I got Finn outside on Saturday morning to help change the plugs in the CR-V and it went a million times better than last weekend. I must have got her on a good morning because she was pretty well focused for the whole thing, even when I had to run around hunting for a 10mm deep socket in my various toolboxes—turns out the only one I have is in a cheap set I bought to change the battery on the CR-V in a Columbia parking lot last winter.
It was pretty straightforward, and I talked Finn through the function of an engine and what the plugs do, and we talked about the difference between the Scout’s engine and the CR-V. She’s learning! After the plugs went in we changed both air filters and then scrubbed the engine down with Simple Green.
After a pressure wash, the whole thing looks much better. We drove out to the Gucci Lowes in Columbia that afternoon and Jen was shocked by how different the car drives. The idle is steady and there’s loads of acceleration response. It’s nice to make a huge difference like that in a few hours’ work.
After we got back from Lowe’s I went back out and swapped the plugs in the Scout. We grilled some dinner and hung out together on the porch, which is really turning out nice. There’s a plant hung in the corner, we found some shades for IKEA lamps I’ve had since Lakewood street, and we found a cool metal plant stand for the area next to the front door.
Sunday I was more tired than I was expecting, and the day was hot with high humidity, so I did some minor things on the porch—wired in a USB plug by the table, fastened the five seats of the couch together with metal plates, and touched up some paint. The rest of the day we all spent quietly hanging around; I wound up napping in the air conditioning for two hours towards dinnertime and caught up on some sleep. I feel terrible because I didn’t do anything with Finn or Jen, and the days are creeping by while we could be out hiking or biking or doing other activities; I have to make a serious effort to plan some physical activity for us. The trick is finding something away from other people who have stopped wearing masks.
Hazel and I have a morning routine that’s worked pretty well for the last couple of months. She stirs at 6AM or so, does some light cleaning, and mentally flips a coin. Tails means she’ll jump back up on the bed and settle for another 30 minutes. Heads means she starts fussing at the door and at me to get me up so that she can go outside. Wednesday morning I slept through the first half of the routine and woke to find her methodically chewing up my favorite (and only) brown leather belt, something I’ve had for about 20 years. I couldn’t be mad at her, so I put my clothes on and stumbled downstairs to let her out. This is actually the second leather belt of mine she’s murdered, so I’m down to one black dress belt.
Finley has been bouncing in and out of obsessions during her ample staycation. One of her more obscure fixations has been survivalist preparation. When asked what the fascination was, she simply shrugged and said, “when I go live in the woods I’ll know how to survive.” With no real explanation given for why that might happen, I gave her a couple of books on camping I have on our shelves and asked her to make a list of the things she might need to gather to sleep outdoors. I found a beginner compass I’ve had stashed in the Scout and gave her that. She’s been asking about a pocketknife for a while, and I’ve got Dad’s Schrade waiting for her, but I’d like to give her something a little less valuable so that when she loses it, which she will, I won’t be upset.
We set up the tent a few days ago in the backyard when the weather had cooled off and she prepared for a solo night in the wilderness: a sleeping bag, water bottle, flashlight, Ox, and pillow. In 20 minutes she was back inside: it was a little too creepy out there by herself. I told her I’d join her the following night, and she went upstairs and slept in her own bed. The next day I gathered some gear for myself, figuring I’d be up long after she fell asleep—my laptop, a charger, some other stuff. We zipped ourselves into the tent at dusk and settled down. What actually happened was I fell asleep almost immediately while she laid awake next to me. She reached out and put a hand on my chest and that seemed to help. At about 2AM I awoke and had to layer up, as it had gotten much colder. She’d already zipped herself in to her bag so I was satisfied she would stay warm. The next morning my neck was sore from sleeping on the ground but the rest of me fared pretty well, which I thought was pretty good for a 49-year-old man.
Finley was assigned a book to read over the quarantine, John Christopher’s The White Mountains. Grudgingly, she picked it up yesterday and started reading it after she’d slogged through a pile of homework. By dinnertime she was on the last five pages, and had a giant smile on her face. It’s been a while since I’ve seen her sit with a book—a story, and not a book of lists or facts—and devour it with singular focus; she’s been too obsessed with Gacha videos and her iPad to want to read anything. The Tripods trilogy is a gripping series of books. I remember reading it after I’d caught the BBC series when it played on public television in the mid 80’s. Hoping to keep her interest in the series, I wiped her old Kindle of games and installed Overcast, the library eBook sharing app, then downloaded the second and third books using her library card. She’s currently laying on the couch digging in to Book 2.
The tulip tree in front of the house is in full bloom right now, and my desk at the porch window faces it. I’ve been watching people walk, run, ride, and mosey by the house for the past two weeks, and it’s amazing how many people are pausing underneath the bright pink leaves to look up at the canopy in awe. It makes me wish I’d set up a camera to capture pictures of everyone that’s stopped; I’d have at least 10 from today alone.
With three weeks in the rear view mirror, it looks like I’ve got idiotking moved completely from my old webhost to new, and it seems to be a bit zippier in terms of pageloads and updates. It took some digging to understand what the new hosts’ migration directions were, and a couple of pokes to their customer service desk to get what I wanted, but everything is where it should be and working faster than it did before.
I’ve been promising both Finn and Zachary we’d go snowboarding for two years now. Last year was a bust for a couple of different reasons, but I wanted to make good on it so they didn’t think I was a complete loser. I planned out a Tuesday night dropoff with Karean so we could hit the road early on Wednesday and be at the slopes by 10. In a rare display of foresight, I prebought the tickets online and downloaded rental forms so that they’d be pre-filled when we walked in to the shop.
Our drive up was uneventful, and we were in the parking lot by 10:10. At 10:30 we were sitting on benches in the rental barn putting on boots and zipping up snowpants. They issued us boards and we walked out to the bunny slope to wait for our instructor, an amiable fellow whose name I forgot, who ended every sentence with “Word.” Nobody else was there, so we had Word all to ourselves, and he took us up the Magic Carpet to the halfway point on the bunny slope and he showed the kids the basics. Finn has been through this twice but still hadn’t mastered stopping without falling, so we worked on that while Word helped Zachary get his basics down.
We moseyed to the bottom of the hill and then climbed on the chair lift to the top of the bunny slope, and wade our way down from the top again. I let Word work with Zachary while I tried to get Finn to stay upright, and she began to get real frustrated. At the point where our patience for each other was running out, Word and I switched and I asked him to help her with stopping. By the time we all made it down the mountain, she was stopping in complete control and Zachary was in control of his board.
We agreed to stop and get some lunch, so we thanked Word and headed into the lodge. After they downed a pizza and a burger they were ready to hit the hill again. We used the magic carpet for the rest of the day (I didn’t want to leave one of them to ride the chair lift alone) and Finn did three runs on her own without falling down once, practicing her stopping on her heel edge. I helped Zachary with his control and we worked on braking as well.
Finley, whose outright fear of the Magic Carpet kept us from riding it the entire second half of our last trip, was so confident in herself that she rode it alone several times, as did Zachary. We stayed out on the bunny slope for two and a half hours, practicing our control, and I showed Finn how to turn into her right foot and brake on her toe side.
By 3:30 we were all a little tired, and Zachary had fallen on his butt one too many times, so we packed up our stuff and headed home.
There was a point in the day where I was sitting on the slope in the sunshine, watching the two of them push off and glide down the hill, turning into the board or away from it, pushing out with their feet, and stopping upright, smiles on their faces, and it about made my heart explode with pride and joy for the both of them. And I was glad to be here, on this earth, under that warm sun, with a body that still works, strapped to a board so that I could stand on two feet and glide down behind them and tell them how fucking good they were doing.
I’ve spent a tense couple of days trading emails with my target hosting provider trying to hammer out the details of migration and transfer. As of right now they’ve migrated WordPress over to an instance on their servers and I just now got them to understand that I want to move the domain over as well. I sent over the Auth code Friday morning and got the ball rolling, so let’s see how fast it takes to get the rest of it moved. While this is all happening, I’ve been juggling tabs in my browsers like a circus clown, switching from account to account to communicate with the various companies involved. It’s making me feel schizophrenic. One minute I’m using my namesake account, next I’m using my idiotking account, and then I have to switch over to Gmail for authentication, which means logging out of my work account…
It’s been weird because the content is frozen while we sort things out; not having the site there to record on is like not having my phone in my pocket—I feel like there’s something missing. I have a problem with losing things, as documented here many times, and when something is unavailable or out of my reach I feel unmoored. This site has grown into something more than just a place to post pictures or links to funny websites; it’s an imprecise digital history of my life. Here and on Flickr are how I mark the years of my life, because I can’t keep track of it all in my head. It’s one of the only good habits I’ve ever been able to keep, and even when I’m having a slow month of posting, I’m still thinking about posting something. Even if it’s a list of shit I did over the weekend.
I’ve finished up a pile of small but time-consuming tasks in the bathroom. There’s kick moulding all the way around the perimeter of the bathroom, finished off with toekick at the bottom edge. Various holes and dents in the wall are patched and painted. There’s a coat of eggshell white on everything except for a few places I can’t see without direct sunlight.
I have the wall heater hooked up to a thermostat as of this afternoon, but for some reason the thermostat isn’t waking up. I called my neighbor and double-checked the wiring diagram it came with, and he confirmed my research. I’ll have to track that issue down later this week when I’ve got some time.
I ordered the sinks on Friday, and the marble folks are going to be here on Wednesday to measure for the countertops, which is a big relief. Once that’s all in I can hook up water and get the last big utility working in there.
Jen hit the Costco on Friday for bulk quarantine supplies, and Saturday morning Finn and I hit the store for the remainder. I’m watching the news with a wary eye not because I think it’s the second coming of the 1918 Spanish Fever epidemic, but because I know I’m standing square in the crosshairs of the virus: a low white blood cell count and a commute that takes me to and from a heavily trafficked city in a thin metal tube. Our leadership has been very cool about keeping people informed and offering telecommuting as an option, and I’m going to take them up on that when the first case hits D.C.
Sunday I took Finn and a friend to the mall for the afternoon. We walked inside and I asked the two of them to meet me at the same spot in two hours, and then I walked away and let them figure out where they were going to go. Then I texted Jen and said, “I have set them free on the mall. Should I be worried?” because I was a little worried. We texted back and forth and she made me feel better about it, and I put the worry out of my mind. We’ve been trying to give her more freedom in small doses. Apart from some stupendously dumb choices she’s made on her own in the last two weeks, we know she’s a good kid and normally does the right thing, so I put it out of my mind and looked for some work clothes. At 5:00 I walked back to the rally point and found them sitting on the floor drinking bubble tea, chatting happily with each other.
Laying in bed at 9:40 with a snoring dog next to me. I took Finn and Zachary snowboarding today (more on that later) so I’m a wee bit tired and emotionally wrung out; the two of them could not have done better today.
Meanwhile, the guy came to measure the counters and recommended two smaller sinks, so we’re changing the order to reflect that. We also need to buy the faucets before they come to install, as they’ll cut the holes for those while they’re here.
I bought this shirt for Jen ten years ago because I loved the design; it didn’t fit her well so she didn’t wear it much. Finley claimed it a year or two ago and loves it, and that makes it even better.