Friday, March 31, 2006

Tire swings = more fun than a poke in the eye

The kids and I went to play at a neighbor's house this morning. They have a new tire swing that we have wanted to play with for a couple of weeks. Finally this morning our chance came to give the tire a whirl.

At some point during the playtime, The Talker snatched a broom that one of the other kids was playing with in the fort. When he went down the slide, with the broom in his hand, he got popped right in the eye with the broom handle. OUCH!

It took a while for him to want to open his eye. He ended up with just a little scratch on his upper eyelid. Might end up with a black eye out of the deal, too.

This was one of the scariest accidents I have seen on a playscape, ever. And after working with kids for 15 years, I have seen some doozies.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Garden update

Today for lunch I'll be eating a garden salad that came right out of the garden morning. Don't worry, eating veggies is still only a once a year deal for me.

While weeding the garden, I thinned out the lettuce and greens. After that, I noticed the cilantro is emerging and the recent rains have pushed all of the seedlings into a single clump. I pulled a couple of small onions, too so combined with a grilled cheese sammich, the salad will make a nice lunch.

The kids helped me clean everything and trim the leaves, but I doubt they will be eating the salad with me.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

I feel so cool!

When I bought my MP3 player, it came with a card for a free one year's subscription to RollingStone Magazine. Being a cool rebel, I promptly lost the card and forgot about it.

Last month when I was cleaning the kitchen, like all bad ass rockers do once in a while, I found the card. Then just like a punk, I mailed it in the next day. Today I got the three most recent issues of RollingStone in the mail. Three? Dunno.

Now, if I can just find my hard rocking reading glasses, maybe I'll catch up on all of the cool stuff I've been missing since my RollingStone subscription ran out, about 15 years ago.

Monday, March 27, 2006

My son, my boy, The Crusher

My 8 year old leaf blower gave up the ghost this afternoon.  I wasn't even doing any yard work.  But the handle finally fell off completely.  It had been taped together for years.  When I looked it over, I could see at least three different types of tape, which means on at least three different occasions I had to stop working and try to patch this thing back together.

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The Talker was outside with me and he saw me heading to the trash can with the blower. "Hey Daddy, I have an idea...  Let's bust it up."  Now THAT is my boy.

So after 10 minutes in the rain, throwing a brick at our broken blower, we officially busted it up.   Need proof?

By the way, check out the look on the boy's face.  Is he worried that the blower might haunt him?  Or maybe it is a case of smasher's remorse. Dunno.

Me a juror? Not this time. But then again...

Our county has a pretty nice jury service system. Once summoned, you can either report old school style on the specified date and time, or you can answer a short questionaire online and give the court contact information in case they need to contact you for further service.

I got a summons last summer and I went through the online system. After submitting the form I had to remain available for jury selection on a certain date. I think you have 24 hours after they contact you by phone or email to report for jury duty. Since The Boss Lady was off for the summer, it was no problem. And with the online setup, doing my civic duty was painless. For the record, I never got called up to the majors...

I got another summons last week. This time though, the wife is in the middle of a semester, so I claimed an online exemption for being the stay at home parent of a child under 10.

A few days later I got a follow up form, stating that my request had been approveed but that I would need to report on a postponed date. The only problem is that it is the EXACT SAME date, time and location that I was originally scheduled to appear. So I called the court today to find out what I should do.

Now I am having a hard time dealing with the amount of crap that I was given on the phone. Surely they deal with parents of preschoolers on a daily basis. And I kind of doubt that they give everyone of them a hard time.

I was quizzed about where I work. "Uh, nowhere." When I work my other job. "Uh, I don't." Where the kids go to day care. "Uh, nowhere." When the kids go to preschool. "Uh, didn't I just answer that."

But the last one really got me annoyed. "Where does the mother work? "Uh, what difference does that make?" "Well sir, I just need to know for our records." " Well, she is an astronaut living on the Space Station. She will be there for another fourteen months, three weeks and five days"

So maybe I can report for jury service after that...

At least they didn't throw Dr Peppers

After yesterday's egg special, AtHomeDaddy thought the early morning cleaning chores were done for a while.


Take a case of Dr Peppers and a half case of bottled water; cram them into the little refrigerator in the garage. What kind of mess can you get out of that? One that takes a lot longer to clean up than an egg off of a 13 year old car.

I found four busted sodas on my first run to the Dr Pepper fridge of the morning. After one episode of The Wiggles and half of Sesame Street, I finally had the mess all cleaned up and could move on to Dr Pepper number 2.

And just in case I made the Dr Pepper gods mad, the diet sodas are no longer out there. One was a casualty of the blast, the other was poured down the kitchen drain. Take that Diet RC.

A note to anyone stocking the Dr Pepper fridge... Do not push the sodas to the rear of the fridge. If they sit against the back wall of the fridge, they will "get exploded all over the place", as The Talker would say.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Egging on the idiots

Last night the area teens must have been really bored. Based on the number of neighborhood cars that got covered in eggs and baloney slices, they must have used up all of their creativity in World Literature classes. Or maybe they are stressed out from cramming for the SATs or the fact that they did not get laid on Spring Break. Whatever.

I will admit that the eggs were annoying and likely ruined some paint jobs, but baloney? I had to laugh when we found a half dozen slices of baloney on the neighbor's two month old Prius. Who the heck slaps a car with baloney?

I am glad that we live at the end of the street. They only had one egg left by the time they got to our house. A direct shot on the Escort hit the driver's door. And by the time our neighbor told us about the scrambled mess all over the neighborhood, it was already cooking in the sun. So instead of getting dressed for church, I was out re-washing the wife's car that I just washed yesterday afternoon. Luckily I waxed it last weekend or the damage might have worse.

The best news of the whole deal was that they ran out of baloney and they left the truck alone. Maybe they felt sorry for my already trashed paint or they knew that tossing one at the truck would just be wasting good food. Food that could be hurled at something more worth while.

The wife is glad that the new car was safe and sound in the garage. But I am mostly glad that the truck came through unharmed.

No baloney.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

A big day in family history

One year ago today, the truck came to live in our driveway. At the same time, directions to our house changed to "Just look for the old truck out front. You can't miss it."

And 9 years ago our first dogs, Ben and Bill were born. Our first foray into Great Pyrenees dogs. They were a blast together. But just like the truck rusting away in the driveway, the boys are now returning to dust, buried in the back yard.

Oh yeah, 60 some odd years ago, my Dad was born. Happy birthday old man. But I still assert that I am much too young to have parents this old.

Barbie, the scurvy curvy pirate

I have long thought the dollar store Barbie looked a little evil.  And it turns out I am right. That long haired devil in the purple evening gown has a mean streak.  Ad she might be possessing my daughter's soul, too.

The Talker was quietly playing pirates in the living room.  The Princess was playing with her duplo blocks near the pirate ship.  Suddenly she jumped up and ran to her room.  When she came back 15 seconds later, she had the purple doll in her hand and the battle was on. 

Barbie and The Princess made short work of the pirate ship.  I grabbed the camera at the end of the carnage but I had a hard time getting a good picture, since I was laughing so hard.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Well, dog, he THINKS he's cool

The kids were playing in the living room. The Talker was pushing a toy motorcycle down the hallway to his room. The Princess was dragging a pull toy puppy down the hall, following the motorcycle man.

Even still, it still cracked me up to hear the boy repeatedly telling his sister, "C'mon dog, let's go".

Monday, March 20, 2006

Adios, How do you say Windstar in Spanish?

This is what we gave up last week. Are we sad to see it go? Only because it was the car that brought both babies home from the hospital, and has taken each of them into the ER once or twice...

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And now I'll introduce you to our new Saturn Vue, since I know you have been waiting all weekend...

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Sunday, March 19, 2006

The Mayor of the Block

This afternoon, after I got it all washed and shined up, the family drove the new car to a birthday party. 11 houses down the street. But only because the wife and kids were leaving straight from there to go to church. It had nothing to do with showing off the new car to the neighbors. I swear.

But since the other dads were there, and the new car was there, there was a little showing off of the new family hauler.

Around here, a new car brings everyone out. All of the neighborhood dads have to come check out the new car. And the guy with the new car gets quizzed for days about the car, the deal, the dealership. Everything about the car is fair game.

Having the newest car on the street is a big deal in this neighborhood. Until someone else buys, I have to bear the burden of being "The New Car Guy". So hand me the armor all and the wash bucket.

The Mayor almost got arrested.

I realized Saturday that I never checked the overhead bins on the windstar before we traded it in. I scrounged up a broken spare key. It would open the doors, but not start the ignition. Then I ran up to the Saturn lot Sunday afternoon. While I was standing there, getting my sunglasses out of someone else's car, a security guard started walking across the lot. I grabbed my stuff, threw the key in the glovebox and locked the van up tight.

Luckily we live in a pretty liberal city, so a guy with a record for breaking into cars can still be the Mayor of the Block

Friday, March 17, 2006

Annoying a car salesman in 3 easy steps

Earlier this week we sat down with a salesman at the Saturn store a few blocks from our house. And we laid out exactly what we wanted if we decided to buy a Vue. It had to have a V6, leather interior and it must have side curtain air bags. We also gave him one more bit of info that was mandatory. The new car could not be green.

I usually like green, but for some reason the green color of the Saturn Vue is hideous. I could never drive one in that color.

We also gave Mike the car seller some preferences. I wanted blue or black, but the other colors were OK, if the deal was right. And we wanted tan leather interior. But we might consider the gray leather later, if we got a bargain. We did not really want any other options, just a basic, safe new car.

Wednesday night we brought one home. By Thursday afternoon I told Mike that it was not the car for me. He agreed to find one with the paint and interior that we wanted. Two days of searching and he still could not round up the right car. He got close. Even traded for a car from east of Dallas and had it brought in today.

A nice blue V6 Vue with tan cloth interior. It has all of the options we wanted, without a bunch of others. It really is a gorgeous car.

That the dealership is getting stuck with.

In the end, I realized that tan interior would be filthy in no time. So we settled on grey. Then The Boss Lady and I agreed that the leather upgrade really wasn't worth the price. So we went back to the grey cloth seats. I guess we can buy some seat covers in a few years.

After walking the lot, searching for the right car with grey cloth interior, we ended up in the one I brought home Wednesday night! But I stood my ground; my new car is silver with grey interior, no hint of that awful green color anywhere on it.

Just like I wanted.

Car shopping

The time has come to say goodbye to our family transporter. The Windstar, aka The Windsuck, The World's Least Reliable Car or That G%& D#$( Piece of $%)* in the driveway, is going on to haunt a new family soon. We will be trading it in on something new, and hopefully soon. For the first time in a while, everything is working OK on the minivan, so it is time to swap.

The upgraded family hauler will likely be a V6 Saturn Vue with powertrain made by Honda. It is rated to get better gas mileage than the Honda Pilot, with the same powertrain and it cost several thousand less.

The holdup right now is that they can't seem to find one equipped like we want. Plus, the dealership is owned by the same family that owns the Ford dealership where we bought the Windsuck. The Ford guys treated us like garbage when the car started acting up and I swore I would not do business with them after the paint started peeling off of the car at 75K miles.

The salesman and the Saturn dealership manager know our backstory and we told them we would buy from them if the deal is right. We are currently waiting to see how seriously they take their "No Haggle" policy.

After all, it is their rule, not mine. They may not haggle, but I do. And after the crap we put up with at the Ford lot down the street, these guys better haggle, too.

11:00am Evidently "No Haggle" is not law at the Saturn store. They called with an offer this morning, but I sent them away. They wanted to deal on a fully loaded car, but we are not looking for all the features. Even if the bargain, it will likely still cost us more for this one. Not a good enough deal, yet.

12:15 The second offer came in a few minutes ago. I agreed to go look at this car in the morning. But one of our requirements is not on the car. We have told them that we want tan leather seats. The dealership is bringing in a car with all of the other features we want, but cloth seats. They better be giving this one away. Still not a good enough deal.

7:00pm Home from dinner and buying a Saturn Vue. More info in a little while

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

My kid's clock is bigger than your kid's clock

Yesterday we brought home The Talker's Clock. This clock was given to The Boss Lady's grandfather many years ago. After his house was sold, it's hung in The Mother of the Bride's house for at least 20 years. She is moving and decided that the clock should move to our house.

It is a gorgeous clock. It is a huge clock. It used to hang in a train station in Dallas. I fell in love with it the first time I saw it, 14 years ago and I plan to take great care of it. You should have seen the pains we went through to get it hung just right in the living room.

But I will not be fooled into thinking that I finally own the grandfather clock I have wanted forever. Because it ain't mine. It is the boy's clock. His grandmother gave it to him, not me.

And some day, when he is settled, with his own family and 50 years old, he can come and get it. When I am done with it.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

A great party and a clean house

The garden party was a huge success. 50 burgers and two dozen hot dogs grilled, Chicken nuggets by the platter full for the kids who were not brave enough, or maybe they were smart enough, not to eat my cooking. Guest arrived at 5, and the last family left before 8.

As a bonus, the weather was so nice, that everyone hung out in the yard. So our house was still clean after the party. We got up and went out of town for two days the next morning, so it was still clean when we got home, today at lunch time.

Don't be worried, though. It did not take us long to make a mess. But that's what makes it feel like home.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Ready to party?

The yard is ready. The house is almost ready. The barbecue grill still needs a good cleaning. But is all OK, because the truck is definitely ready.

Yeah, I could of spent the morning finishing the cleaning. But the truck wanted my attention, so now we are making a last minute rush to get finished with the cleaning before our party. Truthfully, I am blogging, The Boss Lady is cleaning. Because when she saw how I spent my morning, she said "That looks freakin' awesome."

Who cares what the friends think about our house or yard. The wife thinks my truck bumper is freakin' awesome.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Freaky Tree

We have several Texas Mountain Laurel trees in our yard.  They bloom with a purple bloom for about one month every year.  But we have a freaky one that blooms white.  I have asked at every nursery for several years, and no one has ever seen one with white blooms.

Here is a typical bloom on one of the other trees.

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And here is a picture of the freaky tree.  Our Albino Texas Mountain Laurel.

But this morning I notices something even more strange.  Low on the tree, on a different major branch from the white blooms, a purple blooms is popping out.  Freaky squared.  Hopefully I can get a picture that shows both color blooms on the same tree.



After posting these pictures, I started Googling for pictures of other white Texas Mountain Laurel trees. I found a site that described how to harvest the seeds of Mountain Laurel trees, so I went out and grabbed all of the seed pods that threw on the ground after I cut them off last week. After I prep the seeds, I am going to plant some freaky tree seeds elsewhere in the yard.

Finished the garden, let's party

The AtHomeTrio finished planting the garden this morning. We are officially out of space to put another thing. The Roma tomato plants and marigolds went in this morning. The tomatoes, for marital harmony, I hate them, but the wife loves 'em; and the marigolds for the bugs.

My grandmother always had me plant marigolds all over the garden. The bugs are attracted to the flowers and leave the veggies alone. Plus, it makes the garden look a little prettier while you wait for the seeds to sprout.

The final roll call for the garden: tomatoes, two varieties, onions, red, white, yellow and the some from the wife's grandmother's childhood farm, green beans, pumpkins, watermelon, cucumbers, carrots, lettuce, mesclun mixed greens, mint, dill, cilantro, oregano and rosemary. It is a full house back there. Hopefully we can have a feast in a few months.

The kids and I got the back yard ready for our party tomorrow evening. OK, I worked on the yard and playscape, the kids played together nicely for a couple of hours. Most days that is even better than them trying to help me out...

A new flowerbed is planted. The backyard is mowed and edged. The playscape pea gravel is raked smooth. And the grass is watered. Bring on the herd of families. As long as no one looks inside the house, we are ready for them.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Garden Update

The kids and I planted lots of lettuce and basil last week. They are really interested in the garden now, because the seeds are starting to emerge. I figure they will have fun watching for another couple of weeks, but once the boring work starts, like keeping the garden weeded, I bet I'll be working out there by myself.

Today we planted watermelons, pumpkins and cucumbers. Later this week we will put out a couple of tomato plants and plant some beans. Then we will be finished planting. In a month or so we should be eating some of our lettuce and greens. By July we should be eating fresh watermelons.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Dry this on for size

Back in December we bought a gas dryer from a neighbor for $25. It is a huge machine, much larger than the gas dryer we bought new six years ago. But when we hooked it up, it sounded awful. Lots of screeching, grating and noises that just should not come out of a dryer.

I had visions of hooking up the second dryer, to speed up laundry service around here. But our old dryer must be mourning the death of his pal because it decided to quit working last week, too.

I ran to the laundromat one night and dried five or six loads of clothes. I hate the laundromat, but it is kind of nice to not wait for hours to get all of the laundry dried. 36 minutes, and I was on my way home.

Yesterday morning I decided to check the bigger dryer to see if I could make the noise stop. Once I got the thing torn apart, I found the problem. A three cent screw had worked loose from a roller and it was grinding on part of the motor. Since I had the entire thing apart, I put on a new roller and belt.

After getting it all buttoned up, and a couple of side trips to the hardware store for a new gas line and the right connectors, we are back in the laundry business.

Stay tuned to find out the fate of our old dryer.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Goodbye old friend

I feel like I should say something meaningful and appropriate. That is what you do when someone who loves you dies, right? Well today it happened. One of my dearest old friends is dead and gone.

The new satellite receiver arrived on the big brown truck. As soon as the kids were down for nap time I tore into the living room to swap out receivers. Three minutes and we were all hooked up. After a quick call to Directv to get the new unit activated, life is back to normal. Heck, it is better than normal.

I have a sat receiver with functional buttons and a remote that works. Bonus, there are no teeth marks on the remote and everything is shiny and plastic-y smelling. And out of respect for my old sat unit, who put up a great fight for all these years, I plan to keep it that way.

Adios my little square buddy. I would tell you that you are going to a better place, and I would also say that I will never love the new receiver like I loved you. You were my first. But let's get real, my ass will be on the couch all weekend long and by the end of the next NASCAR race, you'll be a distant memory.

Buried with full honors? No way. You are heading for the dumpster. But at least after they plant you in the landfill, you won't have anyone chewing on your accessories for the 50 million years it takes you to return to dust.

This is what he looked like on his last day with us. Notice that I did not want to risk satellite TV withdrawal, so I cut the power cord right off. It was a lot easier than un-bundling all of the wires behind the entertainment center. To add insult to injury I dropped the dang thing and broke the card cover door off of it, when I was yanking it out of the entertainment center.

More Power!

For the last couple of years The AtHomeFamily has been regretting our last computer purchase. Well, no more.

Three times in the last year I have had to reformat the hard drive and start the computer over from scratch. For a while I was really good about making periodic backups to CDs. But after I added a new hard drive last summer I thought our problems were fixed. Since then I have had to format and start over once again.

I don't know what the problem was. And I don't care, either. That computer has been robbed of a couple of parts and loaded into the box for a Goodwill drop off later today.

We had lots of problems with it. I think it was because we cheaped out on it. The Boss Lady and I both had good computers at work, and our puny little HP at home was just not fast enough to keep us content. It had some cheap processor in it and a tiny fan installed that did not keep the guts cool enough. Even after I maxed out the RAM and added a huge new hard drive we still had problems.

Anyways, we have a new Gateway. And this bad boy is smokin'. Pentium D, 1G of RAM, XP Media Center, 300G Hard drive, 19" flat screen, TV tuner DVD burner, and a multiple media card reader. And unlike our last purchase, this bad boy runs quiet.

And a bigger bonus, I think the motherboard commited suicide on our old machine. It rebooted while I was sending some email and all I could get after that was the blue screen of death. But it is all good because I was able to pull all of my data off of the HP's hard drive.

I am a happy little boy, folks.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Good customer service? What a downer

Back in August, the dog ate my remote control that controls the whole world. OK, it only controls the TV, DVD player and the satellite connection, but there are days that these three things are the only things that matter in the whole world.

I bought a universal replacement remote, but it died an early death last week. No dogs involved this time. I cannot get the universal remote to control the satellite box. So all week I have kept the semi functioning original remote with the replacement. Combined, they could perform the most necessary functions.

Last night I decided to call our sat provider and ask/beg/plead to see if they would make me a deal on a new controller box and a remote. I was expecting a fight. Heck, truthfully I was looking for a fight, and I was coming armed with the facts. We have been subscribers for 5 years. $30 a month for 60 months. You do the math. I am sure that if you guys give away equipment to new subscribers and people who move, you can hook me up with a replacement.

And they did. No fight. No crying. No pleading. I did not even have to ask very nicely. Within 5 minutes, they had me set up to receive a new receiver and a receiver box remote controller in three days via Fed Ex. No fuss. No arguments.

Dang. Now I'll have to go fight with some other anonymous customer service rep. Maybe I'll call the gas company. Surely they would put up a good fight.

Garden update

The AtHomeTrio worked out in the garden a little on Tuesday. We planted Sweet Basil seeds. And a lot of them.

I was planning to scatter a few seeds into one corner of the garden plot. The Princess was having fun and before I could stop her, she dumped the entire packet of seeds on the ground. The seeds were too small to pick up, so we will just have a lot of thinning out to do in a couple of weeks.

Otherwise in the garden, the onions are growing well but the lettuce and greens seeds have not started popping up, yet.

FYI, There are 9 1/2 days left to prepare the house, yard and kids for a church party at our house. Today's mission, making a list of everything that has to get fixed/cleaned/replaced/scrubbed/planted/hidden before the party.