Friday, August 19, 2016

The Van

I've been driving our Chevy Venture van for ten years.
Ten years.

I cannot remember the last time the check engine light wasn't lit. The ABS light came on about 5 or 6 years ago. Last year, the power-sliding door decided to become temperamental, and sometimes refuse to open with button-pushes, so the kids would have to yank on the handle with all their might while the other cars in the pick-up line had to wait. A few weeks back, the door got even more touchy, and after pretending to close all the way, would pop back out just a little with the DOOR AJAR warning lighting up another space on the dash. And then the red airbag warning light came on. It's hard to focus on the road with all the amber glow.
I'm not the sort of person that wants a brand-new vehicle with all the bells and whistles. In fact I still daydream about my old Toyota pick-ups, and am sure that if I they hadn't been totaled in one accident or another, I'd still be driving them. And while I kind of hope that the van can make it another 14,000 miles to 400k, I was about to throw in the towel Monday morning.

As we loaded up to head to school, I warned Z to stay off the door. Although she was buckled in, and the door was mostly shut, I didn't want there to encourage any freak accidents. I dropped Finley off, then Z, the door almost shutting between schools. And then, as the door started to close behind Joe, it freaked.

Like a little kid that was having a melt-down trying to decide between chocolate and fudge, it bounced back and forth on the rails, refusing to fully open or close. I put the van in park, hoping that would help the door make up its mind. But no. So I drove down the road with the door doing its dance until I found a safer place to park.

Turns out, some trim piece had slid out of place and was in the way. I ripped it off (who needs trim?), and sure enough, the door closed. All the way.

I can't decide if I'm mad I don't have a good excuse to buy a newer vehicle right now, or excited I still might be able to coax this piece of [steel] to 400k.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Sometimes it must be a drag to have a mom with a physics degree.

We were on the way to school this morning, a truck in front of us.

"There's a generator!" Joe announced, spotting the piece of equipment in the bed. My heart swelled a little with pride.

The sight of the generator must have set his wheels a-turning, because soon he was yammering about his new idea: In the event of a zombie apocalypse, he could take two electric generators and using them alternately to power the other one, and somehow end up with "infinite electricity." I missed a lot of the details, but as I have a good understanding of that pesky concept called the conservation of energy, I was pretty sure his idea wouldn't work.

After voicing my doubts, I asked him, "How does it create electricity? Does it use gas?"


"If it isn't using gas, how is it creating the electricity? Is there a motor, and if so, what is it powered by?"

"Electricity. It's an electric generator, Mom."

I then tried to explain to him that if one generator was using energy to power the other one, but you also needed to use that energy for other things (say, powering a light), you would lose the energy eventually- like pouring water back and forth from one glass to another while taking drinks.

He wasn't buying it, and was getting frustrated with me, because obviously, I didn't understand his genius idea.

After I dropped him off at school, I felt bad. Who was I to shoot down his ideas?

I remember not so long ago, discussing with a friend how great it would be to have wireless power. But, silly me, I thought it would never happen. But it exists. So who knows.

Sometimes, a kid can't (or won't) listen to his mom. That's okay. Someday, he'll come to understand the conservation of energy on his own. And someday, he will probably engineer something I thought would be impossible- because he dreamed big and ignored his mother's doubts.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Summer of '16

Apparently, summer is almost over. At least that's what the school calendar is telling me. August 1st is scheduled for class orientations, and the kids start back in full bore on the 5th. (Let's hope not full bored.)

Finley is away at band camp this week, so it has been 75% less dramatic around the house this week.

Last week, the girls turned 8 and 12. We had the usual party on Saturday, and Reanna came out sporting her almost 8-month pregnant belly. We will be grandparents by the end of August!

We have a thing in the Knight clan that provides great amusement and satisfaction, in that we all turn odd ages on odd years and even numbers on even years. Even the little grandson will continue the pattern. But then we discovered that Reanna's fiance' will be turning 23 this year. He had to ruin everything...

Business is booming. We are hoping that we haven't over-committed ourselves. Chris is working long hours, and I am doing my best to keep up with the administrative mess while caring for kids and laundry and whatever else. Someone asked me last week, "How's the farm?" "It's out there, I think," I responded.

And it is.

My garden is asprawl with squash vines. I pulled out a summer squash and zucchini plant to give the peppers more air, but the Pennsylvania Dutch winter squash vines are invading  and overgrowing everything. I had plans to trim them back and re-route vines to a confined space, but I am not very consistent in my gardening habits. They have started climbing through the tomatoes, and seeing a few fruits forming, can't bring myself to cut them out. Slicing one of those huge crescents open come mid-winter for soup is one of the great joys of life.

The calves are doing well. Banded nut-sacks have finally fallen off, and horns are starting to peek out out of fur. The grass, thanks to recent rains, has turned lush and green into a magnificent salad bar for their bellies.

Then there are the chickens. One of these days I am going to learn my lesson and resist the temptation to buy all those fancy chicks. Or at least I will pay an arm and a leg to order them through a company that will sex them for me. Out of the 13 chicks I bought from Co-op this spring, five of them turned out to be roosters. We had one grown rooster already, then last month, my nephew, Robert, who lives in the city, discovered that his favorite hen, Ginger Ale, was really a rooster. He had started crowing in the early hours of the morning, and as that is something looked down upon in the big city, we agreed to offer him refuge, lest he be slaughtered by a mob of sleep-deprived neighbors. I have renamed him Trans-Ginger. And now we have seven roosters.

If it weren't for the fact that nearly all those boys have unique characteristics that make me hesitate to cull them, I would re-purpose them as chicken pot pie. What to do?

At least we have Goldie (the 3rd). She's a sweet little silkie that has been handled enough, she's easy to catch, hold, and take pictures with.

Until next time...

Sunday, June 19, 2016

My Dad

This picture. It might seem silly, but this is one of my favorite pictures of my dad. It speaks volumes about the dad he was while I was growing up.

I had this bright idea as a kid that if I tied a string around an orange, hung it from something, then took a picture of it, it might look like it was floating in space. You know how it is when a kid gets an idea.

I couldn't find anything convenient to hang the orange from, but there was my dad, sitting in his chair, reading the paper like he did every evening when he got home from work. So I asked him to hold the string.

I don't remember if he asked me what I was doing or if I told him. I'm pretty sure he didn't criticize or even offered suggestions (and I'm sure this time I didn't ask for any). He just let me try my experiment and figure things out for myself. Want to nail two boards together to make an airplane? Go for it. Car broke down? This might be what's wrong with it. Go get a Chilton's manual and fix it yourself.

I remember someone asking me when we were in the middle of building the house, "How do you know how to do all of this?" The truth was, we didn't, but because my dad was the way he is, I had the confidence that we could probably figure it out. And for that, I am eternally grateful.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Gag Reflex

It was evident early in life that my gag reflex was exceptional. I spent hours sitting at the table trying to choke down bits of liver because the slightest taste would trigger responses of rejection from my body. I remember reclining in the dentist's chair with the fluoridated-goo-filled tray in my mouth. My stomach muscles heaved as it felt like that foul tray and taste was threatening to lodge itself in my throat and choke me senseless. 

It isn't just the typical gross-food tastes like liver and Brussels sprouts that activate the reflex. Even food as seemingly innocuous yogurt can make gag. I can happily be eating my favorite flavor of the creamy substance, when all at once, the texture will feel wrong, and my throat will shut down and refuse to let any more pass.

And odors. It is a small major miracle that I never threw up on any of my kids while changing their diapers. This is not to say that I didn't hold my breath or cover my nose up with my shirt whenever possible. I was dry-heaving quite a lot when things were extra-messy. And the only time I actually threw up was when Finley had the runs and removed her diaper during nap-time. So I figure there mast have been a special anti-gag hormone my body created along with the baby. That, coupled with a steeling of the mind, quieted my gag reflex to the point I thought I was largely done with gagging as long as I didn't overwhelm my senses with something utterly disgusting.

About the same time we bought the calves this year, I came down with a bad cold. The dehydration that came with taking decongestants and that nastiness of having thick snot caught in that junction between nasal passage and throat just made me feel sick. On top of that, I was going out twice a day to feed the calves who can't seem to help but sit in their own poo. I would lug the bottles out to the stinky calves and have to watch as the they slurped down their milk, thick ropes of milk-spit froth forming at the corners of their mouths. It was rough. 

I thought I would be done with the gagging when the cold cleared up, but it's only gotten worse. Now that the calves are older and bolder, they slorp and smack their bottles empty. The sound alone can make me gag. Once finished, they nose and suck their way onto another calf's bottle who hasn't finished yet, all the while, slinging their meringue-thick slobber everywhere, leaving me a slimy mess to wash. (I'm gagging as I type.)

I'm hoping I can get things back under control by August. We are going to be grandparents, and I really don't want to be gagging or throwing up around (or on) the kid.