Saturday, January 8, 2011

I love my snow blower!

Yes, it's once again time for the annual "Let's Try to Get This Sucker to Run" season.

At it's best, your snow blower can be your best friend and it's worst, it can help you break the world record for long distance snow shovel tossing. I just missed the record this year as I stopped myself in time, and called my local fix-it man, Sven (not his real name). Sven is the type of guy you hope for in your neighborhood. After you have exhausted every avenue towards snow blower repair, like stepping back and staring at it, praying to God for it to just start, for crying out loud; you call Sven.

Here is my snow blower story for 2010. I actually made all the right moves for attempting to get it moving. I put the gas stabilizer in the tank all last year and even this fall. I even pulled out the snow blower in the fall, prior to snow coming, and attempted to start that bad boy. I didn't have any luck but boy, what an effort I made.

So, this winter, after shoveling a couple small amounts, I thought it best to really make a better attempt at fixing it. To add to this, my neighbors, Fred and Ethel (named changed as they are in a federal witness protection program), headed south for the winter leaving me their garage door opener so I could keep my car clean and semi-warm this winter. It is wonderful of them to do so but now I have two driveways to clean at 5:45 on a cold winters morning before I head to work. So, now I need this snow blower to work.

I did what every none-mechanically inclined goof does and started googling my Toro snow blower for information. Since my machine was made back before fire was invented, however, no such manual existed unless I wanted to send $29.99 and the naming rights to my next born child to some website in Afghanistan. I declined that offer. I did get some useful free advice from several sources, but remember you get what you pay for.

Perhaps it had some bad gas in it, so I emptied the gas tank, refilled it with new gas. I added some stabilizer, because hey, I'm no dummy. Nothing happened. Well, not nothing, it actually started and ran for 1.1 nano seconds and then stopped. Heading to my local hardware store for some help, I was told by Kukla and Fran (not Ollie and not their real names), that if I got it running, I should get some starter fluid, blast it into the carburetor and that would solve the problem. My next problem was finding the carburetor as since I didn't get the manual on-line, I had no idea what that looked like.

Not to be deterred, I got the started fluid, brought it home, pumped the primer button and it actually started and kept running while I pumped the button. Once I stopped however, it did too. I then realized that I had shut off the gas line before I went to the store and forgot to turned the dial back on.

I was really determined now. I turned on the gas line, fully ready for it to work now and I pulled hard on the pull cord to start it and it snapped off in my hand.

Standing there, looking at the snow blower, you'll be happy to know that, amazingly, I did not throw the handle into my neighbors yard. I simply set it down and called Sven, begging him to come over.

The next day, he did so. He fixed my pull cord, pumped the primer and it did not start. I sort of felt a little better, actually, as if Sven couldn't start it, it's no wonder I couldn't. To make a long story longer, Sven took off the carburetor, clean the inside of it and the lines leading to it and.... it STILL didn't start. Okay, now I'm not feeling so good.

Sven gave it a look. I suggested he take it home with him as perhaps I had bad Karma and the warmth of his home shop could help. He did so. Returning home later that afternoon, Sven had left the snow blower in front of the garage, all fixed. After replacing four or five different parts, it was all set. He gave me the bill, and he undercharged me as perhaps he felt sorry for this native Syracusan who couldn't repair his own snow blower. I tipped him big time and thanked him, sending him home.

So, now the snow blower works fine and after several days of cold and snow, it has been sunny and warm three days in a row. I told Paula that now that it is fixed, it will never snow again this winter, which is just fine with me.

You gotta let them go

Over the Christmas break, a couple instances involving the kids hit me, making me step back a bit.

Example #1: It was time to make our world-famous Christmas cut-out cookies, which has been an annual tradition with me since I was me. My Mom, sister Lois and I used to make these every year. What's really cool is that I still have many of the same plastic cut-outs that we used when I was little. We have the star, the Christmas tree, the gingerbread man ("Not my gumdrop buttons!) and Santa. It's just one of the many traditions that makes Christmas special for me.

Now this day, Kate had a play date with a friend so Thomas and I were on our own to roll and cut out the dough. Kate and Mommy would return later to help eat, I mean, decorate the cookies with confectioners sugar, M&M's, and a variety of sprinkles. I let Thomas help me but usually I roll it out, as cutting the cookies is the fun part. I grabbed the roller and Thomas asked if he could do it. I said sure and let him do it alone.

You know, once I stepped back and just let him go at it, he did a great job. I offered some clues to help, added some flour to the batter and the rolling pin, just like my Mom used to do. But he did it and I felt quite proud, as did he.

Example #2: Kate, Thomas and I head to Lowe's every other weekend for the kids building project. It's great as they offer these free projects for the kids and it gets you in their store to spend cash on your own project to improve the looks of your house, should you be so inclined.

Kate tore open her package and read the instructions. She started putting pieces together and grabbed the nails. I reached over to hold the bottom piece so she could hammer in the nails. Suddenly, Kate shouted at me "I got it!". I really wanted so much to help her build her wooden train but she no longer needs my help. I stepped back and watched. She put the whole thing together herself and didn't hit her thumb once with the hammer.

It's what you want your kids to do, grow up and do things themselves. But it's probably harder for us parents to let go and let them do it. Proud and a little bit sad that I wasn't needed, that was me.