other particulars, including a special boot he wears to walk around safely, but those are details.

The wife took a pic of the bottom of his foot. I really don’t want to inflict that one on you… there was basically a trench about 1/2" wide and deep, running across the joints. Top view is bad enough (the bruised big toenail came from him dropping something on his foot while doing a moving job).

Last week, we got a report (and a pic): the wound care specialist says it’s healing up faster than expected. Indeed, the pic showed a small oval of raw flesh surrounded by new skin. Woohoo!

So what caused all this? The symptoms were all consistent with a brown recluse bite. We may never know what happened, but I’m willing to blame spiders.

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!

Tuesday, January 23, 2018 No comments

Horsing Around

BIG doggie!
Charlie continues to get therapy for his developmental issues. Besides the occupational therapist who makes house calls on Thursdays, he goes to a clinic for speech and physical therapy.

Part of the latter involves horses—they say it helps with his balance. The clinic has a large indoor area where they can control the situation as well as the climate.

Charlie’s first encounter with a horse went rather well, I’d say. At least he didn’t freak out. i could imagine some kids being intimidated by a critter that size.

So he was comfortable getting face to face with a horse; how about getting on and taking a ride? That went pretty well, too. He sat up straight and enjoyed it:


Check out that big grin as he goes by the wife. He’s loving every minute of it.

Of course, with so much excitement, he didn’t get a nap today. I finally finished a work project that has been dragging on FOREVER, and we celebrated with a night out. Charlie was enamored of the service dog at the table next door, and managed to eat fairly well. But he refused to go down for the night until he had his bottle. Priorities! But he did go down early…

Thursday, January 11, 2018 2 comments

Brace Yourself

With Charlie’s second birthday, he’s finally starting to take those all-important solo first steps. To give him a little more practice, I’ve been walking with him some, trying to get him to hold only one hand and walk beside me. (Besides, I’m less likely to step on his feet that way.)

A while back, one of the therapists said he would need braces to get his feet aligned properly. I immediately conjured a mental image of the hardware Forrest Gump wore in the early part of the movie. But when he came home with them, I had a surprise:

Ankle brace, really
Just a foam-lined plastic cup that goes around his ankle, and a Velcro™ strap to hold it on. To be honest, I'm not sure how they work. They’re called Supra-Malleolar Orthoses (or SMOs), and are designed to be worn with shoes.

Now shoes were an interesting issue. Charlie’s feet are still pretty thick, although not as blobby as they used to be, and he’s supposed to wear shoes over the braces. The orthopedist suggested a wide shoe, a little oversize with laces, and we figured he would need an 8W. Surprise! Most shoe stores didn’t have anything suitable. After a few attempts, I gave up and went to the nearby Target. We soon found out why the orthopedist recommended laces—between the brace and Charlie’s thick foot, the Velcro straps barely reached across at best.

Amazingly enough, I found a pair of shoes that fit the bill:


High-tops, no less!
High-tops? Well, they fit. The zipper on the side turned out to be the key there—unzipping it gave enough room to slide the braced foot in without having to unlace the entire shoe.

Unfortunately, the shoes aren’t very well-balanced… something one might expect from a big-box shoe. They’re too heavy in the toe, so Charlie was dragging his toes when we walked with him. The orthopedist gave us a set of shoes that are made to work with the SMOs—at least the Velcro strap goes all the way across. They’re kind of clompy-looking, but they do seem to work. We’ll keep the high-tops for when he’s older and no longer needs the braces.

Let the Games Begin

Now this is the world according to Charlie:

Paper is treasure.
Bread is dessert.
Anything on his feet is an abomination.

Keeping socks on his feet has always been a chore. Any time he gets a moment to think, off they come. One morning, I was taking him to daycare in the Miata (he likes riding in the little car, because I’m always within reach). He made his “heyyy” noise, and I glanced over. He had one foot in the air, and his hand on the end of his sock.

“Don’t do it,” I told him. He grinned and yanked it off. Little rat.

Now, to get his socks off, he has a couple other things to remove first. Developmental issues my rear; he may still be non-verbal, but he figured out how to pull those Velcro straps quick enough. Ah, and the satisfying ripping noise they make! Rip, and the shoe can come off. Rip, and there goes the SMO. The sock doesn’t make any noise, but bare feet in the breeze makes up for that. Usually, he works one foot at a time. Given a trip of any significant distance, and he’s either asleep or barefoot (or both) at the end of the journey. With the cold (by Planet Georgia standards) weather we got with Winter #2, it was often a mad scramble to get his footgear back on before getting him out. Sometimes, like at the grocery store, we just left the gear in the car and took him inside barefoot. Cold doesn’t bother him.

He still prefers to crawl—but as his balance continues to improve, he often free-stands and will walk short distances (four or five steps). His biggest problem is he’s trying to lean forward and run before he can walk. It won’t be long before we’re shoring up all the old baby-proofing and hearing Mason rage-scream about Charlie messing up his stuff.

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