Today was pretty busy. After breakfast, I went down to Lowes to buy some Pinewood Derby car making tools – primarily, coping saws and four-in-hands (a type of wood rasp). I have a coping saw, and I have four four-in-hands, but I also have 15 Pathfinders (21 if you include the staff), and they were all going to be wanting to use these tools at the same time. So I bought more. Three more coping saws, and a multi-pack of files. Many of the files will not be appropriate for wood work, but three of them certainly will be. And that was the cheapest way to get three usable files.

When I got home, I got out my chisel collection and my Japanese water stone (for sharpening chisels). This stone is hands-down the best thing I have ever seen for sharpening chisels. I haven’t done any serious sharpening in a couple of years, but I made up for that today. I also have a jig for setting the blade angle of whatever I’m sharpening (chisel or plane blade), and between the jog and the stone, I get a mirror finish on the edges of my tools. I sharpened four. I have four more that could use the same treatment. I also quickly made some tip protectors with some scrap leather. I didn’t have time to lace them up or anything – rather… I used masking tape. But it did the trick. Beats tossing the newly sharpened chisels into a plastic bucket with C-clamps and four-in-hands, etc.

Then we had errands to run. First we went to Applebees for some lunch. Then we dropped the boys off at the church so they could do some school work. Normally, we would have left them home to do that, but we would not be able to get back to the house in time to pick them up for a Pathfinder meeting.

Once we had the boys set up, Va, Beth, and I drove to Rochester, NH, where some friends from church live (Karen and Glenn). They are both doctors, and she had been the Adventurer director before Va took that over. She has a basement full of wonderful things, and that’s why we were there. She had a crate full of Bible costumes, several backdrops, crockery, wooden trays, and even a shofar. We chose nine tubs full of such things. Not all of them would fit in the car (especially not the backdrops), but Glenn needed to come to the church tonight to pick up his son from the Pathfinder meeting (he spent the night with another Pathfinder friend). We got back with the goodies just before the PF meeting was to start, and got the car unloaded.

Then it was meeting time. We spent half the meeting getting ready for Pathfinder Sabbath, which is the 21st of February. The Pathfinders will be in charge of the whole church service, from making announcements, to taking up the offering, telling the children’s story, special music, and the sermon. Only we’re not doing a sermon. Instead, we’re going to have each of our five units present a skit.

I worked with the Companion unit tonight and we developed a skit on healthy eating. They presented it to the club tonight, and it was pretty well received. Next week two more units will develop and present their skits.

For Marching and Drilling, we went into the sanctuary and practiced posting the flags. We had twelve kids there tonight, and four flags (well, three plus an empty staff – I need to get a NH flag). That went pretty well I thought.

Then we started in on the Pinewood Derby cars. I was thinking my own sons wouldn’t care much for that, but I make them do stuff they don’t want to do all the time (especially when it’s PF related). I’m still not sure how David feels about his car, but Jonathan said that he thought Pinewood Derby’s were pretty cool. Which of course, I was very glad to hear.

At 7:45 I announced that it was time to clean up. We put away all the tools and then started vacuuming saw dust and wood chips. We were all finished by 8:00, and we dismissed then.

Having not eaten since 2:00pm, the boys and I were hungry, so we shuffled over to Taco Bell and had some food. Warran and his son (both from Pathfinders) were there too. We enjoyed as fine a meal as Taco Bell can serve, and then we went home.

And now… I’m pretty tired!

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Beth woke me up at about 1:30 last night, as she was not feeling good. She complained of an upset stomach and a stuffy nose, so I went and got her some cold meds. Then she puked all over her bed. I got her cleaned up, and stripped the sheets. Then we sat in her rocker for a while, wrapped in her still fresh blankets. She was shivering uncontrollably, but warmed up in a couple of minutes. I put her in our bed for a little while, but she was still pukey, so I figured maybe I was awake enough to put new sheets on her bed. So I did, and then she got back in there without having spoiled my bed too. She puked several more times in the night, and I was up with her until past 4:30. I went back to bed, but she continued the get up, puke, go back to bed cycle all by herself. She reported eleven trips when I woke up again.

Needless to say, the two of us did not go to church today. Mostly, she’s puking up water, so that’s not too bad. After Va and the boys went on to church, we popped in a video. She watched, I dozed. And then she got up to run to the bathroom, but the border collie in Penny thought it would be a good idea to herd her wherever she was going. That slowed her down, and then Beth puked on the dog. Serves her right! But of course, Penny doesn’t seem to mind at all, and I will be the one to give her a dog bath. Beth had emptied her stomach several hours ago, so the only thing coming up is water. Meaning it’s not nearly as bad as it could have been (for the dog). She doesn’t stink any more than usual at the moment, and I’m still pretty bleary-eyed, so I’m thinking the dog bath can wait.

Every parent know that the hardest part of this is not cleaning puke off the floor, the bed, the carpet, the outside of the commode, or even the dog. Rather, it is watching your precious little loved one suffer and being powerless to make it go away. She is so hungry, but I can’t let her eat anything. She isn’t even holding down water, and it’s breaking my heart to see her this miserable, and the only thing I can do is wait it out.

This too will pass.

Va has an Adventurers meeting after church, so they will be away until at least 3:30. I’d love to go for a hike down to Sandogardy (the temperature has warmed up by 12° in the past four hours – it’s a balmy +6° right now!)

My brother has been tossing cups of boiling water in the air and watching it turn to snow, and it’s gotta be at least 10° in KY where he is. I did that last year when it was 2°, so I KNOW it would be cool to have done it yesterday (too busy at work when it was -17°).

The FedEx guy just delivered the school’s server, and I have to go to work tonight so I won’t be able to spend any quality time with it. Maybe tomorrow. Actually, I’m going to have to wait until Monday, because I’ll need to borrow an external DVD drive with a USB interface (it has no optical drive), and that’s locked in Bill’s office.

Since I’m not at church, someone else will have to tell the children’s story during the worship service. I had picked out a story about a boy who wanted to get a present for his mom’s birthday, but let it creep up on him. Instead, he wrote her a birthday letter, and his mom treasured that more than anything else he would have been able to buy. And why did I choose that story? Maybe because today is Va’s birthday, and I find myself in pretty much the same situation. I had planned to pick her something up during lunch on Thursday or Friday, but work was (and is) so busy I didn’t have time. Anyhow – happy birthday Virginia! You mean the world to me.

I almost forgot to mention this in my post earlier tonight. Yesterday, Beth was telling me that she thought she was too big to sit in her booster seat in the car anymore. I couldn’t really tell as I was driving at the time, but I told her we could check into it the next day (which was today).

She reminded me this morning as we were getting into the car, so I told her to take off her coat so I could get an accurate assessment of her size. The car seat has markings on it to show the minimum and maximum height of the child’s shoulder, and she was just barely above the max mark.

And of course, she was delighted. I took the car seat out and put it on top of a pile of junk in the garage. I also pulled the one out of Va’s car and put it there too.

Beth was all excited, and doesn’t want the boys to know about this until tomorrow morning when we head out for church. OK! Boys! Don’t read this! Or… act surprised?

We got our first “real” snow of the season today. By “real” I mean more than an inch. I left the house a little early, and by “a little,” I mean… two minutes? The roads were terrible. We only had about two inches of snow, but I could detect no evidence of plow activity anywhere between my house and the interstate. So I crept along. I got to my first rider’s house at about 8:00 – roughly 20 minutes later than usual. She didn’t come out right away like she usually does, but she did come out in under two minutes. I never honk because I used to live in a neighborhood where people honked while I was trying to sleep, and it drove me up the wall. So I don’t do it.

Then we set out for her cousin’s house, again – creeping along? “Why are you going so slow?” she asked. “BECAUSE I DON’T WANT US ALL TO DIE!” I felt like saying. But instead I said “Because the roads are very slippery.” We got to her cousin’s house in a few minutes and she went in to get her. That’s what she does every morning.

When the school year first started, the two would come out of the house again in 30 seconds or less. Then it crept up to a minute. Today they hit five minutes, and I was just a wee bit fed up with that. So at the five minute mark, I called their house. It rang eight times. In the U.S., a ring is on for two seconds and off for four – so it’s six seconds per ring. That’s 48 seconds of phone ringing with no answer! By the eighth ring, the door opened, and the two girls ambled out. And just stood there. So I did that which I never do – I honked the horn. The didn’t pick up the pace. I have no idea what they were doing, but they were just… STANDING there! So I laid on the horn, rolled down the window and told them to get a move on. Once they were both in the car, I told them that tomorrow, if they didn’t get back to the car in one minute, I was going to leave without them. I think instead I will have the first girl stay in the car and I will just call. I’d prolly get in some kind of trouble if I dropped the first one off at the second one’s house (even though they’re cousins).

They explained the delay: “She wasn’t ready yet.” OK, I’m 30 minutes late, and she’s not ready yet? Excuse not accepted.

We finally made it to school at 8:30, half an hour late. I went in and grabbed a case of oranges. Someone from up north wanted another case and since I had to deliver one to Laconia today anyhow, I figured I’d do the two birds, one stone trick.

I got to work and banged my head against yesterday’s wall a little more. I think I may have made some progress, and the maddening thing about this bug I’m searching for is that I just KNOW it’s going to be something stupid.

After work I headed to Laconia and made my two fruit deliveries. By then the plows had come out, so it wasn’t too bad. It wasn’t GREAT or anything – just not too bad. Then I called Pizza Hut for our Wednesday order and stopped there on the way to the house. After eating the pizza, I went outside to crank up the snowblower.

Hmmm… Over the summer I had attempted to fix the clutch by installing a hand brake lever from a scrap bicycle. Only the clutch is way too stiff for that. Instead of the clutch lever rising, the brake handle bends. I had bought an eighth-inch diameter steel rod a couple of weeks ago in hopes of using it to rig something up. But job one was to remove the bike brake assembly (which was not too hard). Then I bent the steel rod around the lever, snaked it up the handle, and tied it in place with a broken snowblower belt. It’ll do for now. I couldn’t find the old clutch handle thing. I might have thrown it away, I don’t remember.

I had also removed a steel cover from the bottom of the transmission so I would have room to insert some bolts into the transmission housing to hold the brake cable. But I never put it back on. I found the cover OK, but I could not find the bolts that formerly held it in place. I figured I might be able to snowblow without the bolts, so I wheeled the beast into the driveway and filled the gas tank.

The engine started on the first pull, which made me very happy. I kicked it into gear, went maybe six feet and then the transmission cover plopped off into the snow. I killed the engine and made yet another attempt to find the cover screws. No luck. It’s just too dark in the garage. I went to the basement to see what I could find to cobble together a solution (I delude myself into thinking it will be a temporary solution, but I know myself well enough to know that this solution will be in place until I need to get into the transmission again.)

I used some cable ties and strapped the cover in place, snaking the cable ties through the bolt holes and cinching them down. That did the trick. The engine started again on the first pull, and I was in business.

I don’t know what it is about that snow blower, but it absolutely wears me out. Maybe it wouldn’t so much if it had a working clutch. When I want to turn, I have to wrestle with it – with a clutch, I could slow it down first. I guess. Anyhow, I wrestled with it long enough to get the driveway cleared and then came in the house.

Now I’m all worn out.

Life is pretty much back to normal for us following this ice storm, but it is decidedly not back to normal for lots of other people. I still know several people without power. I am really thankful that we are not numbered with them.

This morning after breakfast I thought I might go back to bed for a little while. I told Beth to wake me up at 10:00, and then went upstairs and climbed under the covers again. Then I remembered that I was supposed to meet a guy in Tilton at 10:00 to deliver some fruit. So instead, I got dressed. Beth and I made the delivery on time. Then we went to Walmart and bought Va a small gift. We were going to get something for the boys too, but couldn’t find what we were looking for. Va and Beth took care of that later in the day though, so all is not lost.

Then I started getting ready for the Pathfinder meeting. I have been late to the previous two and was determined that I would be on time today. I hate it when people are late, and I hate it the most when I am the people!

Originally, I was thinking we’d work on the Orienteering honor, but all of the teens in the club already have it. So I thought maybe they would like to work on something else. But what? I asked David if he’d like to work on the Basketball honor, and yes, he very much would thanks! But one of the other kids in the club wanted to work on that one too, so I decided to forgo Orienteering. I called Melissa to see if she wanted to teach an indoor honor rather than freezing with us, and she allowed as how that was an excellent suggestion. She chose to teach Ferns (bummer – that was one I wanted to get myself).

Meanwhile, Va quizzed Jonathan on his school progress and we found that he is over a month behind in all his classes. We therefore decided that he would not be attending the Pathfinder meeting tonight. I don’t know what we’re going to do with him. He really needs to finish HS on time so he can get a summer job so he can pay for some of his tuition. I would hate to see him go into debt before he gets a “real” job, but that’s the direction he’s heading.

By then we were getting pretty hungry for lunch. I thought I might go in early (fruit pick up was to start at 4:00) and either mess with the school’s network or clear some brush. Va and I drove separate cars so David and I could stay for the meeting and she and Beth could return home. We went to Olive Garden. Then we went our separate ways. David and I went to the church. That’s when I found that I had taken my brush cutting equipment out of the car – it’s hanging in the garage. So… networking! One of the guys at work had given me an old PC that might make a decent thin client to replace the one with the bad motherboard. So we went to my office and grabbed that. Then I started to configure it when I realized that my time might be better spent marking out a basketball court. We went to Walmart and I bought some sidewalk chalk and a 100′ tape measure. Then David and I laid out the court.

While we were doing that, one of my fruit customers arrived. We abandoned the tape measure and the chalk and went to take care of loading their order. As we were finishing, a man showed up and asked if “this stuff” was ours – the cahlk and tape measure. He was there to pick up a car (which was left on the b-ball court, which is also a parking lot). Yup. Then he left. That’s when I figured out how he found our stuff. He had run over it with the car he arrived in. That cracked the case of the tape measure and snapped off the little nubbin you hang onto when you reel in the tape. Bummer! I’ll see if I can replace the nubbin with something.

By then it was good and dark and the meeting was about to start. Not many people showed up at first, but we eventually had pretty good participation. Out of the nine kids that were there, seven wanted to play basketball and two wanted to work on ferns. So we played some roundball in the dark while the other two (and Melissa) worked on Ferns. A good time was had by all. We’ll do this again next week, weather permitting.

Yesterday, a woman from Jefferson, NH called the house wanting to know if it was too late to put in a citrus order. Well, technically, it was past the deadline, but I had ordered some extra fruit, just in case. Also, the fruit company will let me amend the order until noon on the day following the deadline. So I gave her a call. She asked if she could buy about 15 cases. I nearly dropped the phone.

She wasn’t ready to commit yet, because she wanted to be able to put heads together with her husband to figure out exactly how much of what to buy, but she said she’d call back. I told her I had to know before noon today.

She called at about 9:00am, wanting a total of 20 cases. I had already ordered 51.5 cases, so her order now represents almost a third of my new total. Woot! But it gets better.

When I called the fruit company with my new total (73.5 cases – I also added a couple more from where other people had ordered after the published deadline), we started talking about where we would have it delivered. I have to place a minimum order of 100 cases if I want it delivered to a place of my choosing, but that has never happened in the three years we’ve been doing this. The sales rep thought that Pioneer Memorial had ordered some (they’re in Keene, about a 90 minute drive from the church), which would be great compared to Freeport, ME (a three hour drive). And then she saw that not only had Pioneer placed an order… ours was bigger. That means that instead of me picking up at Pioneer, Pioneer will most likely be picking up in Concord.

This is going to be so nice. The woman from Jefferson will also be driving down to Concord to pick hers up, so I don’t even have to deal with THAT. Woohoo!

When I got home, I ate some dinner and then helped Beth with her piano lesson. It began in a most unpleasant manner:

Me: That was supposed to be a G. You played an F.
Beth: NO I DIDN’T! I PLAYED A G!
Me: No, you played this key (bing…). That’s an F.
Beth: NO IT’S A G! WAAAAAHHHH!
Me: No. It’s an F. Look. (pointing to the keyboard, which labels the chords at the lowest end of the keyboard). See. That says F, and that’s what you played. It’s not a G.
Beth: THAT’S WRONG THEN!!! THIS IS A G! (plink, plink, plink)
Me: It’s not wrong. Look at the book (pointing to a G in the book).
Beth: THE BOOK IS WRONG TOO THEN! WAAAAHHHHH!
Me: If you don’t stop whining, I’m going to make you quit taking piano lessons.

And I would have too. She straightened up immediately and became much more pleasant. There had been even more arguing before then, with her insisting that the teacher had told her to do something different from what she had written in her instructions. And placed an asterisk by. And underlined. Twice.

I dunno exactly why Beth reversed her attitude, but it was nearly instant. And then she did so much better and played beautifully (for a six year old). Then she asked when we were going to put up the Christmas tree. I figured that had to be worth something, so I told her we would do it if she would practice an extra 15 minutes. Which she then did, diligently.

After 15 minutes, I went to the attic and dragged the tree downstairs. David was excited about the tree too, so I made him carry a box of decorations. We set the tree up, and I strung up the lights. Then I positioned it where I wanted it, and nailed it to the floor. I do that every year. We have carpet in the living room, so the nail holes completely disappear once the tree comes down. And the tree stays put, and no one ends up on failblog.org or on America’s Funniest Home Videos. Once the tree was nailed down, I turned David and Beth loose with the remaining decorations.

Beth kept pretending to decorate it just like the kids on Merry Christmas Charlie Brown – by gathering around the tree and waving her hands. When they finished, they wanted to watch a Christmas video, but it was Beth’s bedtime. But hey – the tree only goes up once a year, so I figured a 30 minute extension would be OK. They could watch a video if it were 30 minutes or less. They chose… Merry Christmas Charlie Brown.

Today was my last day off until Christmas break, and I made the most of it. I got up and had breakfast (Sunday is pancake day). Then I went to Lowes and blew $200 on some gutter heaters. When I got home, I began installation, and I worked on that until I finished the front of the house (pretty much).

I still ought to install an electrical outlet up near the eaves. Right now I’m running it on an extension cord. I’ll also need to install a switch so I can turn it off when it’s warm outside, or when there’s no snow in the forecast or on the roof. Last year we had a nasty ice dam up there. It didn’t leak into the house, but it was pretty thick. The ice nearly tore the gutters clean off the house, so I figured I ought to do something to prevent that this year.

I had intended to hang Christmas lights too, but that will have to wait. I might do it tomorrow after work – in the dark.

About 1:30 Va, Beth, and I set out for Concord. Today was to be a brush clearing day at the church, and Va had some shopping to do. We figured we’d get some dinner after that. Beth stayed with me, and Va went on her way. Beth and I were the first ones there. I let her in the church and she sat down to read a book. Then I went out and started clearing brush. I mostly used some mondo pruning shears I have, but I also used a bow saw a bit. I kept working, waiting for someone else to show up, but no one else did. Or maybe they came, saw no other cars, and left without me noticing. That’s a distinct possibility, because Va drove up at around 3:00 and called me on my cell. I didn’t know she was there until she told me so. Beth was quite bored by then, so Va took her with her to the mall, and I continued working alone. I did manage to clear an awful lot of brush, but I would have enjoyed it a lot more if others had shown up to help. I threw it in at 4:00, gathered up my tools, and called Va. She came to get me, and then we went out to eat. I was soaking wet by then because of a) perspiration, and b) snow. It started snowing almost as soon as I got there. Maybe that’s why no one else showed up, who knows. I was also pretty tired.

After we ate, we went into J.C. Penny’s and bought me three new shirts. I really like the St John’s Bay brand that they carry. Those shirts invariably become my favorites until I wear them out. I have several that I guess I ought to retire now that the reinforcements have arrived.

Va ordered my new camera for me too (before we left). She also got me a memory card for it and a carrying case. Woot! I can hardly wait until it comes in. I have missed having a camera that will focus.

By the time it quit snowing (I think it’s raining now) we had about an inch on the ground, and that was right in line with the forecast. Hopefully it will be all taken care of by the time I need to drive Beth to school in the morning.