Blog #108



Snow Days


   Schools have been closed for the past three days.  Tuesday morning it started snowing fairly hard and I right before Svea and I left for school I received a call that school was cancelled.  It snowed all day and night; in the evening we received another call that school was cancelled for Wednesday.  By Wednesday we had accumulated about 12 inches of snow; it's hard to say because winds blew it around much.  Last night the storm was basically done but we received a call once again.  I guess it must have been too cold; we received a bit more snow, but not much.

   I bought a snow blower at a garage sale this summer.  It's 2-stage 8 HP and has electric start; I got it for $65.  I finally got to give it a workout this week.  The motor starts and runs marvelously.  It didn't throw snow as well as I expected, however.  I figured out how to adjust the belts and straightened out the gear shift linkage.  It seems to run and work as good as new.



   As it snowed on Tuesday I did laps around the track in the van every few hours.  The snow would compact, but wouldn't stick to the old snow underneath.  My track was very rutted and the lightest kick could clear snow down to the old base.  My ski track looked doomed.  On Wednesday we all went outside to play, I noticed that my rutted track hardened up pretty well.  Wednesday night I did a few more laps to loosen things up again so that I could somehow smooth it out and let it set.  The snow was deep enough and thick enough that the all wheel drive van basically swam through it with all four wheels spinning constantly.  It left deep ruts, maybe up to eight inches from trough to crest.  I knew it was hopeless but I tried raking a section to get it smooth, it was doable but I just didn't have the manpower.  Ten people could have done the job in an hour; I just didn't have the energy or time. 

   I bounced some sled smoother-outer construction ideas off of Papa, but non of them sounded very feasible without much time or materials.  I had basically given up when Papa suggested dragging the picnic table inverted.  It sounded like a good idea, but I wasn't sure the van would be able to pull it.  It must weigh over 200 pounds and is eight feet long.  The more I thought about it, however, the more I realized that this was the only heavy solid thing that could cover a path wider than the van itself.   I broke it loose from the frozen ground with a hammer and then flipped it over and over to the track.  It did an amazing job.  I had to re-adjust the ropes' tie-on positions once when the van got stuck on the slight uphill.  It worked a bit better with the ropes lifting the front edge of the table top.  The table would also load up with compressed snow, at least 100 pounds worth.  All this weight did a great job of compressing the snow and the eight feet of table top width meant that I could cover the entire track in a couple of passes.  The finished product was pretty good, but not quite skiable.  I let it set overnight and then groomed the major flaws with a shovel.  I now have four inches of hard packed snow that I can walk on without sinking in.  The footprints you see in the picture below are in the quarter inch of snow that fell last night.  It should be ready to ski on tomorrow, but I've been pretty sick the past few days.  I could actually use a snow day tomorrow; I expect a regular work day will wipe me out.


Svea and Brigitta dressed up Annika the other day.


All three girls love to make things out of polymer clay.


Brigitta's preschool had their Valentine's Day party today. 

She got to take home the class bear, Sunny.


   We celebrated Valentine's Day with a Thai take out dinner.  Annika made the day memorable by pooping in her potty all by herself for the first time.  We were pretty surprised because we learned of the event by discovering the evidence in her potty.  None of us had helped her; she confirmed that she did it herself.  We certainly have a way to go until we can declare her "potty trained", but she is well on her way.  It will be especially nice to have the youngest trained the earliest so that we can be done with diapers for good when we have so many kids to take care of.

   On Valentine's Day evening Joan and I watched Rent.  It wasn't quite what I though it would be; I had the plot confused with another, much happier movie.  Rent has fantastic singing, but the subject matter is dark and a bit depressing.  Earlier in the week we watched Seven Brides for Seven Brothers with the girls; I think that that genre of musical is much more our speed.


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Blog #107



Annika Shmonnika

(Sometimes a title is the hardest part of a blog)


   Last night Annika was crying; I went to check on her and she said that Britta hit her.  Brigitta eventually admitted that she hit Annika and apologized and did 50 push-ups. 

   Tonight Annika was crying; I went to check on her and she said that Britta hit her.  Brigitta denied that she hit her and I believed her.  I asked Annika again if Britta hit her and she said, "Yes". I scooped her up, took her to the living room and asked her again; once more she said that Britta hit her.  I then gave her a lecture on how its not right or fair to say bad things about people that are not true and gave a few parallel examples.  I asked her again if Britta hit her and she said, "No".  She apologized to Brigitta.  I told her that Svea and Brigitta wanted to sleep and that she needed to go to bed quietly so that her sisters could sleep.  She did.  Annika is not yet two and we can often rationalize with her.  I'm still stunned.


   Today at dinner Svea told about a dream she had; it was long and involved and probably took a good five minutes to tell.  Brigitta's dream story must have taken 10 minutes and was even more involved.  When Brigitta finished Annika said, "I had a dream".  She made up a short little story on the spot.  Svea was laughing hysterically and wrote down Annika's Dream verbatim: "I fell down in water.  I went boom and brushed it off and met Winnie the Pooh and then I woke up.


While Svea and Brigitta watched a movie last night Annika played with Duplos for an hour.


   I rigged a tow bar to a sled so that I could tow Annika.  She hated it.  So far I've skied 185 laps on my ski track.  That's almost 17 miles.  I've slowed down recently a bit due to a cold.  Yesterday I didn't ski at all but on Wednesday I skied a mile before work and three miles when I got home.  Today I mounted bindings that fit Joan's boots onto an old pair of skies.  I'm hoping she'll give it a try.  Joan took Svea and Brigitta ice skating today (Svea had the day off, it was a teacher work day).  When I got home they wanted to ski.  It has warmed up much and was nice out today.  The snow was a bit slower and three whining and crying little girls slowed me down even more.



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Blog #106




Papa Rules!


   We have had strange electrical problems in the house this week.  The microwave stopped working, the toaster would get warm, but not hot, the blender would blend but seemed a little slow, the phone/message machine would ring every time it was hung up and the copier stopped working properly. 

   It all started on Thursday.  Papa still has a few accounts and does some tax work.  When the copier wouldn't work right, he bought another one.  It wouldn't work right either.  The kiln (downstairs) also shut off during a fire.  Joan and Bill then determined that half of the kitchen, dining room and porch were experiencing electrical anomalies.  We tested all of the breakers in the house and made a little map.  On Friday we arranged for an electrician to come check things out (on Monday).  That fell through.  Last night Joan went to re-fire the kiln and it wouldn't work.  The light would go on, but it wouldn't heat.  Papa and I took apart the control.  The volt meter could read the current going into the kiln when the kiln was off, but read nothing when it was on.  Eventually we determined that only one wire (220 volt 3-prong) had current and it was just a trickle. 

   I was planning on tracing the wires myself just to get a better idea of what was going on and then was going to call an electrician.  Papa took a look at things today and fixed the problem.  The wires that go into the kitchen and dining room share a breaker with the kiln.  Papa determined that when that breaker was on it just let a trickle of juice through; its probably corroded inside.  It's working now but will probably go bad again.  We'll have to replace it soon but it sure beats paying an electrician for something so basic.  Tonight we are taking Papa out to diner to thank him and celebrate not re-wiring the house (just yet).


I am tired and sore


   I  skied three times on Sunday, three times on Monday and so far once today.  My last ski yesterday was in the dark after the kids were in bed.  School has been canceled for the past two days due to the "extreme cold" (just above zero and -19 with wind chill).  I think we still had outside recess at these temperatures when I was a kid; I know that we would have cross country ski practices and races at much colder temperatures.  Oh well, I don't mind the time off.  I am tired and sore though.  Skate skiing uses muscles that I forgot I had.  In addition to skiing I spent an hour yesterday and an hour this morning shoveling snow onto the bare spots of the track and raking/scratching down the high spots.  I've skied well over 100 laps on the track and it is holding up well.  I measured the loop with a 100' tape measure.  It's 475 feet which is exactly what I figured from the Google Earth satellite image.  I figure that while it stays cold I might as well clobber myself; I probably won't have the chance to ski around my yard in a week or two.  I've just uploaded a helmet-cam movie of one lap around the house.  Check out our movie page to see it.  Note that this is a relatively fast lap.


"I need a paper towel"

Joan peeked in the girl's bedroom door to see if Annika was asleep.  Annika immediately looked at Joan and said, "I need a paper towel".  Anni had spit water that she had sipped from her sippy-cup all over her bed.  She cracks us up regularly with phrases like this .


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Blog #105



Too Many Daves


   The laps around the house in the van paid off.  I can't believe how skiable my track is after packing down only three inches of snow yesterday.  The packed snow is very hard and reasonably smooth.  I tried it out this morning, it was skiable but rutty in places.  I pulled out the snow blower for the first time and shot some snow onto the slightly barren spots.  I then did another dozen or so laps in the van and mashed down the high spots.  I skied before lunch and again before dinner.  It is cold and windy out.  The high today was 7; the wind chill knocked it down to 19 below.  (Districts all around the area have canceled school for tomorrow.)  In spite of the cold, I had a blast.  My path was counter clockwise. There is more snow on the side next to the Collinson's house (pictured below).  Skiing slightly uphill and into a stiff wind requires a wider V skate pattern and track.  On the other side, between the Weakland's house and ours, the snow is very thin and the grass sticks through a bit.  Since its down hill and with the wind I barely need to skate and am able to inline skate step through onto the better snow.  The time and gas that I have into making my loop is less than I would have spent driving to the nearest groomed cross country ski trails.  I just measured my loop from Google Earth; it looks to be 0.09 miles.  That's about 11 laps for a mile or 34 laps for 5K. 

Click here to view in 1632 X 1224 resolution.

Click here to view in 1024 X 768 resolution.


A better view of the packed trail.


Nana and Annika


Annika's first picture. 

She wanted to take pictures so I let her us the old HP.  I had to help her aim it somewhat; I don't think she gets the idea that the lens has to point at the subject.  She's pretty good at pressing the shutter button though.


Papa from Annika's point of view.


Svea took this one of her baby sister.


She took this one too.


   School is going very well.  We have a new principal and he is fantastic.  I have a new schedule and get to see grades three on up twice a week.  We published our first student newspaper this week.  I'm the teacher in charge but I had students apply for managerial positions.  I wrote job descriptions and picked some pretty good kids for the positions and an outright ringer as the Managing Editor.  The kids did 98% of the work and the first edition has received much praise.  I'm pretty certain that they did a better job than they would have done for me and they are learning much and have a lot of control and ownership.  I finally got the digital cameras that I've been asking for. I've also started an Animation Club, a Film Club and a Photography Club.  They meet on alternating Mondays.  Fifty four students joined the Animation Club alone; we made a group stop-animation on our first meeting.


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Blog #104




Milk Drop


Joan and Bill helped me take a series of pictures today that show drops of milk splashing into coffee. 



We switched to dropping milked dyed with food coloring into plain milk. 

See more milk drop pictures on this new page.


Last night we joined other German Family Society families at "Pump it Up" in Hartville.  Pump it Up is an inflatables party place.  Svea and Brigitta had a blast.  Annika feared nothing and insisted on trying everything.  Joan and I took turns with her; she went down the biggest slides with us and even by herself.



    Annika has been using the potty about once a day lately.  Her big sisters didn't potty train until they were three, so we are delightfully surprised.  Its a bit early to say that this will be permanent, but its definitely a good sign. 


   It has been pretty cold lately and is supposed to get even colder next week.  We have a few inches of snow on the ground and the wind has been howling.  I did about 50 laps around the house this evening in the four wheel drive van.  I have a 12 foot wide path packed down pretty well; if all goes well with the weather I may have a nice but little 400 foot cross country ski/skating loop around the house.  I may have to pull out the snow blower and shoot snow onto the areas that are thin. 


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