Never a stupid question

A thirst for knowledge is always a good thing. The older I get the more I realize there probably isn’t an area or field of expertise that I might end up needing to know something about, so I always pay attention to the goings on around me. And I ask a lot of questions, to the point that I’m sure some people think I’m stupid, but I don’t care. All those questions and observations have served me many times over the years.

My youngest son recently was given his first dirt bike for his thirteenth birthday. It’s a used bike, but it runs well. It’s a little easier not to get mad when he dings the thing up while learning when it already came with a few dings. However, it had a few issues that needed fixing. The slow leak in the back tire being one of them. My husband did it but I watched, again asking all those silly questions I’m prone to do.

The next day, my son took it out for another joy ride on the many dirt trails around the place we live. I got a phone call not long after. Like a good boy, he’d taken his cell phone like I’d asked him to always do.

“The bike died and won’t start.”

I squelched my sigh and asked where he was. It took quiet of bit of maneuvering in the mud to get my truck up to where he waited. I got on his bike, but it wouldn’t roll.

“You’re not in neutral.” I told him and stomped the lever at my foot several times then up once, but it still wouldn’t move and it still wouldn’t start. Great! We were far from home and we couldn’t even get the bike to roll so we could push it.

I get off and bend down to look at the engine, though I really don’t have any idea what to look for, when I realize the chain isn’t sitting over the sprocket teeth that are attached the rear wheel. I tried to move the chain around but it’s stuck tight.

While my husband had changed the back tire the day before I asked him why he messed with a particular threaded post and nut. To me it didn’t look like it attached to anything that would help him get the tire off.

“This loosens and tightens the chain,” he said.

That random question and answer gave me a good idea of where to start to fix the problem. I rode home through the mud to get some tools. I ended up taking my husband’s entire tool kit, because I didn’t know exactly what I would need.

Back at the bike, I figured out the size of wrench I needed and started turning. It only took a couple of turns for me to realize I needed to tighten the nut on the thread to loosen the chain. It was opposite of what I initially thought, but by watching the chain I quickly learned. It took only a few minutes to get the chain back on the teeth, and because I asked my husband what he was doing when he marked the calibration of the tire I was able align the sprocket back in it’s correct position. Once fixed, the bike started right back up.

“I can’t believe you knew what to do,” my son said in amazement.

“It’s because I pay attention to the things happening around me and ask why. Hopefully, you’ll remember this and do the same.”

 

 

 

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Oh I’ve got frosting and I’m not afraid to use it

Ah…birthday cakes. I’ve made many over the years, but no matter what I do, some part of the cake always sticks to the pan. The holes and crumbling edges are ghastly to look at until I apply an ample amount of frosting. Frosting does for cakes what mud and tape do for sheet rock walls–it hides the mistakes so well. Maybe my frosting ends up being a little thick in some areas, but from the outside it looks…okay still not perfect, but much better. I’m not awesome at the visual aesthetics of baking but surprisingly they always taste good, especially considering I don’t often follow recipes. What can I say, all it takes is one little “what if” in my brain and I go off the rails, throwing weird flavors together.

My youngest son turns thirteen over the weekend, so here’s hoping that whatever ugly cake I end up making will taste far better than it looks.

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Polar opposite paths–choose wisely

I truly believe the measure of somebody’s character is what they do when nobody’s looking. Are you thoughtful when nobody is around to recognize your good deed? Are you honest, even if there’s nobody there to catch you stealing?

Maybe you think choosing to do the right thing all the time takes a massive amount of integrity. It does–at the beginning–but not forever. The longer you live by integrity, the temptation to cheat, steal, lie lessens. Over time, it can become so ingrained in you, you almost don’t even think of doing anything else but the right thing.

The contrary is true, also. It’s hard to cheat, lie, or steal the first time you do it. The light we all have within ourselves recognizes and grieves when we do wrong. But, if we continue to do those things, the sorrow we have for such actions will diminish until we almost feel nothing at all. Often, people have many excuses for choosing such behavior, but I should warn you. Once someone reaches this point where doing wrong no longer bothers them, it’s difficult, almost impossible, to free oneself out of the mired misery they’ve created.

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Dirt bag dirt bike owner

I’ve been looking for weeks at classified ads, trying to find a suitable starter dirt bike for my son’s thirteenth birthday. If I could buy a new one it would be so much easier, but, where I live, people have lost their minds and there are waiting lists for smaller bikes for months out.

I seemed to be a step behind with every ad I called.

“Sorry, the bike was sold this morning,” or even the night before I called. Then I finally got a hit. “Yep, it’s still for sale.”

I was so thrilled, I immediately asked to see it.

“I’m not available until tomorrow morning at 8 am.”

The bike wasn’t close. It took us an hour to get there, but I didn’t care I’d finally found a bike. At least, that’s what I thought.

Pulling into the neighborhood of the address I’d been given, I watched the truck ahead of us stop at the same address. We both got out and looked at each other.

“Are you here for the bike?” the guy asked.

“Uh…yeah. Are you the homeowner?”

“No. I’m here for the bike too.”

What? I didn’t have a chance to say anything else before the homeowner sauntered out. Of course, he wasn’t surprised there was more than one of us here for his bike.

“Sorry. You know, you’ll get a hundred calls but no one shows up,” he said. His apology really lacked an important part – actual regret in the tone of his voice.

“We came a long way to look at this bike,” I said.

The other guy who pulled up right before inserted himself, “Yeah, well, I got here first.”

I looked at the homeowner again. He had his arms crossed with a smug smile on his face. Did he think he could pit us against each other to bid up the price? He had another thing coming. I’d done my homework and knew the bike was already at the top of its price range. My husband and I turned and left.

Yep, we’re still dirt bike-less. And maybe that means my son won’t be getting one for his birthday, but the world will keep spinning. It’s not like I won’t keep looking, but now I know to ask one more question before I drive anywhere and waste more gas. “Are you giving me an exclusive chance to buy your bike?”

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Driving Miss Goobaa

My daughter finally received her driver’s licence this week. She’s a good driver when it comes to an automatic, but the car she will be driving around is a manual, which is a much different driving experience. For anyone who’s ever driven a clutch you know what I mean.

Having taught my oldest to drive a clutch, I knew we needed an empty space for her practice. I took her to an empty parking lot, explained the mechanics of what she needed to do with her feet then told her to start the car and try it. Of course she let off the clutch too fast and killed it. I smiled as we jerked forward. This happened with my oldest son too.

“It’s okay. You need to let off the clutch slower and give it more gas.”

Of course, the next time she kept the clutch engaged too long and put her foot down on the gas too hard, revving the engine far too high. The sound scares her and she jerks off the clutch and gas and the car jerks forward an dies. I chuckled.

“Give it a little less gas and start to come off the clutch just a hair faster.”

She was successful getting the car into motion this time, though is was a bumpy start. We circled around the parking lot, going from first to second gear to stopping and making her do it all over again. I laughed most of the time, but within an hour I knew she now needed to take the car on an actual road to finish her training.

At the very first stop sign, a truck pulled up behind her. I had told her to take her time and make sure the other direction was clear before pulling onto the road. Just in case she killed the car, I didn’t want her doing that right in front of oncoming traffic. So she didn’t shoot the first gap that came along, she deemed the next car too close. I didn’t disagree with her, but the truck behind us started laying on his horn. It only stressed her out more.

“Ignore him. After this next vehicle it will be safe for you to go.”

Her start is supper slow, but she doesn’t kill it. The truck behind us swings wide around us and flips us off. I rolled my eyes at his lack of patience.

“It’s okay. You’re doing just fine.”

After a rough start and major hit to her confidence, she actually started to get the hang of it. We drove all over town, her stops and starts growing smoother like a seasoned clutch driver. She got honked at only two more times. Always for slow starts.

“And now you see why,” I told her, “they put “student driver” all over the cars you guys do your driving tests in. People aren’t very patient or kind without it.” Sadly, sometimes other vehicles aren’t even patient and kind with it, but my patience level has definitely risen with teaching the second child to drive. I was far less freaked out and ended up laughing more than anything. She has no idea how lucky she was not to be first.

 

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Family unite!

This week was one of the most labor intensive for the ongoing saga of finishing the landscape around our home. Forty-five yards of cement needed to be poured to finish off the side of our house. The immense driveway took my husband and I countless hours throughout the past weeks to prep the space, but I knew I wouldn’t have the physical strength to be of much help with the actual pours. This is where family is such an amazing blessing.

My husband’s brothers, a brother-in-law, and my father descended on our home in a two day blitz that helped us conquer five truck loads of cement. A feat my husband and I couldn’t have accomplished on our own. Even my sisters came! Yeah, they weren’t any physical help either, but I loved having them for moral support. Just another example of why you should take extra care of your siblings when growing up. Beyond the free labor they provide, they can be a priceless support system that will always be there for you.

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Worth the read: The Gone Series by Michael Grant

The first book in the Gone series by Michael Grant has been out for over a decade but, if you have a young boy who struggles to love reading, I always point parents to these books.

Told from a young man’s perspective, the story is incredibly engaging from page one. It’s like watching episodes of survivor, but everyone over the age of fifteen is gone. Fractions form from the kids left behind but there is a solid dome barrier keeping them inside, even those too young to help themselves. They all must learn to work together or they all will die. Every book in this series is fast paced. It will keep you on the edge of your seat. Click on the link below to be directed to the first six book box set on Amazon.

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Lemonade, lemonade, lemonade

I don’t like to speak ill of my husband, but if the man has a fault, it’s the fact that he’s an engineering perfectionist. It took him three weeks to lay the bathroom tile in our basement. Though I would challenge any person to find a more perfectly level and perfectly spaced flooring, part of me was dying for him to just get it done. But sometimes, even when you go slow, the meticulous planning can go awry.

We spent the last weekend creating a framework for cement stairs that will be part of a larger pour for a driveway on the side of our house. The moment he went to his CAD program and starting drawing out plans with exact measurements for the width and depth of the treads needed to fit the space, I squelched a sigh and put my “be patient” hat on. What I was asking of him wasn’t just a simple set of stairs, but ones that would have to be molded out of the cement pad for several feet as it dropped to the other previously poured cement pad below, so I knew this careful approach of his was necessary.

After several hours, we finally get to the point were we are building the structure out of the wood supplies we bought. All is going well, his meticulously measured angles of the side boards line up perfectly. We assemble the treads and place it in the space where the steps will be. Stepping back, he realizes there is a problem in the design. I can see his teeth gritting so I remind him.

“Lemonade, honey. We can figure this out.”

During the process of trying to fix the issue, a weak point in the supporting framework snaps.

“It’s okay, lemonade” I say.

Then the other supporting framework snaps in the same place.

If you’ve ever dealt with an introvert, you’ll find they have a very high threshold before their temper kicks in, but once it goes…oh brother, those pieces of wood were going to die.

“Honey, calm down, we can still make this work. Lemonade, lemonade, lemonade.”

As my husband storms into the house growling to find some other tool, our youngest son asks me. “Why do you keep saying lemonade?”

I smile. “It’s an old expression. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”

Though the project didn’t go as his perfectly laid plans promise, he was eventually able to make lemonade out of the many lemons. It just took a little ingenuity on his part, and he’s got that in spades. The stairs will be lovely.

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Just another day…

My oldest sister told me this week that she hated Mother’s Day. At first, I thought that was a pretty strong reaction for such a neutral, safe holiday. I mean, why wouldn’t you want to shoot some extra love to the woman who gave birth to you?  But as she continued talking about how it only reminded her that our mother was dead, I started to realize I felt the same way. Not that I was going to glare at everybody who might wish me happy Mother’s Day, I realized I hadn’t celebrated the holiday since my mother passed over five years ago. I hadn’t remembered to send out a card to my mother-in-law in years, nor do I want my husband and children to get me anything.

It’s little moments like these that make me realize that although time has marched on since her passing, my attempt to be outwardly stalwart about the whole thing hasn’t stopped my subconscious from pitching a fit on the floor. I can honestly say it wasn’t an intentional thought to never celebrate Mother’s Day again. I guess my heart just couldn’t get behind it anymore, so my mind decided to forget it even existed.

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Learning is not a spectator sport

This weekend, as per usual around here, was full of hard labor. Until our yard is complete, there will be many, many more weekends like those. However, some of the hardest labor was eased by the use of a skid steer we borrowed from my husband’s brother.

In the middle of our “leveling the ground” project, our youngest ran up to the skid steer and asked his father if he could drive it. I said nothing and wasn’t even surprised when my husband said yes. After watching my oldest child drive the tractor on the farm since he was eight years old, letting our youngest drive a different piece of heavy equipment at twelve wasn’t even shocking.

This is probably my husband’s greatest gift to our children. His endless patience with our children allows them to try all kinds of things, even scary, deadly things like saws and other power tools. Yes, their initial attempts often mean mistakes. Mistakes that could be avoided if my husband would just do it himself, but he won’t. It’s in those moments I have to remind myself that nobody can really learn anything just by watching. And when I think about all the things my children have actually learned to do on their own–change oil in a car, wire and electrical plug, shovel with some mad skills–I can see the proof that my husband’s do-it-for-yourself approach has been a very wise one.

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