Saturday, June 12, 2010

When Mom's Away,

in yogurt we play.

As a dad of an only child, I sometimes wonder if I'm treating my daughter too gingerly. Am I babying her too much? Too much coddling, not enough challenging?

I've noticed that my tendency is to spoon my daughter's food for her, partly because it's faster, partly because she stays cleaner, and frankly it's partly a control thing. This morning, however, Gwendolyn and I were on our own with no agenda for the morning. So I decided to give my daughter some learning independence, in the form of her own bowl of yogurt and granola with a spoon.

We know that she likes to try to spoon for herself when we are holding the bowl, so I figured she'd get some practice spooning for herself while holding her own bowl.

I was half right. She did use the spoon with enthusiasm, but mostly to mimic my stirring--and it turned out more like tapping the spoon in the bottom of the bowl. She had fun with it, but didn't get a lot of meal out of the deal. When she got hungry, she returned to the old faithfuls:

And the Old Faithfuls mean getting yogurt and granola everywhere. I don't know what it feels like to have granola in the folds of my eyelids, but my daughter does. It can't be too horrible, if she makes a face like this:

Let's hear it for Saturday mornings!


Sunday, June 06, 2010

Listening to Wisdom

The pull cord on our weed whacker broke a couple of weeks ago. Figuring that it would be a quick fix, I dismantled the beast far enough to find the hole for the string, rethreaded and reknotted the cord, then put it back together. I tried to pull-start it, only to discover that the cord had too much slack to make the engine turn over.

However, I graduated high school with a four-point-something GPA, made it through college, and finished a masters degree. I'm smart enough to fix a weed whacker, right? So I dismantled the beast even further and sought a solution to the problem. Examine, fiddle, and twist as I might, I couldn't get the thing to work. Nothing looked irreparably broken, but I couldn't figure out the fix.

I took the beast over to our local hardware store--which has a small machine shop attached--and asked them if they thought they could fix it.

"How much did you pay for it?" the guy behind the counter asked.

It's never good when that's the first question.

"A hundred bucks," I said.

He shook his head as if over a dog that would be better off put down. "By the time we get it open and find the problem, that'll be an hour of labor, which is going to be 52 dollars. And we will still have to order a part (or parts) to fix it."

Sigh. I carted the whacker back home to see when there might be money in the budget to purchase a new trimmer.

Enter my father-in-law. He's got a couple of decades more experience than I, and I know he's put in his time with motors and motorized equipment. Plus, he was over for a visit during my yard tool dilemma. We opened it up again, and he had a look. He thought what I was thinking: the spring that winds the cord would need to be replaced, but doing so would take professional equipment. I told him the cost-of-repair story, and he offered a bit of wisdom: since we've already got it apart, it will cost less for a repair guy to look it over, diagnose, and give a price. Brilliant.

I took the disassembled housing and cord pulley to another shop (closer to home), and asked one of their guys to have a look. He turned it over in his hands, gave the cord a yank or two, and said, "Yeah, getting this washer off is going to be hard; we'll have to order a new housing."

That's what we thought.

"But the spring looks OK," he said, fingering the red plastic like a troy-bilt rosary. "Wait just a second." He pulled out an awl, drew out some slack cord, and wound the cord another time around the pulley. He gave two pulls on the handle, and it snapped back to full tension.

"How'd you do that?" I asked, astonished. He showed me what he did (maybe I'll be able to do it again the next time I break the cord), and handed the piece back to me, fixed in less than three minutes by a lifetime of accumulated wisdom.

Let's hear it for the tinkerers whose hands can find the problem that a college degree can't analyze to solution. Let's hear it for wisdom, which saved me the cost of a new weed whacker when just brains couldn't. (Let's hear it for Oliver's shop down East Windsor Road.)

~ emrys

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Lowering the Energy State

When we first moved into our home, friends from the Church gave us an old chest freezer. We put it into our garage (the only place it would fit at the time), and discovered what a God-send it was. Sara especially appreciated the opportunity to freeze all sorts of foods, from prepared meals to garden-fresh veggies. She is a pro at saving money by planning ahead, which gift the chest freezer greatly augmented. Here she is in our garage:

Over the last couple of years, Sara's astute money-saving eye has ascertained that this old chest freezer, while effective in its appointed task, was sucking inordinate amounts of electricity through our meter. It was the equivalent of a military humvee: heavy, powerful, effective, and a drain on the pocketbook.

In accordance with her giftedness, Sara discovered that Lowe's had chest freezers on sale, and that the NY state government offered cash rebates to homeowners who upgraded to Energy Star appliances. She found a freezer that (with a little squirreling of cash) was affordable, would hold the requisite amount of food, and would likely cost us under 75$ per year to feed.

Plus, Lowe's would pick up our old chest freezer and recycle it for us.

So after her three-year tour of distinguished service, we kicked the old chest freezer to the curb:

And purchased a home-delivered Frigidaire chest freezer:

Extra bonus: the new freezer lives inside, which means we don't have to put on shoes and go out to the garage to get victuals. We'll be saving energy in so many new ways!

Thank God for my wife, and for her gift of household management!

(Additional thanks to Lowe's, the Energy Star program, the VanDerHeides, and whomever invented refrigeration.)