Thursday, July 31, 2008

Latch-key kid fun

I feel you deserve a story, my good readers. You've read about my tech woes for too long now. I know, I'm just giddy because all is well for these few brief moments. Let's enjoy them together.

When I was growing up, the hour between when school let out and when my Mom's car hit the driveway was perhaps the most dangerous hour of our day (surpassed only by the hour when Dad found out about what we had done). You've heard about the dragging out mattresses so we could jump off the roof. The way we stretched the phone up to the roof so when our neighbor called our Mom we could "prove" to Mom we were in the house ("Crazy Nora!").

There were other days when we merely tortured one another.

One day, after Batman was over of course, my brother Skip offered my brother Rod "a hundred bucks" if he ran around the block naked. Of course he didn't have a hundred bucks. This was around 1977-78 and the kids in our world didn't have more than the 10 cents needed for the ice cream man.

But Rod didn't think that way. He's a lot like Neil. Or Neil's a lot like him.

Rod countered with: "I'll run around in my underwear for 50 bucks?!"

Skip knew a good deal when he heard one. We didn't live on the biggest block, but it was big enough. Probably a 10 minute run to make it all the way around.

Plenty of time for us to close and lock every window and door in the house. 

Rod in his skivvies showed up to a house locked up tighter than a drum.

He started banging on doors, banging on windows, screaming and yelling, desperately searching for the clothes he had left by the front door (Did you really think we would leave those out there?).

Skip and I would run from window to window and LAUGH at Rod. He was MAD, MAD, MAD. We were highly entertained. We would open a window and call to him, and he would run over just in time for us to slam it shut and lock it with the trusty stick meant to keep the bad guys out.

Rod managed to force his way into the garage, and he started banging on the door from the garage to the house. It was my brothers' bedroom. He was BANGING and BANGING and BANGING on the door.

Skip and I were laughing so hard our sides hurt. This was just good fun.

That's when Rod grabbed a tire iron and RAMMED it through the middle of the door.

Oh, crap.

Skip and I looked at each other.  It's that moment when your stomach sinks and you realize you have gone too far. You are in deep doo-doo, and Dad is going to kill you.

 (I can still see that tire iron sticking through the door, twisting around vainly.)

We let Rod in and tried not to panic. We tried pushing the door pieces together. I found some white paint in the garage. It didn't look so great. And we got a little on the door frame which was painted red so we had to hunt up some red paint. This was going from bad to worse.

We tried taping it. That didn't help.

Finally, we put two posters up -- One on the garage side and one on the bedroom side. We then tried to act casual -- for years. For whatever reason, my Mom never asked about the posters.

My brothers lived with those stupid posters and a red & white bedroom with little tin soldiers on the wallpaper for 7 or 8 years ("No, Mom. We love the room. Don't paint it." "Don't touch that poster. It's my favorite.") before my Mom finally took them down and discovered the hole.

We confessed. It was clearly Rod's fault.

21st Century Home

We have phone service! Somebody call me! I feel I should add a counter to this blog that keeps track of how many days we have working technology all at once. You know, "This house has had a working phone, computer and television for _____ days." Yeah, that would bring in the readers!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Jiggle the handle, will ya?

My friend Sandy has the best description of my technology woes:

"I picture you in the black hole of technology and every time you crawl your way up to the rim, barely hanging on you get flushed back to the bottom."

Pretty much sums it up.

Always waiting

So our digital phone has been out since the quake yesterday. I'm presently on hold with Time Warner. It's been more than a half hour.

Two things I "love" about the experience:

1. As you work your way through their automated system you get a recorded message, "We are currently experiencing longer than normal wait times. We recommend you call back at a better time." Are they serious? Is this customer service?

2. When you finally get a human, they answer: "This is Ginger. How can I make this a wonderful day?" Well, Ginger, if I hadn't spent the last half hour on hold and if I had a working phone, that would be a start toward "wonderful."

So Ginger goes through the dozen prompts she's been trained to try.

"We show your modem working."

"Yes, but I still don't have a working phone."

"I'll have to transfer you to the third-tier."

Third-tier sounds dangerous. I'm imagining third tier is where water boarding happens.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Shake, shake, shake!

So I'm sitting on the potty and the earth begins to move (and not in a good way).

"Are you freaking kidding me?!"

Why is it the minute my butt hits the toilet something has to happen?! I swear the kids start fighting, the telephone starts ringing, the dogs are pawing at the door!

But the house keeps moving and the kids are on the stairs yelling, "MOOOOOMMMYYYYYY!!!"

So I grab the kids, stand under the doorway and hold them. When the shaking stops, I sit them at the bottom of the stairs, take time to wipe and pull my pants up and then we talk about what you do in case of an earthquake.

Pyramid of Frustration

Jack is a Webelo (WE BE LOyal Scouts) now and one of the requirements is to plan your menus for a week and then record what you actually eat. (We don't need 7 days of menus to record what Jack eats. I'm not sure there are 7 different things he will eat.)

Please don't tell me how you "sneak" vegetables into your kids' meals, etc. Good for you. There's nothing to SNEAK anything into. I've created chicken nuggets from scratch but he won't eat them. There's no spaghetti sauce to put in any veggies. There's no anything to put in anything!

Jack's eating habits are a serious bone-of-contention in this household. Cheez-its, chicken dinosaurs, hot dogs, spaghetti and the occasionally forced green vegetable do not make a healthy diet. We battle over it constantly. He can out wait me at the table. There's been yelling, feet stomping, fit throwing, gagging, crying -- you name it, I've done it!

His gag reflex is amazing and highly tuned. I've tried not to give into it, but when I threatened to make him eat whatever he threw up I knew I needed some perspective.

I've even offered him cash. No go.

So back to the Scouting requirement. We spent two hours yesterday talking about the food groups (which are different than I was a kid) and what is good for your body and what fuel you need to do the things you want to do (i.e., Cheez-its will not propel you to sports stardom. No, mom won't let you have bacon for every meal. That sort of thing.).

It took those two hours to get two days worth of menus. Holy crap! We needed 7 days! I wasn't going to make it. So I wisely put it aside. His father is his den leader and has more patience than I do so I figured they could do some when he got home. And this whole exercise wouldn't end with me yelling at my child in frustration.

Why, oh why, does it never work?!

Why? Did I not ask his dad clearly enough? Did his dad not see the momma fit coming if I had to spend more time at the table arbitrating between Jack and food?

I argue with Jack over breakfast. I fight with him over lunch. I battle over dinner. Adding hours of negotiation over menus is not my idea of a good time.

But that is where I ended up last night. Dean ran to the store for the few things Jack had put on his menu. Mom ended up at the table with a grumpy 9-year-old.

Which just leads to Mom's volcanic reaction when Dad arrived home and announced he had bought organic raisins. Jack balked at eating them because they were too dry (Yeah, they are dried grapes kid. Deal with it.). Did I mention my child will eat certain things but only certain kinds of certain things and only if he is in a certain mood?

That's when Mom lost it. Screaming, stomping, steam coming out of the ears lost it... I hid in my room and took a long shower to calm down. Dad wisely finished the menus. There is even a turkey sandwich on Friday's menu (I'll believe it when I see it.).

Today I'm medicating myself with chocolate and peanut butter (hey, that's a protein!).

Friday, July 25, 2008

I hate TV

TV is overrated. We don't really need it. It rots the brain anyway... And yes, we are having difficulty with the new DirecTV. Why do you ask?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Can I quit?

Yesterday was one of those days that affirm my lack of skills as a housewife. I burnt a crock pot lasagna beyond all recognition of it as a lasagna. (Is that the cheese or the sauce? Where's the noodles?)

I do know that you aren't supposed to be able to burn something in a crock pot but I have skills, thank you.

I burnt toast, broke dishes, swept and swept and there is still dog hair. The mounds of laundry I have washed are dwarfed by the mounds I have not. I knocked over a giant bin of very small LEGOs.

I gave up before I caused more damage. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Wake up!

Jack is my easy child. He's responsible, well-behaved and naturally cautious. Clearly he is not Neil. No sticking a fork in the electrical socket for this one.  No climbing the outside of the stairs to the top. No finding him in the garage working his way into the rafters.

But still I should pay better attention.

My head is clogged up with a cold (That's my excuse, and I'm sticking with it.) so when Jack asked for some glue this morning I groggily told him where it was. When he asked for a hammer, I did the same thing.

Now if he asked for a saw, I'm sure it would have woke me up.

Well, maybe. I did stumble to my computer to check e-mail and my Google calendar and there was hammering going on behind me, and I didn't even look.

It took awhile for the hammering to sink in. Pound. Pound. Pound.


There was Jack surrounded by wood, glue, nails, hammers and various other items. He was working on his Western Wagon from Cub Scout camp.

"What?" he said as he looked up at me.

What?! Do I start the day by yelling? Or do I walk away?

He did a great job putting it together by himself. We have the nail marks in the dining room table to prove it.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Teenagers these days

Jack and Neil went to a friend’s house the other day for a play date. This is a friend that we don’t know super well, but good enough for mom to let them go over alone.

Before going, Neil reminded me that the little boy had big brothers. “Really big brothers...” he said. (The big brothers are 16 and up. Can you imagine what 42 means to Neil?!).

“His big brothers creep me out,” Neil said.

“Creep you out?”

“Yeah. They are creepy Mom.”

I’m trying to remember if they had a Goth phase or something else I was blocking out that would be “creepy” to a 5-year-old. I don’t think so. They are nice young men and look that way.

“What makes them creepy?” I ask.

“Mom,” he says very seriously as his voice drops to a whisper. “They show their underwear...”

Not to him but at the top of their pants. You know the style...

More than 5 hours to install TV? Really?

The DirecTV guy left at 9:16 p.m. I was fighting a cold all day yesterday (I lost. It's worse today.) and I couldn't wait for him to leave. We are reserving judgment on the TV, but the picture is nice and it's all working. Yahoo!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Fate, please be kind

DirecTV guy has been here more than three hours. I'm starting to get worried.

Tempting fate

So we have had TV for 11 days and we have to mess with it... That's just the way we roll.

In a fit the day after the second time Time Warner stood us up, we called DirecTV. We were very happy with them before. TW was just so much cheaper. Well, it was cheaper because there were less channels, the DVR function was weak (every now and again all our shows would just disappear and the cataloging was stupid), and you know the rest of the story.

Well, DirecTV is installing the new HD disk and DVR as I type. Is it a mistake? Will the last 11 days of working TV, phone AND computer be just a dream that we wish we hadn't woke up from? Will the dogs eat the dish? Stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Happy Birthday Rod!

In honor of my brother Rod's birthday, I feel I should tell you childhood stories. I'm torn because there are some darn good ones. It's amazing my mother didn't have a heart attack from the things we did. She did get an ulcer, but I blame my dad for that one.

We only had about an hour between when we got out of school and when my mom got home from work. We were industrious children -- not really overachievers, but certainly not slackers -- so it was plenty of time to come up with something and then execute it on a regular basis. My mom would arrive home just in time to see the fruits of our efforts (and potentially save our lives or limbs if that was required).

Should I tell you the story about the time we dragged all the mattresses in the house on the front lawn so it would be "safe" to jump off the roof? My poor mother turned the corner onto our street just as the first kid jumped. Needless to say the rest of us didn't get a turn.

There's the time Rod jammed a tire iron through the middle of the door that connected the house to the garage. Then we hid it from my parents for the next 10 years (Ask Rod. It's true.)

Or the time Rod threw a match into a soda can filled with gas and water and then threw it into the garage. For some reason, I didn't think we needed to call the fire department on that one. 
"Fill this bucket in the tub. We can put it out."

Or there's the time Rod scared me so bad I couldn't stop screaming and the neighbors came over because they thought I was being bludgeoned to death.

That is a good story. It reveals Rod's stealth, cunning and cruel, cruel black heart (love you!).

Rod snuck into my bedroom and creeped under my bed before bedtime. I don't know how long he had to wait there, but he did, just waiting to torture his sister.

Now, I watched way too many of those afternoon movies in my childhood. One of them was the chiller thriller "Don't be afraid of the dark." Well, that just makes you afraid of the dark. It was creepy to a kid -- these creatures that lived in the furnace and came out only in the dark and tried to drag you down into the abyss with them. I can still see the lady grab a camera and try to use the flash to scare them off... I'm still creeped out about it.

So black-hearted Rod's waiting there under the bed as I crawl in (when Rod reads this, he'll still be giggling and pleased with himself). I pull up the covers and the bed moves ever so slightly. "Nah, that's just my imagination," I tell myself.

The bed moves slightly again. "Nah...."

I try to read my book. The bed moves again. My blood runs cold. Terror fills my heart.  "Mom?" I can barely get it out....

That's when Rod pushes his feet against the bottom of the bed as hard as he can and the bed is bouncing and flying around like crazy -- AND HE DOESN'T STOP. He just keep bouncing the bed around. I am screaming and screaming and screaming....

My parents come flying into the room. Rod has rolled out from under the bed barely breathing because he is laughing so hard, and I'm standing in the room screaming and screaming and screaming. I can't stop.

The neighbors come over because of all the screaming. It took awhile to calm me down. I even remember Rod trying to calm me down. He had probably reached that point that we all do at different times in childhood ("Oh. I've gone tooo far on this one.").

I'm not really scarred by the episode. I just check under the bed regularly and everything is OK...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Doing time

The story tonight at Vacation Bible School was about Paul and the time he spent imprisoned. The pastor loves to draw kids into the story so he asks the "Sophomore class" -- 1st and 2nd graders-- if any of them have ever been in prison.

One of them answered yes -- and then the second-grader remembered he hadn't been to the Big House after all. "It was some place else." We didn't ask for an explanation.

At this point another kid remembered he had a plan on how to escape if he ever ended up behind bars. "First you ask the guard guy to come very close to you ..."

Then a third child had to tell the pastor a secret -- hopefully not about jail time, but the pastor wasn't revealing anything.

I'm not sure Paul ever made it out of prison during story time.

Boys in uniform

I told you about that special time Neil and I shared on the 4th of July (My eye is recovering nicely). But I also wanted you to see these sweet boys who handed out flags while marching in the city's 4th of July parade. This was their 4th year. Neil is such a trooper. He's walked it every year.

Things to note:
1. Can you tell how long Jack's hair is? He loves it. Dean is living vicariously through Jack and is enjoying it also. It is getting long enough that people at church (and a few other places) stop me and mention how long his hair is. This has happened before but the tone is changing from "Wow, look at that beautiful hair!" to "Wow, look whose mom doesn't have any sense!"

2. Do you see Neil's badge thingy? I'm not sure what to call it. Neil had so many of his own badges from Cub Scout events that his Marna made him a really cool "sash" to put them on. He looks quite accomplished in it.

Monday, July 14, 2008

How long will it last?

It's Monday. We still have cable TV, phone service and internet access. Just in case you were keeping track. I'm thinking about adding a counter to this blog -- "5 days with access to basic household technology!"

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The Summer of Time Warner

This summer is turning out to be the summer of waiting for Time Warner service people. Let me start by saying every service person who has come to my door has been very professional, very nice and not in the least bit condescending about the dogs and their ability to destroy the phone wires.

And the last gentleman was great. He actually MOVED the wire so the dogs couldn't get it -- a crazy idea, crazy brilliant! Unfortunately this same man also forgot to install the cable wire he was moving with that phone wire. So we haven't had cable since July 3.

Those of you with children understand my pain. Those of you with "Pokemon" and "The Suite Life of Zack and Cody" stored on your DVR will really understand my pain. My head will soon explode from those two theme songs. It's the only television we have had available for almost a week. I am willing to memorize the church hymns my grandma used to hum all day to make the pain go away.

We are waiting for the Time Warner serviceman again today -- from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. This will be the third day this week.

First was Sunday. Yes, Sunday. I was surprised too. I even asked the scheduler if he was sure, and then if he was double sure. He was double sure. But depending on who you talk to at any given time at the Time Warner service center, they do or do not make appointments on Sunday. Since I had an appointment this past Sunday (and a repair service order number. It was very official.), but no one showed up to repair the cable, I believe they make appointments but don't actually keep them. It's an innovative choice in customer service.

When we called on Sunday afternoon because no one showed ("Oh, we never make Sunday appointments."), we got an appointment on Tuesday -- from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. I called Tuesday morning to make sure they were coming and that they had my home number and my mobile number (They say the ALWAYS call before appointments, but so far they have NEVER called before an appointment. And I've had a lot of appointments -- I think we are up to 9 or 10 now -- so I consider just our house its own legitimate customer service testing sample.). I told them I would be gone for about an hour (Jack has swimmer's ear so bad we had to go to the pediatrician.), but I have a neighbor who will come over, let them in and stay while they are here. "That's fine. No problem. They will call."

Needless to say, we still don't have cable. I called again when it was 4 p.m. and they hadn't shown yet only to find the appointment cancelled ("So Sorry. We always call. We make appointments on Sunday. We have a pact with the devil to drive you insane....").

And did I mention that the Time Warner internet connection only works in the morning after I reboot the modem two times and only if my sign is in the house of technology? My favorite was my complaint e-mail that I sent using their form on the TW website (yes, I did go to the Time Warner Cable Southern California part), it bounced back as undeliverable.

It sort of sums up the whole Time Warner product promise -- undeliverable.

So here we are waiting for the TW service person again. I'm sure they will come between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy 4th!

"Mom, do you want to play blinking?" asked Neil.


"Yeah. You stare at each other and you can't shut your eyes ever," he explains.

Ah, the kid wants a stare down. This I can do. I'm a champ. I have three younger brothers. I can totally stare someone down.

"OK. 1, 2, 3!" Neil yells. He opens his eyes as wide as possible. My eyes are open and staring the little man down. But he's not blinking. He's good.

Neil moves in closer. Closer. Closer. Closer. We are nose to nose.

Nose to nose with a sweet little 5-year-old. I'm staring at the soft pink cheeks of a boy who left babyhood not that long ago -- the perfect complexion and the roundness of his face. His long, little boy eyelashes are fluttering just slightly. His eyes are bright blue like his daddy's. He smells of chlorine and sunscreen from playing in the pool all afternoon.

I'm thinking that this is amazing. He is amazing. I really love being a mom. I am so blessed.

And then he pokes me in the eye. I blink.

"Ha, ha. I won!" He makes a fist pump and he is off...

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Good Morning!

That "Good Morning!" is said with a heavy sarcastic tone. It's 7:03 a.m. and I've already:

1. diffused a Wii argument ("They keep saying 'honk,honk' at me," complains Neil. "Why?" asks a just-awakened Mom. "It's funny," answers Jack and his friend. "I'll show you funny ... " thinks Mom.)

2. cleaned up dog vomit from the stairs. There's always an amazing odor accompanying dog body fluids. It really sets the tone for the day.

3. thrown in a load of laundry because the kids dropped my good towels on top of the vomit to help.

It's going to be a long day. I can already tell.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The learning curve

There's lots to tell, but we are off to take Pa to the doctor. I just want to pose this one question:
"Is the fourth time the final straw? Will Time Warner charge us on Thursday when they come to fix the phone line for the FOURTH time because the dogs have ripped it out of the wall?"

OK, second question: "When will we learn?"