Monday, April 25, 2016

According to Plan

I don't know if you've ever noticed this, but almost nothing ever goes according to plan. At least that's the case in my life. Everything always takes longer, or people don't show up, or something breaks, or your wife gets pregnant at age 41... No matter how well I plan, things go vastly different than I expect them to...Not that that's necessarily bad or anything. Sometimes my plans turn out to be pretty horrible, so not going according to those plans is a good thing. But still, it would be nice if something went according to plan every once in a while...

Take this past Saturday, for example. I had huge plans to get a lot of work done on our car. It needed new brake pads and rotors, new tie rods, and the oil and filter were due to be changed. I am not a big gearhead, by any means, but I have always changed my own oil, I have done several brake jobs over the years, and I have done tie rods four or five times, so I figured I would do it all myself and save us gobs of money. It was a beautiful day on Saturday, so I set aside the entire afternoon to get the work done. It turned out I should have set aside at least another month or twelve...

In case you are unaware, the tie rods on a car are part of the steering apparatus, and are located behind your wheels, just like the brakes. So, to start my day of working on the car, I had to get the wheels off, which is usually a very easy proposition. I got out my 19mm socket and my breaker bar, and quickly got 4 of the lug nuts loosened on the left front wheel. For some reason, the 5th and final lug nut would not move. In fact, the socket wouldn't fit on it. I tried my other 19mm socket. That didn't work. I tried the crazy lug nut wrench that came with the car. That didn't work. I asked my neighbor if he had a 20mm socket to try. He didn't. I dug through my myriad of unorganized tool boxes. I found nothing that would work. Finally I gave up on the left wheel and tried the right wheel. The first four lug nuts came off, easy peezy. Then I tried the 5th and final nut on that wheel. Same story as before: socket wouldn't fit, and I couldn't get it to budge. What was I going to do now? I had no way of getting the wheels off, which is an important part of changing the brakes and tie rods. Finally I just decided to take the car to Discount Tire and ask them to get the lug nuts off with their high-powered tools. I also stopped at my local O'Reilly Auto Parts and got a couple of new lug nuts to replace the ones that had given me such grief. Those stupid lug nuts picked the wrong person to mess with!

Finally back home, I jacked up the car again and got the wheel off in no time. Now it was finally time to get some work done, and only an hour or so later than I had hoped! I set to work on getting the old tie rod off, a process which required me to get one rusty old nut loosened so that I could then unscrew the rusty old tie rod off. I don't know if you know this, but rusty old nuts and rusty old tie rods are almost impossible to get off without the help of air-powered tools, which I don't own. I worked and worked, and did finally get the rusty old nut loosened, but the tie rod wouldn't budge. I drenched it in Liquid Wrench about 20 times, but as of yet, it still hasn't budged. I vow that I will get it some day...

Since I wasn't having luck with the tie rod, I decided to move on to the brakes. There are two bolts that hold the main brake housing on. From my past experience, most of those bolts require a socket and wrench to remove them. I have dozens of different sized sockets, so I was confident I had the right one. One thing I didn't foresee was that the bolts on my car actually require a hex wrench to remove them. And not just any old hex wrench, a 7mm hex wrench, one of the most obscure tools known to man. Did I have the right size hex wrench? Of course not! Did my neighbor? Of course not! Did anyone in 12 block radius? I highly doubt it! So, off to the hardware store I went, to try to find a 7mm hex wrench. Thankfully, they had one left, and the lines at the registers were only about 40 or 50 people long, so I was able to buy the $1.79 hex wrench and get back to the house within a couple of hours. This was about the time that I realized my day was definitely not going according to my plan...

Back at home with my new hex wrench, the brake housing came off easily. Before I installed the new brake pads, though, I needed to install a new rotor, since the old one was grooved and rusty and in terrible shape. I needed an 18mm socket to loosen the two bolts holding it on. Did I mention the fact that I own dozens of sockets? Did I also mention that not one of those sockets is an 18mm socket? Back to the store I went, this time for a single socket. When you have the right tools, even the toughest jobs are made easier. When you don't have the right tools, even the easiest jobs can be impossible...

I was now about 4 hours into the day, and hadn't accomplished anything I had on my Scotty-do list. But, with my 18mm socket in hand, I soon had the new rotor on, and with my 7mm hex wrench I was able to quickly re-install the brake housing after getting the new brake pads on. Woohoo!! Finally, something worked the way I wanted it to!

I still couldn't get the old tie rod off, so I left the car up on the jack while the family and I went and had dinner. It was like that until Sunday night, when I finally gave up on it and put the wheel back on. So, the only thing I accomplished was getting one set of brake pads and a new rotor on the left wheel. I still have to change out both tie rods, do the brake pads and rotor on the right side, and change the oil and filter. I guess I will have to plan to do those on another day. I wonder how those plans will go wrong...


Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Book Fair

I recently got to have some fun by volunteering at the Book Fair at the Girl's school. The Book Fair is exactly what it sounds like: a gala event spread out over three days in which all the students and teachers at the school get the chance to peruse and buy, and sometimes steal, any of a boatload of books and other book-related paraphernalia. I should say that I didn't actually witness anybody stealing anything, but I heard that it had happened recently, so I watched those little hooligans like a hawk!

I volunteered for what turned out to be three hours during the middle of a school day. Throughout those three hours, classes full of kids would arrive at the Fair in waves, cause about 15 minutes worth of mayhem, and then head back to class, allowing us about 2 or 3 minutes to straighten up all the books before the next class arrived to mess everything up again.

No, actually most of the kids were fairly well behaved, and having so many elementary aged kids around allowed me to enjoy one of my favorite hobbies: talking to young kids like they were adults, and then laughing inside to myself as they stare at me blankly. I have to admit that I'm pretty good at it...just ask the Wife.

Probably the most excitement came early on in my Book Fair shift. A young student who I recognized as being in the Girl's class came up to the cash register with an enormous stack of books. Most of the books she had were either Star Wars or Legos themed, or both. It was an impressive stack of books, a stack which made all the other students green with envy. As I rang up all these books for her, I noticed that they all cost quite a bit of money. The student had a rather hefty looking bag of cash though, so I figured she knew what she was doing. After I scanned the last of her books and hit Enter on the cash register, I told her, "OK, that will be $84.32. Do you have that much?" "Yup!", she replied cheerfully, as she dumped out all the money in her bag. It took me about a half a second to scan her pile of cash and realize she had nowhere near $84.32. In fact, her hefty bag of money contained about $12. She only had enough for one of her books. So, I quickly learned how to void a transaction on that cash register. Which was good, because the very next student wanted to buy $50 worth of books, but had no idea that 50 cents is not the same as 50 dollars...

If you ever have a chance to work at one of these Book Fairs, I would highly encourage you to do it. It really was a lot of fun. Just make sure you have the students show you how much money they have before you start ringing everything up. And make sure you know how to void things on the register. Your life at the Book Fair will be much easier if you do.
It's obvious to me, now, that that kid does not have enough money to buy all those books...

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Man With Hooves

I don't really have hooves. I have two normal feet, just like everyone else. But it's funnier, to me at least, to tell people that I have been afflicted with Hoof & Mouth Disease (which I haven't) than to tell them I have had Hand Foot & Mouth Disease (which I really have). Hoof & Mouth Disease can pretty much only affect animals with hooves, and I am not one of those. An animal with a hoof would be something like a cow, a goat, a deer, or even a pig. Although I am an expert impressionist of all of those animals, I have never claimed to be one of those animals.

I am, in fact, a human, and humans get Hand Foot & Mouth Disease, although most of the humans who get it are under the age of 5. Actually, to be more truthful, most of the humans who get it are under the age of 1. As children get older, they seem to get more and more immune to the disease, and adults almost never get it. In fact, I read, or possibly dreamed, that 99.99999999% of adults who are exposed to the virus don't get it, or if they do get it, they don't show any signs of it. I guess I am the one in a million adult who not only gets it, but gets it worse than anyone in the History of Medical Ailments. I'm so proud...

We knew our kids had gotten Hand Foot & Mouth Disease in Oklahoma when they were there a couple of weeks ago, but since we read that adults don't usually get it, we kept treating our kids normally, and didn't take many precautions. That was my first mistake. "Never touch your children if you don't want to get sick" should be my new personal motto...Yes, I started feeling queasy last Tuesday afternoon, and by the next day I started getting a few itchy red bumps on my hands. Soon the first of those red bumps turned into painful red blisters, and then were followed by thousands of more itchy red bumps. The bumps on my hands were bad, but the ones on my feet were the worst. First they enveloped both of my heels, filling each and every step I took with sharp, shooting pains that emanated from a hundred different spots. Then the bumps in and around my toes turned into itchy sores. At least the constant itching kept me from thinking about how much pain I was in... Hand Foot & Mouth Disease, as far as I am concerned, is the worst. Sure it's kind of fun to be known as a one in a million kind of guy, but the accolades don't make up for the misery I endured.

Between the four of our kids, I think we counted about 25 red spots, and only one child, the Boy, ever complained about any itching. I think I had at least 250 red spots or blisters on each hand, and they all itched. Thankfully, although I still have some spots, most of them have started to recede, and they haven't itched for a couple of days now. I think I am finally getting over this case of Hand Foot & Mouth Disease.If only I had hooves, instead of feet and hands...

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Comma Man or is it The Comma, Man...

Slowly but surely, we are working on cleaning out the store room in our basement. You know, the one that we couldn't get more than about 13 or 14 inches into a few weeks ago. Part of the job of cleaning it out included going through some boxes that we hadn't unpacked since we have lived in the house. Sure, it's been almost four years since we moved in, but I think the proper timeframe for completely unpacking is something like 10 years, so we're cool. I think I read that in Dear Abbey once...

One of the boxes I recently went through had been sealed shut for almost 8 years now, and I know it hadn't been opened because I am the one who sealed it, and I am the only person on the face of God's Green Earth who would ever want to look inside it. It held all of my papers, tests and other paraphernalia from my days at the University of Concordia-St. Paul, and we are quickly hurtling towards the 8th anniversary of my graduation from there. I thought it might be fun to save all my hard work so that a really bored Future Me could go through it and see what an awesome student I was at one time in my life. I did go through it, but it wasn't fun. The most fun was dumping the whole box in the recycle bin outside.

Going through all my old homework did bring back a memorable experience I had in one class, though. I'm not even sure what the class was, but one of our assignments was to write a short 2-page paper about something or other. After we had our first draft completed, we were supposed to switch papers with the person next to us so that they could critique our work before we started working on the final draft. I can picture the guy who I exchanged papers with, but his name, if I ever knew it, has escaped my brain. What I do remember is that, when I read through his paper, which was only a couple of pages long, remember, I found no fewer than 60 extra commas in places that didn't need them. Almost every sentence in the whole thing had at least one too many commas. I pretty much used up all the ink in my pen trying to scratch out all the superfluous commas I found. But what made it even more memorable was when he returned my paper to me, and I saw the 50 or so excessive commas he had added to my paper. He used a red pen, and it was like somebody had spilled red ink all over my nice, neat paper. His reaction to all of his scratched-out commas on his paper was just as remarkable...I'm pretty sure he thought I had some kind of deranged hatred for his beloved commas.

The truth is that I like commas very much, especially when used correctly. In fact, I think the comma might be my favorite punctuation mark of them all. But that doesn't mean it should be stuck all over the place for no reason. I am pretty sure I never saw the Comma Man again after that class ended. I wonder, what he did, with his life, and, if he ever, was able, to forgive me, for taking all, of his beloved commas, out, of, his, paper......
But only when they are needed...

Saturday, March 19, 2016

2 + 2 = Happy!

The Little One is 4 today, but it's really like she is celebrating her second 2nd birthday. Let me explain. For the first two years of her life, she was a complete stinker. She was by far the worst baby in the history of the world, and this is one time when I am not exaggerating. She was mad all the time. She didn't like to nap. She wouldn't let us have any peace and quiet. She screamed a lot, and when she wasn't screaming she was wailing, and when she wasn't wailing she was gnashing her gums. It was terrible, and I don't mean maybe.

Then she turned two, and it was like a switch in her little grapefruit-sized brain got flipped. She was happy more than she was angry. She didn't scream or wail or gnash all the time. She learned how to smile. And we were flabbergasted. So today, on her 4th birthday, we really are celebrating the fact that she has been happy for the exact same amount of time that she was angry. Two years of both. And tomorrow, God willing, she will remain happy, meaning that for the first time in her life she will have been happy more than she has been angry. It's like a tale of two different two-year-olds, in one body. I never thought we would get to this day... Happy birthday Little One!
I would think this may be the last time she will allow me to post a photo of her in a robe, so I might as well do it. Happy birthday Little One!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Easy Baby!

We have had some easy-to-handle babies in our house over the years, and one terrible one. But I think our latest baby, the Baby, might be the easiest of all. She is chill with a capital "C". She is exactly what two geriatric parents needed. Thankfully, God decided to give us our terrible baby when we were still young and spry enough to handle her. Now that we are well into our 40s, and slightly decrepit, a terrible baby might have put us in the nut house. Thank you, God, for having mercy on us!

Yup, the Baby is certainly very chill, and most of the time extremely giddy. She might very well be the happiest baby in the History of the World. I am going to contact the people at the Guinness Book to see how they measure that quality. Look for the Baby's name in their next edition...

Look at her, being chill. She is one hep cat, whatever that means...

Monday, March 7, 2016

Sorry!

I finally found something that I have in common with Justin Bieber, which I wouldn't usually go around bragging about, but I thought this commonality warranted a blog post, mostly because I haven't had much inspiration lately, so any idea that popped into my head would seem like a good idea right about now...

Yes, both Justin and I are sorry. I am not exactly sure what Justin is sorry about, because I am not very good at deciphering the lyrics of pop songs. But I am sure that his latest "hit" song is titled "Sorry", so I assume he must be sorry about something. I could speculate that perhaps he is sorry about existing, but that would probably be giving him too much credit...

I also am sorry, but it's not for that same reason. I am sorry about one of my recent blog posts, in which I posted a photo of our most recent baby, the Baby, in which I had "zombified" her. I haven't received that many negative comments about a photo since I handed out my senior photos to all my friends way back in 1992... Please know that I didn't really turn her into a zombie, I just used some fancy online software to make the photo of her look like she was a zombie. She, in fact, is still a fully human baby, and only eating the things she is supposed to be eating, like milk, and her hands, and any small object she can grasp with her not-fully-developed finger muscles. So far, that does not include other human's flesh. So I can most assuredly say that I am 99% sure that she is not a zombie. I apologize for any confusion I caused.
We're both very sorry!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

A Slow Death

We did something this winter that the Wife claims we have never done before. I think that's hogwash, but her memory is at least 4 billion times better than mine, so it just might be true. However, my ability to lie to myself is way better than the Wife's, so I am going to keep saying it's hogwash, even though the evidence might not back me up...

We made a snowman! But not just any snowman. Oh no...Instead of making just any old snowman, we made the world's worst snowman. It wasn't even really "man" shaped. It was shaped more like a shield volcano, which I only know about because we just read a Magic Schoolbus book about volcanoes and the insides of the Earth. Or maybe it was shaped more like Jabba the Hut than a volcano...Whatever the case, it was ugly. We pretty much just piled up all the snow that we shoveled off the driveway into a pile in the yard, and then realized the snow wasn't wet enough to mold it. So, the snowpile magically morphed into a snowman, simply because we inserted a bunch of buttons and a wooden carrot into it for a face, wrapped a scarf around the part of it that looked the most "neck-like", and then plopped an old stocking cap on top, and said "Our snowman is complete!"

That all happened about 3 or 4 weeks ago now, and Spring has started to show itself, even up here on the frozen tundra of Minnesota, in the days since. Almost every day is above freezing now, and we've even had a handful of days in the 40s, so Mr. Snowman has slowly been turning into Mr. Snowcorpse. Most mornings one of the kids has to go out and re-insert his eyeball buttons because they have fallen out from the previous day. But they seem happy to do it, so it looks like our first snowman is going to try to hold on until he's just a puddle with a soggy stocking cap floating in it. I'm glad it's not one of mine...
This was our snowman when we first built him, about 4 weeks ago.
This was our snowman today, before the kids were able to stick his eyeballs back in...





Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Baby's First Cold

I don't know if you realize this, but a baby goes through a lot of "firsts". First poop, first blowout, first crying fit that lasts all night...These are all big milestones for a baby. Another one is first cold, and our baby, the Baby, has been battling her first cold for the last week or seven. At least that's what it seems like to us.

Yes, for the past few days or so, gone is our happy-go-lucky, smiling at anything and everything that moves, sleeping through the night since she was three weeks old Baby, and in her place has been a sniffling, coughing, wheezing, ornery, waking up what seems like a billion times a night baby. Despite all that, she still has been smiling quite a bit. I don't understand that. I don't have even the slightest hint of a cold, and I haven't smiled in the past 7 years...

Thankfully, the Baby seems to have turned a corner, and is on the road to recovery. Now if she would just start sleeping through the night again, maybe the Wife could finally get some rest...
She's looking better already...

Monday, February 15, 2016

Poll: Star Wars...Yay or Nay?

I have a dilemma on my hands, and I want you to help me through it. Knowing that you are the type of person who reads my blog, I may be giving your opinions too much credit, but I am man enough to know when I need help, and sometimes it just doesn't matter whose opinion I am listening to... How do you like that ringing endorsement? :)

I recently found my stash of old Star Wars action figures from my childhood. Knowing that my childhood was a long time ago, I figured that these ancient relics might be worth something. They are worth something, but not nearly enough to make me quit my day job. So, I think I will keep them in the family and pass them on to my kids, which I have a lot of.

Here comes the dilemma. I want to pass these toys on to my kids. They love action figures. They love to play. They have seen most of one of the Star Wars movies and seemed to enjoy it. The Boy even got some Star Wars jammies recently.

But...they never put their toys away. They lose everything. At one point in their lives, every single one of their toys has been lost for at least 15 minutes. So, should I trust these kids to keep my beloved old toys in as good condition as I did all those years ago? And what about all of the tiny implements of destruction that all of these action figures came with? Those will definitely get lost and/or broken within the first few minutes.

So, what should I do? If I keep the toys boxed up under the stairs I probably won't find them again until my grandkids are old enough to play with them. If I give them to my kids now they will almost definitely get lost. If I give them the guns/light sabers/bows and arrows they will for sure get lost.
Let me know what you think I should do. I will intently listen to all of your feedback and then do whatever I feel like doing, because I am stubborn like that. Here are the options:

A. Keep them boxed up, possibly forever.

B. Give everything to the kids now.

3. Just give them the action figures and save all the implements for their college graduation presents.

D. Keep them for myself and play with them after the Wife and all the kids go to bed.

Thank you for your help!
Two of these things are not like the others...Can you find the two odd ones? And, what are they all doing on Jake's Pirate Ship? Is the Millenium Falcon in the shop?