Thursday, July 31, 2008

Why You Should Rotate Your Tires

The Culprit

So! There we were, on our way to Jeff’s parents house in Clovis for the 4th of July, 3 hrs into the trip- just outside of McFarland- when the road started making a very strange sound…which was followed by a small bang and loud thumping. It sounded as though someone were hitting my car with a baseball bat, and I looked out of my window to see black chunks of something flying past the window. The old woman in the car next to us practically veered into a tree trying to move away. Something was WAY wrong. We pulled off the road into the gravel and got out to see what it was. Holy crap- my right rear tire had disintegrated…all the tread had completely separated, and all that was left was the interior with steel belts exposed and starting to snap. Not only was the tire obliterated, but it destroyed my car when it happened. My bumper was ripped through and hanging by a thread, one running light was completely gone – just a hole and wires, the entire fender was missing, the running board was missing clips and hanging half off, and the whole rear quarter panel was covered in dents and black marks.

The bad news: no spare. Nope, my spare is actually on my car (and might have been the disintegrating tire for all I know) and the tire riding in the spare position is one I had to replace a couple months ago. Great. The good news: every year for Christmas I have my Dad get us a AAA membership- for just this very reason!

We limped off Hwy 99, navigated around some corn fields, found a small truck stop, and discovered we were in Delano. The nice AAA girl told us it would be about 30 minutes. I called my mom and had her get on the internet to see if there was a Costco, Wal-Mart or some other cheap tire emporium nearby. Nope, we were s.o.l. Fortunately, when the large, sweaty, stained t-shirt and missing teeth tow truck driver showed up, he loaded the car right up on the flat bed and said not to worry- he knew a very reasonably priced shop right down the road.

We get there, and as the driver is unloading the CRV from his truck, Jeff starts looking at my other 3 tires. Tire #1 has the little “time to replace me” nubs sticking up from the declining tread. Tire #2 is completely bald on the inside (hmmm…maybe I should add “rotate tires” to my calendar). Tire #3 is just dandy- obviously the one I recently replaced. So it turns out that we didn’t really need 1 new tire…we needed 4. Well, let me tell ‘ya: if you need to buy tires, Delano is the place to do it. The guys at Pacific Tire hooked us up with 4 Yokohama’s w/ an 80,000mi guarantee for $320- installed. Then, like a pit crew 4 Mexican guys with jacks ran out, jacked up the car and had the tires changed with the 1 good one on the back as the spare and had us back on the road in 20 minutes. Brilliant.

The damage was considerable. Jeff’s dad and next door neighbor used the shiniest duct tape I have ever seen to tape my bumper and running board up so we could drive it without fear that we were leaving a trail of debris. We filed a claim on-line and on the 14th it went to the body shop for evaluation and estimate. The total? $1500. It went back to the body shop on the 21st to begin the repairs, and on the 24th we found out that the estimate had gone up another $2100. Yikes….thank God we only have to pay the deductable!

The body shop posts pictures online through our insurance web site, so we can watch the progress. I know the windshield (which was cracked by debris) has been replaced, but I have no idea where they’re at with the rest- hopefully I’ll have it back before August!

Sent from the body shop on 7-30

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Gotcha Day #3

10 months
Size 3-6 month

1 year, 10 months
Size 6-12 months

2 years, 10 months
Size 12-18 months top, 9-12 month shorts, 2t pants
3 years, 10 months
Size 2T top, 18-24 month shorts, 3t pants
Despite the delay in posting due to issues we’re experiencing with our internet access, Anniversary #3 of Gotcha Day happened right on schedule on June 27.

Ten went to pre-school in the morning (didn’t want to miss “water day”), and Jeff and I went and saw Wall-E. I know, it sounds like something we all should have done together: but given our Kung-Fu Panda experience, Jeff and I opted for a tribute to our former child free moments. After school we met up with Aunty Kim & Jaxon for our weekly lunch date at Chick-fil-A, and then headed for home to get in a quick nap before we went to Castle Park.

Castle Park has become one of Ten’s favourite places because it has lots of rides she can go on by herself with little to no waiting in line. Our Gotcha Day outing there provided Ten with 2 unexpected bonuses: 1) Jaxon & family came along to help celebrate, so she had a buddy to run amok with; 2) the nice guy who sold us Ten’s combo ticket made an oops and thought it was part of the “buy a day, get the summer free” promo, so she ended up with a season pass! A fine time was had by all, except for the adults realizing that we’re not 16 anymore and only good for 1 or 2 spinning rides each.

SO! We’ve now been riding the Tenley roller-coaster for 3 YEARS! And let me tell ‘ya, this year has produced A LOT of hills!!

School Girl: Ten has been going to pre-school for 3 half days a week for 10 months now. I think it’s been really good for her, her attention span has improved a little and she spouts off all the time with things that I know I haven’t taught her like the Pledge of Allegiance and how to swing on the big girl swings. She always says “I had fun at pre-school” when you pick her up, and is always happy to see her friends when she gets there. Bonus: her class next year has 3 other cute little Asian girls in it too!

Gotta Go: Potty training began in earnest this year, and our big girl is really good at using the potty now. She’s also good at holding it, so when she tells you she needs to go, you don’t have to pick her up and run. Accidents are pretty rare, but she still has to wear pull-ups at night and for nap, but the nap pull-up is almost always dry. Hopefully we’ll be done with all of that by next year!

It’s in the Jeans: This child is a bean pole. She continues to just grow up and up and up. Buying pants for her is a nightmare- she’s all leg- by the time we hit shorts season, the length of her pants was right for her age, but the waist size was so 2 years ago. At least her feet seem to have slowed down for the moment, but she’ll still need new tennis shoes by Fall. Her hair is getting longer too- a few months ago she surprised us by deciding she wants long hair like Mommy, and we can now get a pony tail or two in it again.

What ‘chu talkin’ ‘bout: Everything. Constantly. This is payback- I know it- it’s the Mother’s Curse (“I hope you grow up to have a child just like you!”) in action. I know I never shut up, and now neither does Tenley. The good news is that her manners are pretty good- she usually remembers “please”, “thank you” and “excuse me”. She remains the living incarnation of Transformers’ Bumblebee by frequently speaking in quotes from various movies and TV shows…that often make no sense or relate to anything else.

3 Sucks: Seriously, the so called “terrible two’s” are nothing- I’d go back to that any day. Three has been awful: any little thing that doesn’t go her way and she goes into full meltdown. Crying, wailing, kicking, screaming, pulling her hair, growling- the works- and it can last for hours because she refuses to calm down and just keeps working herself up. It’s worse if she’s tired or hungry. The kid spends so much time in time-out these days, I think she thinks it’s a scheduled activity. I take comfort in the fact that 90% of the other 3 year olds mother’s that I talk to say the same thing, and other parents assure me that by 5 they’re like real people.

You Are Not Alone: With Tenley, you are never alone. Ever. I think this is one of those weird personality shapers from her orphanage days- she still wants your complete and undivided attention at all times. If she’s watching tv, she wants you watching her watching tv. She can’t just ride in the car and sing a song or stare out the window- she wants continuous interaction whether it’s conversation, requests/demands for drinks or toys, etc. No one in this house has peed by themselves or showered uninterrupted in 3 years.

My Obsession: Ten continues to become obsessed with random things. There’s always a movie and/or tv show- currently it’s 101 Dalmations II- Patch’s London Adventure and Curious George. I’ll take the animated monkey over Little Bear any time, any day. The kid also loves cars, and is obsessed with VW Bugs & PT Cruisers. She points them out constantly- everywhere, wants you to look for them too, and you must acknowledge when she shouts out that she’s seen one. We’re trying to broaden her horizons with Cooper Minis and Honda Elements.

The next year will bring some big changes: pre-school 5 half days a week, and Mommy is probably going to go back to work. Can’t wait to see how Miss Ten rolls with the punches!!

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Ballad of Jeff, Michelle & the AT&T U-Verse

AKA: why we haven’t posted in a fortnight, even though we have pictures & stuff to say.

Like most everyone else in the US, we are feeling the pinch of the economy. So a couple of months ago we decided to take stock of our expenditures and see where we could lighten the load. We had satellite tv for $56 a month, and cable internet which we were paying $60 a month for. We felt that surely we could do better, and sure enough, Jeff found that AT& T had DSL for half that. Great.

So I called AT&T and told the nice lady what I wanted. She proceeded to ask me some questions and then began extolling the virtues of AT&T U-Verse: a fiber optic connection that could provide our tv, phone and internet all in one for $69 a month with a $200 cash back bonus, free installation, and no contract. We signed right up.

Here’s how this works: AT&T contracted with outside vendors to have fiber optic cable run to most neighborhoods, and then the service rides plain old copper wire into your home. There’s a “gateway” – sort of a super modem- that everything runs through. If you lose service you lose both tv & internet. The install tech explained that if your service drops, you have to unplug the gateway & then plug back in, then you re-boot the tv…but this was not something we were going to have to worry about.

Two weeks into our new service, it was dropping at least once a day; and it was when it dropped & refused to come back up at 9:30 at night (right in the middle of a movie) that Jeff lost his ever-lovin’mind. At that point, he ripped the tv box out of the wall, put the dish receiver back, and was up on a ladder with a flashlight in his mouth un-doing the fiber optic connection and re-attaching the satellite. I was then told to get rid of the U-verse tv, get the satellite people out to fix their connection, and get a AT&T tech out to fix the internet connection. Truthfully, I wasn’t sorry to see the U-verse tv go: I didn’t like the DVR nearly as well as the satellite DVR, and it turned out that we did have a satellite contract, so that $200 cash back would have to have gone to get us out of our contract early.

Here we begin the long parade of AT&T techs:

Tech #1 checked our wires, checked the speed, and discovered that the modem was set to Samoa time.

It still dropped 2-3 times a day for 1-2 hours each time. Place service call

Tech #2& 3 (they’re a matching set) discovered we were still using cable that had likely been around since the Eisenhower era, and switched us to Cat 5 cable.

Dropped daily 2-3 times for a couple hours each time. Place service call

Tech #4 removed and replaced a little gray box at the MPOE that was fried, and checked for interference on the line.

Now drops once a day…for 6-8 hours. Place yet another service call.

Tech #5 – Mario. Now I have nothing but nice things to say about Mario, because God bless him, he bent over backwards and tried valiantly to do everything to make this piece of $h!t work. Mario began by reviewing what everyone else had done. Turns out fixing the fried gray box is a temp fix at best- if there’s something else wrong on the line it’ll fry it again. So Mario begins running lots of tests, and calls out a line tech (one of the guys who climbs up the poles) to start testing the pairs. This takes 2 days.

Fixed! Runs great 24/7…for 3 days. I call Mario who made the mistake of giving me his card.

Tech #5-Mario. Mario wonders if the dial tone from the phone line is causing interference, and arranges to take our dial tone down for 24 hours to see if the internet works then.

It doesn’t. It still drops randomly for 2-3 hours at a time at all hours of the day & night. Then it falls into a pattern: it drops everyday between 10:45a & 11:30a…and doesn’t bother to come back until after 6pm. I call Mario. Mario calls the line tech. We play phone tag for a week.

Tech #5- Mario. Mario shows up at 6p on Friday having finally gotten permission from dispatch to come back out. He starts testing the jack in the house and looking at the modem configuration and calls in another line tech to re-rest the pairs. Jeff starts teaching them about computer/modem configuration. Line tech #3 informs us that Cat 5 cable is only good for 100 ft at a time, so we have a problem. They decide to have us go wireless– just as well because techs #2&3 actually stapled through the Cat 5 that they ran in several places. A hole is drilled into our bedroom wall and the wireless router is installed. Hurrah hurrah- it works!!

For 2 hours. Jeff invents new swear words while ripping the router cable back out of the wall. Then he called the cable provider to arrange for us to have cable internet installed again on Wed.

I called and cancelled the U-verse today. It would have been great if it had worked, although not as good a deal as we hoped because it turns out that phone was not included in the price. Also turns out that a lot of people thought phone was included; and a lot of people are having the same problems we are. So, 2 months later, we’re right back where we started.

I’ll blog more on Wed …when I have internet that works again.

Friday, July 18, 2008