Archive for August, 2011

Enjoying a binge of quality girl time

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

At the end of August, my nieces started back to school. Sierra is now a 6th-grader at the middle school in our neighborhood, and Izzy is a 1st-grader at Sierra’s former charter school. They both get out of school at 3:30 pm. However, Chris is working in Sugar Land and Shawnacy just started an MFA program in San Marcos, which means neither of them are available three days a week.

In general, they plan to have a babysitter collect the girls on those days, but that fell through on several days in the early weeks of school. The upshot is that I got to be Aunt Bob for four days and enjoy some quality time with my nieces. One day, we ran errands together to the post office and grocery, but other days we sat together at the dining room table and tackled important stuff, like:

  • making sure we all ate a healthy afternoon snack and talking about what kinds of foods are good for growing strong bodies and brains,
  • having Izzy practice her writing/spelling to tell a story instead of just drawing pretty pictures,
  • insisting that Sierra do her math homework before reading “The Far Side” for fun, and talking about how math processes are like recipes for cooking, to make sure you get the correct result everytime, and
  • going through Sierra’s schoolwork binder together daily to make sure she clipped loose papers into the right sections, so that she can learn where everything is and reduce her odds of losing something important.

Keeping the two of them engaged and on task required both patience and undivided attention. By the end of the fourth day, I was exhausted, but it was totally worth it. (I’m also thankful that by the time I have to shepherd my own girls after school, I won’t be 7 months pregnant anymore.)

As a bonus, we enjoyed family dinner together each night, too. One night, Chris and I cooked chicken fajitas and quesadillas; another night, we went out for Vietnamese with Sharon; and a third night, we met our parents at Barnaby’s.

Somewhere in there, I introduced Sierra and Izzy to the joy of being kicked by our baby girls. The shared experience of their little hands pressed to the top of my belly, their looks of quiet concentration as they waited for something to happen, and then their simultaneous joyous exclamations of “I felt her!” when Baby B finally kicked for them, were absolutely delightful. Good times!

Bob, Sierra, Izzy
Jean’s photo of Bob, Sierra, and Izzy outside Barnaby’s

With my energy level dwindling by the day, and my to do lists for both work and home still endless, it’s good that Chris and Shawn have other after-school arrangements for their girls. But I sure enjoyed the heck out of the four days we spent together.

It lives! Triumphant return of the Shredmaster

Sunday, August 28th, 2011

Some of you have heard me say this before, but I *love* my shredder. It’s a GBC Shredmaster 60s, the “home use” model from a company that specializes in workgroup and commercial shredders:

  • it turns on/off automatically,
  • it shreds up to 9 pages at a time, or 2 sheets tri-folded still inside the unopened junk mail envelope,
  • it happily chews through staples,
  • and it sits perfectly astride a standard Rubbermaid 7-gallon recycle bin, to shred directly into a recyclable paper grocery sack.

It’s a well-designed piece of office equipment and I love it!

We’ve had it and used it for more than ten years and it always worked perfectly… until May. Somewhere in the midst of shredding that box of extraneous college-era papers, it developed a tiny jam right in the middle. Armed with needle-nose pliers and a tiny flathead screwdriver, I succeeded in removing the paper clod, but when I went back to shredding, the center blades jammed again almost immediately. For a while, I could still shred receipts on either side of the jam, but eventually, it stopped outright. Ack!

I urgently need to keep purging old boxes of papers (or trying to when I have the energy) before our baby girls arrive and this is no time to be without a shredder. I tried to find another one just like it (or the latest comparable model) and discovered that GBC got out of the home shredder business. Ergh. What’s a girl to do?

As the to-be-shred pile grew on/around my desk, I reluctantly conceded that we had to suck it up, read some reviews, and shop for a new shredder. We even went to OfficeMax and test-fed perfectly good sheets of white paper to a variety of shredder models, each of which disappointed in some measure relative to the shredder I loved.

But then, somewhere in the Amazon user reviews for a relatively well-regarded Fellowes shredder, I noticed a reference to the magic words… shredder oil. Huh! Apparently, you’re supposed to oil shredder blades each time you empty the basket or after every few hours of usage. Who knew?!?

With new hope, I abandoned shredder shopping in favor of trying once more to save our shredder. Armed with needle-nose pliers and a tiny screwdriver, I again pried out the offending paper clods. But this time when I turned the shredder on, I followed up with a liberal dose of shredder oil, a delicacy our shredder had never known in its ten-plus years of service. Almost immediately, the hum of the blades grew faster and happier. It liked it! And when I trepidatiously fed it a few sheets of paper, it responded confidently. Woo-hoo! With much glee, I queued up the accumulated shred-fodder and the Shredmaster devoured it. Triumph! My favorite shredder lives!

Shredmaster and recycle bins

Over the rest of the day, I’m sure that Bill eventually got tired of me saying, “You wanna hear something cool? I fixed the shredder!” Nonetheless, I’m still deriving immense satisfaction from resurrecting the shredder with basic tools and a $7 bottle of oil.