We live about two miles away from Harold's elementary school, where where have to cross a freeway and negotiate four traffic lights and three four-way stops. There are enough obstacles such that we give him a ride to school every day.
Sometimes, I wish we lived further from school. Some days, we end up having good conversations during that ten minute ride, the two of us. Today, for example, was one of those good days. Let me write about it.
As we were pulling out, I noticed that the morning sun was hitting a neighbor's solar panels just right so that the dust was pretty obvious. I mentioned that they should clean the panels occasionally so that the panels were more efficient and generated more power. Harold asked what the panels do, so I answered, they create electricity so we can charge our devices, run the TV, turn on the lights at night.
Then I was reminded about the rovers on Mars, specifically Spirit and Opportunity, which originally had an expected lifespan of just one hundred earth days or so. The reason for such a short life expectancy is because the planners figured that dust would collect on the rovers' solar panels and then, no more power. As it turned out, Mars also has wind, which is sometimes strong enough to blow dust off the panels, making them able to continue to generate power, for years, in fact. (Note, however, that only one of the rovers is still operating, Opportunity, over ten years since its deployment!)
We then got to talking about if humans, if outside the safety of a space helmet, would be able to breathe, very briefly, the atmosphere on Mars. I replied that no, that wouldn't be possible for several reasons. One, the atmosphere is really, really thin on Mars; it would be like trying to breathe on earth on a mountaintop that's over 40,000 feet in elevation (maybe more). Also, the makeup of the atmosphere is different. Our bodies are used to earth's mix of 79% nitrogen and 20% oxygen. Without that sweet oxygen, we're done for.
Mars is also very cold. Cold, he asked? Yes, very cold, it's further from the sun than earth.
We then got into the positions of the planets, and how there are huge gaps between some of the planets. He knew of the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, and he also told me about the other asteroid belt between Neptune and Pluto. I know there is a big gap between the orbits of Neptune and Pluto, but I can't say I was too familiar with a second asteroid belt in that space. Harold insisted that there is, and who am I to refute?
We also talked about Pluto's 'demotion' from a planet to a minor planet, the Kuiper belt, and how Pluto is believed to be a Kuiper belt object.
There were some other bits an pieces that we talked about during that short ride, but it was one of those rides where we actually shared information with each other at a relatively high level. That's always satisfying.
We got to school, a tad later than normal, and I wished him and good day, and he said bye. Sometimes, I wish we lived a little bit further from school.
Image attribution WilyD at English Wikipedia via CC BY-SA 3.0.
At the last minute yesterday, after I completed a 4 mile run from Forbes Mill to the Dam, and after assessing the uncongested condition of southbound highway 17 through LG, we decided to head over the hill and spend the day at the boardwalk.
We go there once, maybe twice a year, and it's always fun, pretty close, and we even sometimes hit the beach. They are always full days.
This day, though, marked a bit of a milestone in Penny's deveopment and young life. She thought ahead, before we left the house, to bring some of her own money, just in case she wanted to buy something special. Maybe she wanted to feel a bit independent. Fine with us, we thought. She does have a bit of a stash of cash since she's been providing flute lessons to the sister of a friend of hers. So she ended up bringing fifty dollars with her, in her own wallet, safely stashed in her own purse.
While at the Boardwalk that day, we haad plenty of treats, from slurpees to ice cream to pizza. Later in the afternoon, though, Penny decided that she really wanted to try some sort of lemon ice type of treat. She also insisted that she will treat the family. We had a stack of coupons that we got from buying a season pass, so that eased the financial burden somewhat, but at the end of the transaction, Penny pulled out her own money, handed it to the attendent, and got the change on her own. The rest of us, well, maybe just mama and me, watched in amazement how maturely she handled the entire event. No drama, no looking to her parents for guidance like she usually does, just calmly ordering, paying and receiving the goods. Nice job.
I was used to paying for everything that day, but this was a pleasant surprise, to get treated by my daughter, with money that she had earned from the outside, ie, not from the family by doing chores. It probably won't happen again for a while, but just the fact that it did, in the way it did, was really cool to see. Priceless.
We made a hand written card to Harold's third grade teacher for Teacher Appreciation Week. Here is what we wrote:
Dear Miss Bethune,
Thank you for stepping in this year and being Nicholasâ€™ third grade teacher. We were happy to hear you would remain with us through the end of the year. We consider you to be Nickâ€™s 3rd grade teacher and we appreciate all the work you have done with him. He has noticeably improved and progressed as we would expect.
Rob and Rita Jaworski
We told her that we were glad that she would stay on because his 'regular' teacher, who only was with the class for hte first few weeks of the school year, went off to have a baby. Though she was to return to class in April, there were a series of delays that ultimately led to her being gone the entire school year. We feel it would have been disruptive, if not a little weird for the kids, to have one teacher for nearly the entire year, except for their 'regular' teacher who only showed up at the beginning and the end. The end of the year worked out better this way.
I mentioned the other day that we were going to go to Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk for Harold's birthday weekend fun. Well, on Friday night, as I described, we made it to dinner and a movie with grandma Christina. But on Saturday, things took a turn for the worse.
We had everyone show up as expected, and we climbed into the RV for a quick trip over the hill. About a half mile (one kilometer) before Summit Road, the RV seemed to slip into neutral. I quickly checked, and I was indeed in D (for Drive, as in Forward). Revving the engine in Drive or in Neutral didn't make any difference. We were headed uphill without a forward gear.
Luckily, there was a turnout coming up, close enough to coast to. We parked, I played around with the shifter but I was never able to get it to go into forward gear. Reverse seemed to work ok, though. But I didn't want to back up, downhill, too far. This turnout on the side of the road was much too valuable to lose.
We have roadside assistance, good enough to get a free tow of a 24 foot motorhome, but the tow truck would only hold two people, I was advised. To take care of the four others in the motorhome (there were six of us), I summoned up the Uber app on my phone. But it made me upgrade it before it would work. So I upgraded.
Twenty minutes later, the Uber car showed up and took everyone except me and Penny back home. The wait for the tow would take another three and half hours. The driver reported that traffic was so back coming up the hill on highway 17 that it took about three hours to go six miles. Wow.
We had the generator running, powering the air conditioner, and Rita had packed a good number of Coronas, so we were set for a nice, long, roadside wait.
In the end, Harold didn't seem to mind much that he and his friend missed going to the Boardwalk. Instead, they played a LOT of Skylanders and mama even took them to AVAC for some swimming pool time. He's a trooper, and next weekend, we'll try to make up for it with a trip to Great America. Stay tuned!
Harold turns eight today. I said goodbye to the seven year old last night, the little guy that has been so fun to hang out with. This morning, I woke an eight year old, who looked very much the same as the guy we left yesterday.
I got the chance to wake him, informing him there were things waiting for him on the table: his requested crepes, with candles, and presents.
He climbed on my back and we made our way to the dining area. Pictures were taken, breakfast was eaten, and presents opened. A real life tool set in a case, a Ryobi cordless drill/driver with a set of bits, and a birdhouse kit to build with those tools. We think he would have preferred a WiiU or more Skylanders, but he'll be occupied enough with these.
Tonight, we pick up Grandma Christina and head to Red Robin for dinner, then go see Secret Life of Pets. Tomorrow, Saturday, we head over the hill to Beach Boardwalk, with a buddy of his and grandma Carol and aunt Wanda. He'll have a great time, and we will try to take full advantage of the priviledge of getting to spend a year with an eight year old boy. Only one year, though, then again, we have to say goodbye to him before welcoming the next.