Monday, December 19, 2016

A Letter To My Cousin Once Removed

Dear Jeff-

When I talked to my mother this morning, she said she told you she wasn't going to tell me that you commented on the increasing infrequency of my blog posts. Obviously, she did anyway.

Just so you know, I was about to start this letter, when I remembered that I needed to call my accountant before I didn't remember to. He told me it wouldn't be a bad idea to put off invoicing until after the new year, so that is one thing off my plate for now. That is welcome news, since my plate seems fuller than my husband's on Thanksgiving Day. There is the load of laundry sitting in the washing machine begging to be dried. (I'm not worried about that, though. It's winter, and the laundry can sit in there for a solid day before starting to smell musty and needing a re-wash.) The toilets are about a week overdue for a scrubbing. Finley baked cookies yesterday for holiday parties at school, and the kitchen counter is littered with dirty pots, pans, and utensils. (I have been threatening and coercing and heaping guilt upon that girl in an effort to get her to clean up after herself without being asked, but apparently the part of her brain that dictates order does not function. I am hoping it is just a hormonal, pre-teen thing, and not something that is permanently broken.) It's a good thing we don't have mice. The amount of crumbs scattered throughout would make them fat and happy. The truck needs to have its intake gaskets replaced. I have bales of pine needle sitting in my un-weeded flowerbeds. You are beginning to get the picture.

Truthfully, there have been at least one hundred posts I've started in my head, but pushed aside in an effort to accomplish the things on my mental list of priorities. A few times, I actually sat down and started to type one out, but I was either interrupted or my thoughts veered completely off the original path and I gave up. Today, however, priorities have shifted and come hell or high water, I'm writing.

It occurs to me that some of the blame for my failures lie squarely on the shoulders of your cousin, my mother. I have people suggest that I set aside a time slot for writing (or other artistic endeavors that fall short of the survival category). Frankly, though, my mother did a lousy job instilling a habit of self-discipline in me. As well-intentioned as my intentions are, I just can't seem to keep appointments with myself.

Now, if some one else gives me an assignment and a deadline, I'm on it. Paper due in the morning? I will eek it out in the wee hours of the night. Kids out of underwear? The washing machine jumps to action. Knowing this about myself, I did sign up for an art class this year. Having shelled out a chunk of money and someone to tell me what to do, I've actually painted a few things this year (see below). Perhaps I should hire you to be my writing boss, and then the words will flow.

I don't know why I've let your expectations dictate my morning, but they have. And what will I get in return? You have a way with words, but aside from a clever poem every decade or so and the occasional (and I mean occasional) e-mail, I never read anything from your pen. If I ever find out that you have a trove of stories and poems ferreted away in a desk somewhere that no-one has had the pleasure of reading, I will be first upset, then delighted. So I suggest that unless there are a myriad of legitimate excuses your retired self cannot write, you make use of the frigid, Montana winter and scribble a few things down.

I hope you and Sandy are staying warm and well.


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Road Trip

There are things I really miss about Nashville. The library. The variety of fun parks. The variety of food options. Good coffee shops. Wishing Chair Productions' shows at the library. Did I mention the library?

Sometimes I wonder why we don't go hang out in Nashville more often.

Today, we headed to the big city to meet friends at Cumberland Park on the river. Z and Joe were absorbed in electronics for most of the ride there. It wasn't until after we had turned off Vietnam Vets Blvd. that they looked up, saw Nissan Stadium and FREAKED. "We're in Nasvhille! I love this place!!"

We found a parking spot, got out of the van, and started walking toward the park, the kids taking in everything around them.
"Look at those buildings! I'd be scared to go in one. I'd be scared to walk across that bridge!"

I almost felt like a failure, having unintentionally sheltered my kids from big-city experiences for six long years in the country. Why don't we come here more often?

We played at the park. We walked. We crossed the scary bridge. We got some coffee and treats. We walked some more. We looked at fountains and climbed walls and walked some more, crossing the not-so-scary-anymore bridge again, and ended up back at our vans.

It was a good day.

Then we started the hour-long drive home.

I don't deal well with tired, cranky people when I'm tired and cranky myself. So I will spare you the details of the melt-downs each one of us had on the way home. And that drive home, I realized, is one big reason we don't spend more time in Nashville.

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...