Looking for writing-related posts? Check out my new writing blog, www.larrykollar.com!
Showing posts with label photo. Show all posts
Showing posts with label photo. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 05, 2018 No comments

When you go to the delicatessen store…

I’m one of those people who like liverwurst. Always have. I gave it up for a while, what with the weight gain and high blood pressure, but Boar’s Head came out with a lite version the has lots less fat and sodium, and is still pretty tasty.

A few weeks ago, I got a quarter pound. As the deli guy was slicing it up, I thought, “Hey, Charlie likes food with this texture. I wonder if he’d like this.” So the next evening, I made him a sandwich and offered the corner.

NOM!
Charlie likes sandwiches okay. But when he got a taste of this, he grabbed it out of my hand and gobbled it down. Now up to this point, whenever he got hold of a sandwich, he would open it up, remove the meat, and eat the bread. Not this time, or any time since! The experiment was a roaring success, and I might have got one sandwich out of the batch.

So I found myself at the grocery store a few days later. I got half a pound this time, figuring maybe I could sneak a sandwich or two for myself. I came home and told the wife I got Charlie and me some liverwurst. Charlie heard this, and pushed me into the kitchen. “It doesn’t matter if I just ate or not, I want some of that good stuff!” Next time, Charlie was with me, and he got the sample slice (plus a slice of beef bologna, which he also liked pretty well).

Once again, we were out. I picked up Charlie from daycare on the way home from work this evening, and decided to grab a whole pound this time (because I still only get two sandwiches out of a half pound after Charlie gets through with it). We headed toward the deli, and he pointed and hooted, remembering how he’d scored a freebie last time. Once again, he got the sample. He finished it while they were slicing the cheese, and he signed “more.” Sure, why not? A couple pieces of liverwurst won’t hurt anything.

But he wasn’t through. As I rolled through the store on the way to grab a box of diapers, he wanted another piece. And another. And one more at the checkout. Then, when we got home, he devoured all but two bites of a peanut butter sandwich.

So when you go to the delicatessen store, grab another pound of liverwurst for Charlie and me. What we have now won’t stay around long.

Monday, December 03, 2018 No comments

Mason Minecraft Mondays

Mason took to Minecraft like a natural-born bricklayer. He comes up with some rather interesting constructs from time to time, and we’ve talked for a while about posting some screenshots. Today’s the day…

The aerial view of his seaside croft, built around a waterfall. Left to right: barn, house, garden.



This is the barn at the entrance. Mason tells me the chimney-looking thing on top is decorative. I suppose it makes it easier to spot from out at sea.


Over on the other side of the house is the garden. The stream runs alongside it, leading to the waterfall. This POV is over the stream, looking toward the ocean.


In the house, Mason has a spacious kitchen. His rooms tend to be large, and why not? In real life, it would give him more room to run around flat-out, with Charlie right behind him.


After filling up on pork chops and a variety of fresh veggies, and racing around the place, perhaps a nap is in order. The bedroom is appointed with the necessities. Left to right: computer, bed, storage containers for clothing and such.


Looks like a peaceful place to spend a long vacation to me. When I come back, I’ll bring you some more Mason Minecraft Mondays.

Thursday, November 29, 2018 3 comments

It Don't Mean a Thing

Some cleanup required
I was bonking around in the garage Sunday afternoon, not doing much important, when I ran across Mason’s old porch swing. “Too bad I don’t have anything to hang it on,” I thought. “Charlie might like to swing in it.”

Then I remembered…

Some years back, we had a yard swing. It moved between the front and back yards as the whim struck whoever was sitting in it, until a bored and unsupervised Skylar destroyed the canopy with a stick, along with the sling that kept the upholstery against one’s sitting parts. The frame sat in the back yard, until someone decided to raid it for the hardware. The pieces have been sitting out back ever since.

With Mason looking on, I started to work on the jigsaw puzzle; it clicked after a couple minutes. Next was to find suitable hardware: 3” bolts and nuts. Amazingly, the first drawer I looked in had the bolts, and they were the perfect thickness! Could it really be that easy?

I've been framed!
Anyone who has followed this blog for a while knows the answer: nothing at FAR Manor is that easy. The bolts had two different thread pitches—finding nuts for one pair was easy, the other… not so much. But I refused to believe I had bolts without matching nuts somewhere. Finally, a prolonged scrounging session turned up one, then another, along with a set of bent washers (meant to follow the contour of a pole), so that was useful.

It took far longer, of course, to find the parts than to assemble them. I used a couple disinfectant wipes to clean off the swing bucket, then hung it on the frame. The bottom of the swing was about three inches off the ground, if that. So I pulled the ropes out of the bottom and tied them to raise the swing off the ground.


It works, Granddad!
With that, Charlie tried out the swing and seemed to enjoy it. It’s now sitting next to the gazebo.

I’m not done with the project just yet. My first thought was to hacksaw about 18 inches off the top bar to bring the hooks a little closer together. Wife had another idea… which I hope to show in Part 2.

Friday, November 02, 2018 3 comments

Friday Charlie blogging

Charlie knows it’s important to accessorize when you’re hitting the town on Friday night…

I’m going to regret this when I’m older.
A big string of shiny beads—and, of course, Mason’s colorful undies as headgear!

Note: He did this without my help or encouragement. I just took the picture afterwards.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018 3 comments

The World's Cutest Pirate 2.0

Six years ago, Mason was the world’s cutest pirate.

Well, Charlie has to try to do everything Mason does, so…


The kids at church did a “reverse trick or treat” (in which the kids dropped off treats for the seniors) at a local assisted living center over the weekend, which explains the background. Charlie, of course, charmed many of the residents with his sunny disposition and curiosity. I was surprised that he mostly kept the headscarf on.

His granddad is still ready to plunder some booty, if he gets the chance…

Tuesday, October 23, 2018 No comments

(Partially) Disconnected

A couple weeks ago, I noticed my phone was starting to discharge a lot faster than normal. Thinking I had issues with an app not being cooperative, I checked the app consumption levels in Settings and made a couple of adjustments. I usually could get a day and a half out of my phone with normal use, plugging it into the car charger on the way in or out of the office if needed. But it got to where normal use gave me about five hours of battery life.

I finally set up a call with Apple support, and the tech set me up with a repair ticket. In case you weren't aware, Apple is replacing batteries (if needed) on certain iPhone models (including iPhone 6, my particular phone) for $29… and $5 shipping if you do it by mail instead of bringing it in. Seeing that a DIY battery replacement was $25 about three years ago, I figured this was a no-brainer.

Fits in the palm of your hand… with room to spare.
I was now temporarily phone-less. Or was I? When I got the 6, I retired my iPhone 4, the one I'd replaced the battery in, repurposing it essentially as an expensive iPod touch. The SIM won't fit in it, which I expected, so it’s Wi-Fi only. I can still message the wife and DD, and even make and take calls using FaceTime. I was hoping to use it for Skype, but the app only gives you the option to upgrade and the current version won't work on the older phone. (thankyouverymuch, Microsoft)

Whatever. Where there's Wi-Fi, there's the ability to contact family, anyway. I spent the weekend weeding off old pictures and older messages (this phone was in service from 2012 to 2016), and got a GB or so freed up to download podcasts for the commute. I'll probably start deleting apps soon, starting with Twitter—it crashes too often, and of course I can't upgrade it. Next up will be stuff I never use or works equally poorly. That should get me through the week, then I should get my primary phone back.

Quite the size difference
One nice thing is getting re-acquainted with several games that are no longer supported on the newer systems—Bejeweled 2 and Sudoku Mania, to name two. Some newer games still work on it as well… Smash Hit is a surprising example that does occasionally hit a frame-rate stutter. But it feels so tiny, reminding me of my skepticism about a phone that was too long to nestle down into a shirt pocket. I guess I adjusted quickly.

The other thing I like is the speaker dock. It, like the 4, has the older dock connector. So I can't put the new phone on it. I guess when I get my primary phone back, I'll erase the old one and find someone who needs it more than me. They can also take the speaker dock, since it doubles as a charging station.

But it'll be nice to hang out with the '4 for the week ahead. Our last hurrah, so to speak. Charlie glommed it this evening, and was adamant about not giving it back, so I pulled up the Bubbles app for him (one of those that doesn't work on newer phones) while he clung to it and fussed. (I guess he figured a little bitty phone is meant for a little bitty user.) He played with it for half an hour, maybe more. I remember letting Mason play with the phone when he was like 3 or 4, and he discovered the Camera app. I locked my '6 when I got it, but he had access to an iPad mini (and an original iPad) by then. He still tries to wheedle my passcode out of me, though.

I had a bit of heartburn this evening, when I received a shipping box from Apple (2 days after I sent the phone off!). I got on the chatline with Apple Support, and they verified the box had been shipped by mistake and everything was in the queue. Oh well, now I have a SIM remover tool… no more paper clips!

'Course, this means I'll be hard to reach this week. Email me… or leave a comment here!

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, 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.

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.

Friday, November 03, 2017 No comments

Chairman of the Whiteboard

Already doing math
Ever since they painted some of the walls at work with it, I’ve wanted to get some of that dry-erase paint and cover a couple of Mason’s walls with it. The problem is, his walls (and most of the walls in FAR Manor, for that matter) are paneling… aka Norwegian Wood.

My second thought was “hey, I think we have a piece of sheetrock in the garage. I could mount that and paint it.” As it turned out, I didn’t have any sheetrock in the garage… but there was this piece of shower stall board, about 4' x 4'. I scribbled a corner with a dry-erase marker, left it overnight, and found it erased just fine the next day. I wanted to find some framing boards, with a notch cut into one side, but had no luck. I ended up buying four 6' pieces of 1x4, figuring I could rabbit out a notch with the table saw.

This was back in the spring. Then I had knee surgery, and was pretty much sidelined for the summer. But old surgical wounds heal, given time, and the whiteboard-to-be was taking up space in the garage. As were the boards.

With a little time, I got on it last weekend. First step was to notch the boards. The table saw did the job, once the fence was in the right place. I cut the groove into each board, then flipped them sideways and cut off the strip of wood. A nearby chisel got drafted to finish out the notches.

Next up, the whiteboard had to be trimmed. I had planned for 48" square exactly, but somehow ended up with 48"x47¾". No problem, I hadn't trimmed the boards yet. I use the miter saw to cut 45° angles.

With all the parts ready, I grabbed the drill battery out of the charger and got to work. It went fairly quickly; I put up the bottom board, using a level to get it straight. Then I slid the whiteboard into the notch, added the side and top framing (bonking things straight with the hammer), and screwed it all up down. The final touch was a piece of angle-aluminum, once used as a hanger for 1/2" videotape cases (old pro stuff), now a place for his markers.

Mason was pleased, but… “What can I use it for?”

“Anything,” I replied. “Draw pictures, write down stuff you want to get done, do math problems—”

“Yeah!” he exclaimed, and proceeded to cover it with multiplication tables.

I still need to get him a set of colored markers and an eraser. He’s making do with the one marker we have an a paper towel for now.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017 3 comments

Happy #1, Zoey!

I haven’t blogged much about Grandkid #2, mainly because I haven’t seen much of her, mainly because The Boy lives about 120 miles from FAR Manor. (Smart move, that.) But she had her first birthday party over the weekend, with a “Wild One” theme. Zoey isn’t terribly wild—she’s not quite walking yet—but her parents…

Anyway, I expected Charlie to get a good nap on the 2-hour drive down… nope! He was fascinated with the 18-wheelers and transfer trucks on the freeway. When we got all the way past one truck, he would crane his neck to look out the windshield for the next one. We got to the pavilion, and he was ready to party!

A good time was had by all. Especially the birthday girl. There was cake. With icing, of course:

Now why did someone give me this spoon? Who needs a spoon?

Charlie thought the party was fun, too. He even tried to steal the show by turning loose and trying to walk away once—for the second time that weekend. As with the first time, he got two steps, keeled over, and I caught him. He wasn’t too sure about me holding Zoey; but while the wife had him, I carried her over to say hi to Charlie. He grinned at her, she stuck her tongue out, and Charlie cut loose with the Joyous Ear-Splitting Screech™. Zoey suddenly decided she’d had enough, and started wailing for someone she knew to come get meeeeee!.

One of the cool things they did was to put out a stationary pad for everyone to write Zoey a letter. She’s supposed to get them all and read through them when she’s 18. That involves a lot of confidence that someone will be able to hold on to that correspondence for 17 years, but it’s still a cool idea.

After the party, we hit Golden Corral and hung out for a while before heading back. Once again, Charlie kept a lookout for trucks… at least until it got dark. But he refused to give in until we got about 10 miles from home. Then, he crashed. It didn’t take much longer for me to do the same.

Friday, September 22, 2017 4 comments

Boys, Books, Birthdays, and B…

Get the shot, Granddad, I’m about to pull it off!
Somewhere along the line, I’ve become Charlie’s favorite. It might be because, most days, I’m the first person he sees in the morning and the last at night. I also spend a fair amount of time with him through the evenings, usually either reading to him or helping him walk through the house. He likes to go from one end of the house (door to the garage off the kitchen) to the other (shower door in the master bath), then back. Several times. It’s beneficial in several ways: he enjoys it, it helps to wear him out and get him ready for bed, and his (supported) walking has improved greatly over the last couple of weeks. No more drunken stagger, although he does do the pigeon-toe thing.

Most mornings when I drive to the office, I drop him off at daycare. He likes riding in the Miata because there’s always someone next to him. He also likes for me to lay my right hand over on his car seat, so he can touch it. I also keep a little toy car for him to play with. When the sun shines in on his side, he starts squinting, so I grab my hat (much like the one in the pic) and put it on him. He gives me a big grin and pulls it off… I guess he’d rather squint than have something on his head. But that’s what gave me the idea for the picture, and the knowledge I’d have to be quick on the shutter.

Charlie’s favorite book
Oh, and Charlie has re-discovered his joyous ear-splitting screech. He doesn’t reserve it for Mason, either. If he’s enjoying whatever he’s doing or seeing—the dogs tug-of-warring over a chew toy, walking around, Mason doing something silly—he cuts loose. (I’ve often joked about looking forward to going deaf as I get older, even if I wear ear plugs when I mow the lawn, but I’ll likely get a chance.)

I’m sure the hat is a coincidence, but this is his favorite book. When I’m reading this one to him, he doesn’t try to flip to the end to read the blurb or whatever. Personally, I think it’s because he loves the water so much, he’s always ready for a story about a little boy getting to play in/near the water. It’s a blast to watch him in his float, screeching with joy and splashing water everywhere. I want to get him and Mason up to the resort to play in the pool before it gets too cold.

Speaking of Mason, I kind of get the impression he’s been feeling left out lately. I’m constantly taking care of Charlie most evenings and weekends, and the wife is constantly taking care of her dad, so where does that leave him? I take him to soccer practice twice a week, wife takes him to school and occasionally has a dinner date with him. But of late, he’s been hostile, demanding, and often doesn’t want much to do with Charlie. It didn’t help that I couldn’t get out much from May into the first part of August (the resort trip in July taxed my knee and relaxed most everything else). Now that I can do most of what I could do before the knee started acting up, I’m working on changing that. That’s one reason I want to get them both up to the resort.

It will also help (and cause trouble) once Charlie starts walking on his own. The physical therapist that will soon start working with him thinks once he’s fitted with leg braces, he’ll be walking in less than two weeks. On the other hand, the daycare people told me he took one step today, then got really wobbly and sat down. I figure once Charlie starts walking, he’ll be beelining for Mason’s room (his personal concept of Heaven)… the only thing that will slow him down is deciding whether to get into Mason’s Legos, cars, plastic army men, or the rest of it. Angsty teenagers got nothin’ on Mason when someone starts messing with his stuff. Mason turned 8 earlier this month—I told him now he could learn how to change Charlie’s diapers, because I was 8 when I learned how. I think only the father-in-law could have given a better “deer in the headlights” look when I said that.

Will he have the patience?
We got Mason his own book from the book fair. It’s a pretty good how-to on creating stop-motion animations (making a movie one frame at a time), and Legos are a great way to get started with that. Mason, however, is definitely a child of the wife’s side of the family—no patience, and will argue with a fencepost. First, he expected me to read the entire book to him, when he’s quite capable of reading it himself. (THIRTY-EIGHT PAGES? *rage quits*)

Once he settled down, he went through the book, and learned how to storyboard a movie. He sketched out an idea for a simple “cops and robbers” story, and did a pretty good job of it. But (lack of patience again), he tore one of the backdrops included in the book… the one he wanted to use, of course. I taped it up and it works okay. We’re experimenting with a hybrid of stop-action and motion video, and hope to make some good progress over the weekend. Maybe I’ll have a new Weekend Cinema post for y’all soon.

Thursday, August 03, 2017 1 comment

Hitting My Stride, and Other Stuff

Sunday morning, I went to get something from the kitchen, when I realized I was walking my like old, pre-knee-issues self—long, brisk strides that covered ground with only the tiniest twinge of discomfort from the Whiny Quadriceps. Hey! I thought, I’m back! That, more than anything, convinced me I’m close to fully recovered. After a week of my feet giving me grief, one or both at a time (while Charlie is cutting molars and wants to be held more than usual, which is a lot), it felt really good to walk instead of limp or shuffle.

I guess cutting those molars is really rough on a baby. Charlie is trying to be his normal happy self, but he’ll start crying at anything or nothing at all. But here’s a pic from a couple weeks ago, when Mason also felt like cutting up:

Just me and the boys… Charlie's trying to grab the phone, of course.

With school starting today(!!), we swapped our Labor Day timeshare week for one in July, and so we escaped FAR Manor last week. We spent a lot of time at the pool, and Charlie loves the water. We have a float he can sit in, with his legs in the water, and he can reach out and splash with his hands. Definitely his happy place. But mid-week was when he started cutting molars, and started getting rundown and moody later in the last few days.

Meanwhile, Mason wanted to try this zipline place near the resort, and Skylar stayed with us for the first half of the week, so we took them over there. The big ziplines were beyond their ability, but they had smaller "adventure" runs over a rope bridge, a rolling platform… and finally, a short zipline:



So that’s pretty much the end of summer at FAR Manor, even if we have all of August to get through.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017 No comments

Fireworks, a Day Late

It was bound to happen sooner or later. June and July (so far) have featured thunderstorms pretty much every day. It finally happened Wednesday evening, between 4 and 6 pm, while nobody was home but the dogs. While we were out shopping, Daughter Dearest texted me a picture of the light switches in the foyer, next to the front door:

Blew the ends right off the plate!

She followed up with The DSL box got fried. Or it's not on at all. I had her check the computers and all was well there. Mine’s on a UPS, so is the TV and the DSL box. The phone line, though, doesn't have a surge protector. So… after thanking God the manor didn’t burn down1 and the computers were OK, the wife and I discussed what else we needed to check before calling the insurance company.

Insurance was pretty copacetic about the situation… probably because we have a $1000 deductible. They said my idea of having the wiring inspected was a good one, and said to just keep a list of our expenses. Besides the exploding switches, we checked things out and discovered:

  • Everything connected to a phone line, including the lines themselves, got clobbered (more on that shortly)
  • The TV signal amp was fried
  • We thought the Wii had lost video, but it turned out to be the VCR it was connected through
  • One of the garage door electric eyes is blinded, so we can’t close the garage

The funny thing was, the clock-radio in our bedroom was still keeping time—that means the power didn’t go down for even a fraction of a second. Considering the damage could have been a lot more extensive, I’d say we got off pretty light. Mason (and me, to a lesser extent) was jonesing for Internet access, so I turned on my phone’s personal hotspot and started making a dent in our rollover data.

Thursday morning, I grabbed tools (and an old landline phone I keep for testing) and went out to the network interface box (aka the NID). We had no dialtone inside, as I rather expected, and didn’t have dialtone at the test jack, either. BUT, we had dialtone at the second test jack. I promptly moved all the connections down, but that didn’t help. Armed with some data, I called Windstream (aka Windbeans) and gave them my findings. They promised to have someone out here before a week from Friday. Um… this is a business line, guys? We kind of need this connection to function? “It should be earlier than that.” I’m going to ask them for a 25% reduction on the bill for the month, since they can’t be bothered to get anyone out here for a freekin’ week. If they balk, I’ll see what the PSC has to say. I measured along the walls and came up with an estimate of 14 feet from the NID to my window… meaning a 20-foot phone cord would reach my desk.

We got through the weekend. I continually reminded Mason, no Youtube, no Netflix, and he complained but complied. Still, between us, we chewed through 1GB pretty much daily. I turned off automatic updates to prevent surprises. But I kept thinking about that second line that was giving dialtone…

Monday finally arrived. I took Charlie to daycare, then learned that Mal*Wart no longer carries anything having to do with landlines (you would think, with so much of their clientele coming from the edges of civilization, they would try to help out). Fortunately, Home Depot seems to understand, and I happily bought a 25-foot phone cord from them. This I ran from the NID’s test jack, into the window in front of my computer, and onto my desk. I plugged in the phone and got dialtone, yay! Then, just out of curiosity, I called my cellphone. I don’t recognize this number. I called it back, just to see if anyone out there would answer. My test phone rang, but nobody else answered. Something obviously melted in a pedestal upstream.

Still, desperate times call for desperate measures. I scrounged up the old DSL modem we used before Windbeans gave us one with built-in Wi-Fi, plugged it in, and it connected. Then I found the Linksys router Mom gave me a while ago, and hooked it up. With my computer next to the router, I used Ethernet cables. Let the tablet users share the Wi-Fi, right?

With a temporary DSL lashup in place by Monday afternoon, the electrician showed up Monday evening. Two of the switches had exploded. The third, amazingly, still worked, but he replaced them all. The insulation on one wire was melted, but barely enough to expose the wire, so he wrapped it up. Three new switches and a plate, I wiped up the soot, and he pronounced the wiring otherwise OK.

We still have a few things to fix to get back to completely normal here, but we’re good to go otherwise. I just want to be here to see the look on the phone tech’s face when (s)he realizes we have access to a phone line we shouldn’t. On the other hand, they really need to get people out here sooner, and take care of their plant a little better.


1I don’t want FAR Manor to burn down… just the mortgage.

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...