Thursday, August 30, 2018

My husband fights with a messed-up Apple product (and wins)

Somehow through the years, I acquired an extra Apple wireless keyboard.  Now, I don't know that anyone needs two identical wireless keyboards, but I felt secure about having a backup.  I once ruined a keyboard by spilling coffee on it.  So I had a spare, which I tucked safely away in a box in the closet... I thought.  Apparently it was a really long time ago, and I had moved it.

Last weekend I thought of that extra keyboard and decided to pair it with the iPad, because sometimes I want to post long stories on Facebook, and one-finger-typing takes forever.  I looked high and low after finding out it wasn't in the closet.  Finally I thought of a drawer where I put useful things (not a junk drawer) that have no other logical place.  Things like the half-dozen brand new Craftsman pliers I bought Cliff a few years back because he kept misplacing his old ones.  Every time he mentions not being able to find his pliers, I offer him a brand new pair (why do we say "a pair of pliers" or "a pair of pants"?  It's a single item), which he never accepts because he wants to find his old one.  I guess those new pliers will be a nice legacy for future generations when we're gone.  But I digress. 

I did find the old keyboard in that special drawer and tried to turn it on.  Well, duh!  It's been stored for ages, any fool knows it's going to need new batteries.  I'll bet you can guess what happened next.

Alkaline batteries are prone to leaking potassium hydroxide, a caustic agent that can cause respiratory, eye and skin irritation. ... This out-gassing increases pressure in the battery. Eventually, the excess pressure either ruptures the insulating seals at the end of the battery, or the outer metal canister, or both.

This is a picture of the identical keyboard I use at the Mac Mini.  You simply get a coin, unscrew that little round end-piece, and put in a couple of batteries.  So simple!  We ladies usually prefer using a coin or butter knife for unscrewing anyway, so I like this feature.  However, that little round cover would NOT come off.  As my readers know, my husband is a fixer.  Even though he's not really skilled at things involving computers, I figured he'd help me out with getting the old batteries out of there. 

Well, he tried unscrewing it, but it was obviously glued tight by the junk seeping from the old battery.  So he put the thing in a vice, asked me to secure one end so it didn't push away from him, and fetched a dove-tail hammer.  

Nothing!  We worked with it for at least ten minutes.  

Our daughter was in the shop watching, and she was smiling and shaking her head, knowing full well this wasn't going to work.  Anybody knows you can't beat on a delicate piece of computer equipment with a hammer!  Moot point, of course, since that little cover wasn't about to come off anyhow.

So he got a dremel rotary tool with a cut-off wheel and started cutting through the sides below that cover (sort of fluting it?) in four places.  Then he literally pried the sides back from the little button that held the batteries in.  Rachel said, "That can't work; the batteries can't make contact!"  

At this point, I agreed with my daughter:  No way could this work.  Oh well, in for a penny, in for a pound.  

With great effort, Cliff got those nasty-looking, white-powder-coated batteries out of their cave.  

"Well," I said to him, "it was no good anyhow the way it was, so thanks for trying."  

"Oh, it'll work." he answered.  "Give me the duct tape."  

What???  At this point it was all Rachel and I could do to keep from laughing.  We were sure that poor, mutilated keyboard would never work again. 

 You can see one of the four cuts he made with the dremel tool to get it spread out away from the batteries.

And the outcome?  I'm using the keyboard with my iPad.  It works like a charm.  

I've often heard Rachel say, "My daddy can fix anything."

I believe she may be right.  The result may not be pretty, but it'll work.    

Wednesday, August 29, 2018


This morning I came into this room determined to do a blog entry now that I have all the time and silence in the world.  Today, especially, there is silence: Cliff is with his brother, helping him with some farm equipment.  There's always something to work on at Phil's place.

Somehow, as well-intentioned as I was, things quickly went awry.  I've been planning two separate entries for a few days, so I knew what I'd blog about.  I began searching for a couple of videos I wanted to include that I'd put on Facebook.  It turns out, Facebook won't let you share videos anyplace else.  I discovered some ideas on how to make it happen, but none worked for me.  I found no possible way to get a Facebook video on YouTube.  Then I tried playing the video on this computer while recording it on video with my iPad.  The result was pretty awful; making a recording of another recorded image is not a good idea.  After looking for fixes and trying different things for over an hour, I realized I was starving and took time out to make some fried Okra. 

This was my entire lunch.  OK, so I had an ice cream sandwich for dessert.  But yes, I wanted fried okra and Cliff wasn't here.  So my entire meal was a two-quart casserole full of okra.  I  didn't quite eat all of it, but I'm still grabbing another piece every time I pass through the kitchen.  I have about five okra plants, and that gives us all the okra we can eat... MORE that we should eat, but I do make smothered okra more than fried because it's actually nutritious and low-fat.  And we like it.

And then I found the video I'd put on Facebook was still on the phone, so I loaded it to YouTube from my phone.  Now here I sit, finally working on a blog entry at noon.  I'll get back in the swing of it, I swear!

For the first entry I've been considering, I have a tractor story.  Really, it's Cliff's story, because when I saw this tractor, I thought, "Big deal, another tractor.  And it's an ugly one at that."   

Cliff was helping Phil a few weeks ago.  Cliff hates working on tractors for other people, even if they want to pay him; but Phil had once again persuaded him to help him work on a acquaintance's tractor, an old English-made Fordson built in the 50's.  Always too eager to help, Phil had taken it to a guy to have the injector pump fixed; The man took one look at it and wanted no part of it.  "That could cost $1,500 to fix," he told Phil.  

Cliff said just looking at the tractor, he had a gut feeling there wasn't that much wrong with it.  The owner asked Phil to haul it to the salvage yard, where they'd told him they'd pay $250 for it.  Cliff offered the fellow $300 and the tractor was ours.

It hadn't been running for awhile, but Cliff brought it to life the first night he worked on it.  At that point, the grandson, who helps him these days on all his projects, became more interested.  It wasn't running smoothly at that time, and it was crazy loud, but it was running. 

The pair of them kept fine-tuning one thing and another for a couple of days, and next thing I knew, I looked out the kitchen window and saw Arick driving it around the yard, rapidly making figure-eights with it.  I have to tell you, I've seen Cliff revive various tractors, including another one that should have been in a junk yard, but I'm always impressed with the way he can bring one back to life.  Long ago I wrote a poem about a born-again tractor, but I've lost it somehow.  Still, I use that term for anything that was healed on the way to the graveyard, so to speak, whether human or inanimate.  I guess that's about all I have to say, because this next short video says it all... the grandson's enthusiasm, Cliff's pride as he watches, and the dog who is such a ham he gets in every picture and video I make.  Cliff said really there's nothing else that needs fixing on the Fordson except the clutch, which isn't terrible costly or hard to do.

The next blog entry I have in mind is about Cliff's expertise as a redneck-style fixer-upper, so stay tuned.  Maybe tomorrow I can get myself in gear and have it done earlier in the day.


Tuesday, August 28, 2018

To everything there is a season

For the most part, our babysitting days are over.  Our little girl, Cora, started preschool yesterday.  Both Cliff and I were a bundle of nerves, hoping she'd be OK in this new stage of her life.  Mid-morning I received some pictures of her playing with her new friends, laughing and smiling, and felt better about things.  

You see, we did spoil the child.  We hadn't been around a tiny baby enough to actually get to know one for a long, long time, and she was so cute, loving, and easy to spoil.  Cliff hardly ever told her no about anything, and while I've been the enforcer, I've allowed her to get by with plenty, too.  We don't have fancy, delicate things, so we didn't care if she jumped on the bed like it was a trampoline, or mountain-climbed on the chairs and couch.  I don't wear shoes, so when she began following my barefoot example, I let her go:  One of her parents would bring her in the morning and she'd have her shoes off before they walked out.  People marveled at how she could walk on gravel barefoot; well, I taught her everything I know, good or bad, and I walk barefoot on gravel too.

Difficult as it is for either of us, we'd get down in the floor and play with her and her toys any time she asked.  She made it worthwhile for us by telling us she loved us multiple times daily, and she always had lots of hugs and kisses for us.

I have countless videos of her first steps, of me reading to her, of her dancing or helping me cook.  I'd give anything if I had that many recorded memories of my own children, but back before digital photography, it wasn't so easy.  I've treated Cora SO much better than I ever did my own kids!  We used very little physical punishment on her, really.  As she got older, we learned that timeouts served as adequate punishment.    

The early days

Because we hadn't had much interaction with babies for so long when she came into our lives, Cliff and I were both nervous about even picking her up.  She was such a tiny little thing, and our kids had each been over eight pounds.  So we handled her as though she were fragile.  Every day we had her here, we laughed and smiled and just sat back in wonder at how very smart a tiny baby can be.  I bought a little doll when she was a couple of months old, then another.  I'd perch them in unlikely places, perhaps hiding one under a blanket on the floor when all she could do was scoot around on the floor.  She learned to search for "her babies" high and low when she first got to the house, because sometimes I even perched one on the ceiling fan.

I bought age-appropriate toys as she grew that I will be boxing up soon.  I'm not getting rid of them, because it's nice to have toys when kids come around.  We hope to see Cora occasionally, as fill-in sitters, so she may still want to play with her toys sometimes.  

Cliff and I were on pins and needles yesterday, knowing our girl was moving on to a new situation.  I imagined her crying, because she had lately made it known she did NOT want to go to school.  Her out-of-town grandma went with her yesterday and stuck around awhile, so I'm sure that helped.  From what I've been told, she was reluctant to go at first, but then mid-morning I got a couple of photos:  She was playing with the other kids, smiling and having a good time.  I went running walking briskly out to the pasture where Cliff was mowing, flagged him down, and told him Cora was fine.  We both felt better the rest of the day.  

Cora now

I hope to get back to regular blogging now.  I already have ideas for a couple more entries, and I certainly have uninterrupted time to sit at the computer now.  We'll see how that goes.  


Friday, August 17, 2018

Tis the parade season

Local fairs are getting under way, so we have many opportunities to show off a tractor in front of lots of people.  Last week's fair and parade was in Norborne, and there was a huge turnout for such a small town.  As we passed by the spectators, we saw many guys giving Cliff a "thumbs-up".  At the end of the parade route, Cliff took a turn away from the rest of the parade participants in order to get back to the truck and trailer sooner.  Just as we got out of the hearing range for the folks watching the parade, from somewhere in the little 550 came a grinding, rattling noise from beneath us in the guts of that little 550 that scared us both silly, and made us think perhaps our tractor was ruined.  Our pride was totally deflated, replaced by despair.  At least there were no witnesses to the tragedy.

Cliff came home and totally tore the tractor down.  He knew it might damage his paint job in places, but he was determined to get to the bottom of things.  He found no problem in the innards of the beast and put it back together, feeling rather discouraged.  However, there was one thing that had been nagging at him since the terrible noise was first heard:  His first thought had been that the problem was in the brakes or brake housing; but the noise sounded to ugly for that he hadn't checked the brakes.  Turns out a couple of springs had dropped out of place and were rattling around in there.  He did not need to tear down the tractor, pull off the axels, and so forth, to fix it; but what's done is done.    

Tomorrow we plan to participate in the parade at Lexington.  Because this comes on the heels of last week's experience, I remembered to buy some candy to toss to the little beggers charming children watching the parade.  I remembered to buy $17 worth of candy at Walmart.
I was careful to buy candy that wouldn't melt on a hot day.  However, there are certain risks in bring M&Ms into our house, so I placed the candy, unopened, in the back seat of our truck and did not tell Cliff, who then promptly forgot about it.  

Yesterday (Thursday) the Little Princess and I were having a discussion.  I told her Cliff and I, and possible Gabe, were going to be in the parade at Lexington Saturday.  "And for once, I'm going to throw candy out for the kids!"

She said, "Donna, would you save me some of the sour ones?"

This threw me for a loop, because I had never mentioned the candy.  And as far as I knew, she hadn't had any opportunity to see it.  I was very confused!

When Cliff came in, I told him about this as the kid listened, and even he was totally flabbergasted.  Have we been babysitting a clairvoyant child all this time?

Then she said, "Remember when we went to get the mail?"

Last Monday, Cliff had a check he wanted sent as soon as possible and he'd jumped in the truck with it; Little Princess wanted to go along, so he put her in the back seat (where the candy was hidden in the floorboard).  Nothing was ever said about it until yesterday, when she asked me to save some of the sour candy for her.  I'm amazed, as much as anything, that she hadn't brought up the subject sooner, but she didn't... until I mentioned the candy myself.

I'm thinking she knew it was safe to mention it, once I let the cat out of the bag.  Of course I agreed to save her some.   


Friday, August 10, 2018

2018 State Fair (following a child)

One thing that never sunk into my brain when my own kids were small:  If you're taking them somewhere you think will be interesting and fun for a kid, you can't expect them to enjoy everything exactly the way you had pictured.  While babysitting the Little Princess for almost five years, that lesson has sunk in.  When we take her someplace like the zoo or a carnival, I let go of my expectations and allow her to seek out what interests her, because she is an out-of-the-box thinker.

We loaded up to go to Sedalia yesterday around 8:30.  We hadn't gotten twenty minutes away from home when the child announced, "Donna, I forgot my shoes!"

Cliff had something to say about this, but I assured him we'd be able to go into Walmart in Sedalia and find her some plastic sandals just like she had left at home.  I also took time to let her know it was my fault, not hers, that she forgot her shoes.  Relieved, she gave an eye-roll that seemed to say, "Oh yeah, I knew it had to be you!"  

Another thing I've learned since my own kids' childhood:  Always admit when something is your fault, or when you've made a mistake.  

Still, she worried about how we'd know her size, and wanted me to call one of her parents and ask them what it was.  I explained we'd just try some on her and see what fit.  As it turned down, all the summer sandals were marked down to $3; there was only one pair of pink sandals that fit her (close call), very similar to the ones she and I left at home.  Crisis averted.  

Opening Day at the Sedalia fair, low prices on fair foods are featured.  Corn dogs for $2, dippin' dots for $2 instead of $2.50.  We weren't hungry when we first arrived, so we simply walked until our girl saw anything of interest, then we'd stop and let her examine whatever it was.

First of all we walked into an air-conditioned building; it was already hot outside, so it felt great.  Someone was selling jewelry; she felt the need to touch every single shiny object in front of her.   

Not far from that was an item I personally checked out.  In fact, I still want it!
You can buy the stool, put it on any standard bucket, and take stuff with you in the bucket.  I can't think of a single reason I need it, but I want it, OK?  Even though I don't know what I'd do with it; I figured when we were ready to leave I'd go back and buy one, but I never gave it another thought.  Now, the seat was  $20 (or two for $30), so it wasn't cheap.  But this morning I went to the website thinking maybe I'd buy one online, and the price is even higher!  Oh well, it's probably for the best.

Next we spied a nice little playground where she enjoyed playing last year.

This one required a little help from Cliff.

We got to sit for awhile, so this stop was a bonus for us.  Between Cliff's hip and my knee, we're a mess.  Next, the conservation building.

That's a big one!

And then, out back... an eagle!  

Next, we found ourselves at the sheep barn.  
This is how they lead, manage, and pose the sheep.  I was amazed... it looks pretty difficult.  I wonder why they don't use halters.  Sheep aren't very bright, so maybe they can't be taught to lead.  Of course, hogs aren't restrained by ropes or halters, either.  But they're really smart, and learn to be guided with a stick.  

She acted the same way as with the jewelry:  If a sheep could be reached, she intended to touch it.  

We took a break to eat corn dogs and some not-good pizza, so our girl wanted to take a picture.  Sorry Cliff, but you made the face and it's funny.  

None of us had ever tasted dippin' dots, but we have now!  I like them.  

Feeding goats is fun.

As soon as she milked the cow, we headed for the car.

It was a good day.

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Finally! Good bread from the store

My blog entries are starting to remind me of Charlie Weaver's "Letters From Mama".  Most of my readers probably don't know who that is, so here's a sample: 

I used to think he was hilarious; nowadays he barely makes me smile with his cornball lines.

Anyhow.  I've been thinking perhaps I should just think of my blog as a letter with random observations, little pieces of my life like the drivel I pass along on Facebook all the time (and would probably do better consolidating on this blog).  If I start doing that, I'm going to have to make notes to myself, or I'll forget things I want to tell the world.  

Today I must tell you about the wonderful bread we discovered.

I've complained frequently on this blog about store-bought bread.  There was a time when bread was soft, fresh, and delicious for a week or more after you bought it, although it would eventually mold.  I remember as a kid I'd grab a slice of bread, peel off the crust, and make little dough-balls out of the rest, it was that soft.  Then I'd roll up the crust, which I'd tried to get off in one long piece, like you roll up cinnamon rolls.  

During our recent trip to Minnesota, we ran out of bread.  Our motel was in New Ulm, where we went looking for a grocery store.  The one we found uses customer loyalty cards similar to the ones our local Price Chopper issues.  The prices were pretty high anyway, but without a card they were even higher.  I couldn't find our usual (lousy) Wonder Bread, so I randomly grabbed a loaf of Sara Lee Butter Bread ($3.50).  Folks, it was the best mistake I've ever made.  Not only was it soft and fresh when I bought it, it remained soft and fresh for over ten days here at home (and didn't mold, but I think these days there's an additive that prevents mold).  Of course I went looking for it locally.  Dave's, our nearest grocery store, didn't have it.  Neither did the nearest Walmart, but it's a small one, so perhaps other Walmarts carry it.  I told Cliff, "If anybody has it, Price Chopper will."

Price Chopper is about 25 miles away, but the other day we were in Blue Springs and I struck gold.  There it was.  

Honestly, I may as well throw our bread machine away now.  I only bought it because we couldn't find any bread that seemed fresh to us, and every once in awhile home-made bread made up for that.  However, I don't trust Sara Lee to keep making decent bread forever, so I'm keeping the machine.  Too many times I've looked and looked for just the right thing, found it, and then they've stopped making it. 

I'm almost in the mood to have sandwiches for lunch after all the talk about good bread, but I'll go ahead with what I had planned.  


Thursday, August 02, 2018

A Dinosaur Adventure

It's really hard to get Cliff to drive into Kansas City for any reason whatsoever, but I thought the little girl would enjoy seeing huge, moving dinosaurs, and I was a little curious myself; so I resorted to nagging.  

Finally, just to shut me up, Cliff agreed to go.  "OK," he warned, "we'll drive up there and give those people a bunch of money, and the kid won't even think it's a big deal."  

I have to admit, he was sort of right.  At the age of almost-five, looking at the gigantic bones and fake moving dinosaurs certainly did nothing for her, although she tried to show some enthusiasm, for our benefit.  It was a pretty quick trip through the exhibit.  She spent more time digging for bones in the sand than anything else, I think because there were a lot of other kids playing in there.  

With that said, it was an enjoyable day as a whole (at least for the females in the group).  We got out of the house and saw some different things and people.  We had a picnic over near the Truman Library, which our little girl may have enjoyed more than the dinosaurs; she certainly was cheerful while she devoured her peanut-butter-and-honey sandwich.  None of the pictures inside the actual exhibit turned out well because it was semi-dark in there and we weren't allowed to use the flash.   

These first pictures were taken before we got our tickets, outside the entrance.  

And now, a picture that WOULD have been nice, if I'd had a chance to use the flash.  Keep in mind these things were moving all around us.  That's Cliff, with the child on his shoulders, if you couldn't tell.

Our girl is in the middle back there.  Yes, this was her favorite part, and she wasn't really trying to uncover the big bones, which was the object of the whole thing.  She was just playing in a sandbox.  

Yes Cliff, you were right, but wasn't it a good day?

Notice in the corner in back, a boy is covering his brother with sand.  Obviously our girl wasn't the only one who enjoyed the sand more than the big moving dinosaurs.

Then it was noon, and we were hungry.

The world doesn't have enough picnics these days.  

We two girls laid down on a blanket and took a selfie together.

However, on such a magnificent day as this one, we felt something was still lacking.... Dessert!  We all like McDonald's caramel sundaes.  

And we all lived happily ever after.

Here's a very poor quality, but also very short, video.  Perhaps it'll give you an idea of how the dinosaurs moved around.  Use your imagination, OK?