I wore my Polartec tights today, and it made a big difference, especially to my aching knees. I wore them home as well, and didn’t get overheated. In addition, I have decided that I no longer have the luxury of pride when I am riding: I now try to take it easy on those hills. I don’t hesitate to drop to the smallest chainring, and in fact I’m trying to remember to drop to an even lower gear when I stop, so I don’t have to work as hard to get moving again. These are all changes that my knees have appreciated, and they aren’t aching quite so much any more.
My daughter approached me last week, and told me that she had to make a doghouse for school. This was on a Thursday evening, right before she needed to get ready for bed. “A doghouse?” I asked? Yes, for their class’s stuffed dog. She explained that she figured I could just bang out a doghouse from the spare lumber in the garage in nothing flat, and then she could decorate it.
Now, I’m not handy. But even if I was, I couldn’t imagine banging out a small doghouse before bed. “No,” I said. She began to whine. “Listen, why can’t you make it out of cardboard?” I suggested. She insisted it had to be made out of wood. Simply had to be.
“Listen,” I said, “If the teacher wants you to make a doghouse out of wood, she can’t expect you to get it done in one night. You check and see when it is due, and I’ll help you with it over the weekend.”
Saturday I found her in the garage. She had sketched out the dimensions of the doghouse she wanted (based on the size of the stuffed dog) and had a plan on how to make it. Unfortunately, her plan involved using two packages of balsa wood shims that she had found in the garage.
“You can’t use those.” I explained. Why not? “Two reasons. One, your doghouse would fall apart, and two, they are my shims, and I sometimes need them.” She started to pout, but I took her sketches and started figuring out how to make a doghouse from them. I drew some sketches, and took the opportunity to explain to my daughter how I could calculate all the lengths I would need using geometry. I sketched out right triangles, and wrote down the Pythagorean theorem, and basically emphasized the fact that yes, math does come in handy sometimes. I told her we would build the doghouse the next day.
The plans for the doghouse rolled around in my head for the rest of the day and overnight. I figured out a couple of flaws, and did a bit of a redesign in my head. Sunday morning, I got out the tools. Using only a circular saw, a saber saw, a random orbit sander, a cordless drill/driver, a box of wood screws, and the butt-ugly sawhorse I had built years ago, we put together a doghouse. Now, I’m not a great woodworker, and it wasn’t perfect, but my daughter thought it was great. She got her tempura paints out and started decorating it.
While we were working on it, I had asked her a few leading questions about this assignment. It turned out that no, all the students didn’t have to make a doghouse, just her. In fact, it turned out that she had volunteered to make the doghouse. When I was discussing it with my wife later, she opined that it wouldn’t surprise her if the whole idea of a doghouse had come from our daughter, with her teacher basically going along with the idea. Knowing my child, I suspect my wife is right.
But I do not begrudge the time we spent working together on it. I know I only have a short time remaining when I can make something with her, and she will think it is perfect simply because I made it. Soon, I know, she will spot the flaws in everything I do. I will embarrass her. What is handmade will not be good enough. She will want to buy things that have been assembled by professionals. I know it is only a few short years until my big clunky feet of clay become all too visible to her. But right now, her father is a skilled craftsman, capable of amazing feats of engineering, and that blocky doghouse, that has not one true 90 degree angle anywhere in it, is a work of art.