I’m home with a sick monkey this morning; we have confirmed Finn has strep, while I’m recovering from a respiratory infection and Mama is fighting off both of them as best she can. Keep your fingers crossed for us.
Who broke down and cried about riding her bike for a half an hour, petrified she was going to fall and break her arm? Who then battled her fears, faced them head on, and was riding laps around the elementary school parking lot by herself on Sunday? This girl, that’s who.
The fifth graders at Finley’s school are trying to fuck up Christmas for my kid. They’ve been whispering in her ear about Santa and now she’s having doubts. She spent the last month fishing for answers from us, saying things like, “If you and Mama were putting things under the tree and telling me they were from Santa, you could tell me, and that would be OK.” It makes me feel like a serial killer. I can’t wait for THAT conversation when it finally comes. Plus, once we’ve admitted it to her, she is the kind of kid who will find it impossible not to share The Truth with the rest of her classmates. So, Jen and I schemed for weeks and hatched a plan to make this a memorable Christmas.
We decided that because Santa got all the glory last year with the bike, we were going to take back 2016 with big guns. Finley draws pictures of cats constantly. She plays cat games with her friend from school. She was asking for a cat five minutes after we put Pique to sleep. We’ve been waving her off since that time, enjoying the absence of vet bills, cat hair, and litter underfoot in the basement. This past month, she saw a commercial for a robotic cat on Cartoon Network, and asked Santa to bring her one.
Jen scouted out the local shelters and pet stores, and found a fresh batch of kittens at the local Pet Smart. She picked one out and took me to take a look, and she was right: the kitten was a beautiful little tabby with white socks, and she purred the moment I picked her up. While we discussed the paperwork, her littermate looked up at me and pawed at the door of the cage: a jet black boy with gold eyes and a small blaze on his chest. I picked him up and he immediately started his motor, reached up and batted at my face, and then crawled up my shoulders. I was smitten; he reminded me of Teller. So we walked out with two instead of one.
What followed was three weeks of subterfuge and skullduggery; the kittens were boarded at the piano teacher’s house while we prepared the surprise. We borrowed the neighbors’ dog kennel, set it up as a kitten hotel, and after the kids went to bed on Christmas Eve Jen went out and brought them back to the house. Meanwhile I’d built a box with a removable lid that Jen wrapped with a bow, and I preset some cameras on either side of the tree. Christmas morning, we had Finley open Santa’s gifts first and then she opened several clues: two sets of cat bowls, a scratching pad, and some toys. While she got through the last of those I wrangled the kittens into the box and placed it down in front of her, quiet mewling coming from inside. As it opened her eyes got big, and as she reached in the black kitten shot out of the box over her shoulder. She pulled out the girl and held her in her lap, and that made the whole thing worthwhile.
Santa brought her some cool stuff too, but 2016 will be known as the Year Of The Kitten.
…writeup to follow (click the link to view the video).
I posted a version of this on Instagram, but I like it so much I put it here too.
My folks are in town this week so that my dad can do some testing at Johns Hopkins for his breathing. They saw him on Wednesday and then had him come right back on Thursday for observation; he’s been there ever since. They’re trying to untangle why he continues to have issues getting full lungfuls of air. So far everything is good. He’s in good hands at the hospital. They’re feeding him well, and he’s comfortable. Unfortunately, this meant he missed our Thanksgiving dinner. Due to other illness, we were down three other family members, so we had four empty seats and an 18 lb. bird to eat. Luckily, the Redmans were free, and we found a way to stuff as much food in our stomachs as possible. Finn had a friend to play with, and we adults got some time to talk amongst ourselves.
The piping in the basement is fixed. I got a plumber in the door on Wednesday and within a half an hour he had the joint sweated, sealed, and finished for only $100. So we came out about $400 ahead of the deal.
For various reasons, we took a break from our traditional Thanksgiving meal last year. This year, we offset it for a week to coincide with a visit from my folks, which left us open on the big day itself. Graciously, our friends invited us to their family celebration, which we thankfully accepted.
We’ve known the extended family for years now, so there was a lot of catching up to do, but we could not have felt more welcome and comfortable the minute we walked in the door. As always, the meal was delicious, and we left feeling stuffed with food and love and thankfulness. I would have taken more pictures but I was having too much fun talking and eating and drinking.
The water filter is installed and flowing, after a couple days of engineering challenges. The broken unit is on its way back to Amazon (looking carefully, it appeared that it had been returned once before, thanks) and the new one arrived on Friday afternoon. I spent the rest of that evening getting it set up and then held my breath while cutting the old filter assembly out of the piping. Then the new unit went in without much fuss, and I carefully filled it with water before restoring service to the rest of the house.
Feeling triumphant, I got some leftover pumpkin pie and brought Jen down to inspect. It was then that she noticed a slow leak coming from the threaded fitting in the housing itself, and my stomach fell. All of the other connections are brazed copper, which means it might need to be cut apart to fix the threaded fitting, unless there’s another solution I’m not aware of. I’m out of time to work on it myself, so I have a second plumber’s number to call tomorrow morning who should be able to help us out.
Even so, running the numbers last night, we’re $550 ahead of the quote we got from the first plumber. Hopefully the repair won’t exceed that amount.
We took Finley to see the Festival of Trees at the state fairgrounds Saturday morning, and she got to talk to the Big Man. The Festival is a huge assortment of custom decorated trees, gingerbread houses, and vendors set up in the main hall of the fairgrounds, and they have events, a stage, games, pony rides, and other attractions for kids to play. On any given day it’s absolutely mobbed with people, but because Finn had her unscheduled trip to the hospital a couple of years ago, we get in early with other former and current patients. This meant there were only three kids in the line to see Santa in front of us and not three hundred.
The afternoon was consumed with shopping and errands. In the evening we threw some wood in the fireplace and started burning some of the new wood, which is a lot more combustible than it should be for only seasoning six months. After eating some leftovers, we busted out the marshmallows and roasted until bedtime.
I had a total of five days off, but I don’t know where it all went. It sure did go by fast…
Finley rocked her presentation yesterday! So much so that we went for frozen yogurt to celebrate.
Thanks to Mama for the video.
I lured my neighbor (and his splitter) over on Sunday with a warm fire and the promise of cold beer. I started alone by going through the remainder of the smaller logs by hand until about 1 and then he wandered over with his truck; we backed it up to the woodpile and filled the bed. After we dumped that in his driveway we hooked up the splitter and got to work on some of the larger rounds.
Even though the splitter is a pro-grade unit it strained to get through the first 36″ diameter round we put in it–because some of the wood is so gnarled inside. Once we split them in half we got a rhythm going, and it took about 1/2 hour to get through each one. Meanwhile Jen stacked the fourth cradle full and covered it.
Finley, who had been working on a project of her own this whole time, asked us to take a break and relax in the room she’d set up for us under the holly tree. We walked over and found two of the Adirondack chairs set up facing the road, with some shelves, a coathook, a bed (her wagon), a bathroom (a flowerpot) and two fresh beers. We rested in the shade for about ten minutes and she talked us through all of her home improvements, obviously hoping we’d appreciate them–which we did. She can be such a thoughtful child sometimes–I hope she doesn’t lose that.
By 4:30 we’d made our way through five of the rounds and had a sizable pile stacked, but the sun was setting and we needed to clean up. We filled his truck again, then hitched the splitter up and drove it back to his house. Our yard is somewhat empty again with the split wood gone, but there are still 10-12 large rounds and miscellaneous medium logs left. Fortunately, this wood (and its bark) burns readily, there’s plenty of beer (I kegged the IPA we brewed way back in April, tired of waiting) and the weekend appears to be mostly free.
Today is Tuesday and my back and legs are still stiff, but four weekends of honest work feel righteous.
The entire Second Grade has been working on an epic project involving presidents for the past couple of weeks, and overall I’d say I’m impressed with how much detail they’re asking for and by how much time and effort Finley put into her report. Jen sat with her and provided guidance on research, drafts, writing, quality and production, and suggested I take over the visual half. Finn and I talked it over and we came up with a timeline poster, and began work on Thursday organizing and cataloging the information.
Saturday we cleared off the dining room table and got to work with a rough draft, then a visualization, and finally the poster itself. By Saturday evening we were both tired but we had the poster mapped out and the pieces in place; Jen did a QC check and we used that feedback to tighten things up on Sunday morning. When I told Finn she’d built her first infographic (she’s been hearing us talk about infographics for two semesters now) her face broke out in a wide smile and she hugged me while sighing with relief.