Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Of Spare Tires and Swing Sets

Every morning, I have the kids to myself for about an hour. Stacy leaves for work at about 6:30, and I bundle Jack and Annabelle into the car around 7:45 for day care. Stacy then picks up the kids at 4. We worked this out to both save a litle money and to minimize the amount of time the kids need to be at day care, but I have found the best reason to be the time I get every morning with them.

I've been known to spend the time watching Barney (or SportsCenter) with them, or fruitlessly encouraging Jack to eat some breakfast while Anna tries to take a quick morning nap. Some mornings, they're both a little cranky and I spend the whole time comforting one or the other. Most mornings, though, we spend playing with toys in the living room, or reading books, or playing with the dogs, or any number of things.

This morning, we played on the swing set.

Last Wednesday, I was diligently working when my mom called. She had just been at the Toys R Us store near our house and bought the kids a play set. She had misread the size of the boxes it came in, and realized that she wouldn't be able to fit them into her car. She made arrangements with the store to allow me to pick up the boxes after work. She left the receipt in a top-secret location at the house, along with a bonus present for Jack to find on the deck.

As 4 o'clock neared, my phone rang again, interrupting more diligent work. Have I mentioned that I work diligently? It was Stacy, and she had a flat tire. Within the space of a couple minutes, it became clear that I was going to have to leave work early to take care of that indolent tire (indolent? Can a deflated tire be indolent? Sure, why's definitely not doing its job). I told Stacy I was on the way. At the very least, I thought, I could swing by Toys R Us and get the play set after changing the tire, and would probably get home early as a bonus.

I arrived to find the front passenger-side tire completely deflated, and resting on the rim. There was a brief adventure while I tracked down the jack and the spare tire. If the manual wasn't in the glove compartment, I never would have found the tire. I may send an email to US Customs to inform the border patrol of that clever hiding spot in the Honda Odyssey. I bet all kinds of Canadian Bacon is being smuggled over the border in minivans, even as you read this.

The van sat at a slight incline, but since I had no pieces of wood to block the tires, I gave the jack the old college try. Unfortunately, college doesn't work out for everyone. I had the van fall off the jack twice before Stacy offered to "borrow" a lanscaping brick. It was sufficient to keep the van from rolling until the spare could be attached. Stacy took the van to the local service station, and I left to pick up the kids.

There was no getting home early. I guess dropping a van off the jack a couple of times really increases the changing time of a tire. I would never make it on Bobby the Bunny's crew.

I had just enough energy left after the tire-changing ordeal to pick up the play set, and then transfer the boxes from my truck to the garage. The boxes just barely fit in the truck. I thought that must be a pretty big play set, but there was no way it would be put together that night.

The following night, we cleaned the house and packed for a long 4th of July weekend at the lake, so the play set was left in the garage.

Unfortunately, no one broke into the garage while we were gone and assembled the play set. Maybe I should have left the garage door open. Oh well, it was time to get to work. Diligently.

I emptied the two boxes across the garage floor and driveway. The hardware bag was missing an instruction manual, but the miracle of the Internets allowed me to print out a new manual from the manufacturer web site. I probably should have taken inventory of all the pieces at that point, but there were SO MANY PIECES. How could any be missing?

I gathered up the recommended tools and set to building. The slide platform almost assembled itself, it was such a smooth process. Then, the instructions said to install the slide platform support/cupholder bar. Cupholder? On a swing set? These kids nowadays don't know how good they have it. "But what if it's not for the kids?" I thought to myself.

Now that's smart engineering.

Right around this time I discovered that some pieces were, in fact, missing. Important pieces, actually. The big bars that go across the top and support the swings. I was prepared to call the 800 number in the instructions to get the missing parts, but Stacy insisted that the store should have the parts on hand. No way, I said. She was pretty insistent, and called the store herself. Turns out they did have the pieces on hand. Score one point for her (I know you're reading this--stop gloating. I can feel your look).

I picked up the missing parts, and the rest of the build was a piece of cake. Well, kind of a big cake that takes a long time to bake if the cook isn't very skilled with wrenches and hammers and such. I'm not sure if that qualifies as mixing or torturing the metaphor, but in either case it can't be good for the metaphor to be treated in such a fashion.

Finally, just before bedtime, the kids were able to take it for a spin.

This morning, Jack dried off the slide with his pants, and gave the glider swing a good riding. It looks like the swing set is going to be a regular part of our morning routine this summer.

Thank you, Grandma.