Monday, August 23, 2010

First Day of School!!!

The kids started VPK on Monday. It's technically 1 a.m. on Tuesday, but I wanted to post this before I go to bed. Other than a little whining (on my part...they didn't want to cooperate and let me take 800 photos!), I think the day went very well. I was pleasantly surprised that Steve was able to leave his zone for a very short time so he could be there to walk the kids in for the first time with me. My mom had come down from Jacksonville to go with me, since I thought I'd be on my own. So there were three of us trooping in behind Megan and Jeremy at 9:15 in the morning, and the kids made a beeline for their classroom. They learned its location at the open house on Saturday, and their friend Savannah is also in their class, so it's good to know there's already a familiar face there with them.

I left the school with my mom and Steve left to go back to work. Mom and I went to Cracker Barrel for breakfast, and I couldn't help but feel strange to be there without the munchkins. The waitress we requested is the same one we try to get whenever we go there though...we met her five years ago, right around the time I was put on bedrest. Mom would sometimes sneak me to Cracker Barrel for a meal on the way home from a doctor's appointment, and she was always so sweet to us. It was kind of like coming full circle to go have breakfast there and visit with her. :0

We ran a few errands after breakfast and then went to pick the kids up again at 12:15. Jeremy was crying! We quickly learned he was upset because he wanted to stay at school and play on the playground longer. Hmmm. I'm proud to say he's the only one of us who cried though...I went tear-free all day. Surprisingly, since I figured I'd boo-hoo just a little!

I won't post the multitude of pics I originally wanted to, just the one of them with their backpacks on before we left the house. My babies are growing up!!!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A Playdate Gone Astray

I completely failed to realize that my last post (which was in, I am SO far behind in my pledge to keep up!) was my 100th post. I did nothing special for that post, but I'm very excited about #101. :) My blogger friend Alana over at and I planned a fun playdate for our kids (and for ourselves, as well!), and it was scheduled for yesterday. Neither one of us could have foreseen what would become of our "great" adventure. We worked together via e-mail after we got home to document the day and I am happy to present the whole story below. Read at your own risk!

Alana: It started with a wonderful plan. Katie had two free family passes for a really amazing indoor play center. We were stoked to see each other again, and were thrilled to have something air conditioned and fun to do, as the heat index here has surrounded us with temperatures feeling like 110 degrees. The plan was to meet at the mall at 9:30 a.m., in order to leave my car in the mall parking lot. Em and I would join Katie and her kiddos in their car to carpool to the play center. It was a sunny and beautiful day.

We arrived at the mall. Katie helped transfer Em's booster seat to the center of her car (which Em gets a kick out of, as she gets to sit BETWEEN Katie's 2 kiddos.) We buckled the kids in, popped a movie in the DVD player and Katie started the car.

Katie: So everyone's loaded in the car and we're ready to times await! And I look down at the dashboard for some random reason. And my check engine light was on. Ugh. Between May and June I took my car into the shop a total of five (count 'em, FIVE) times because of the check engine light. The problem was fixed in the middle of June, but what could possibly be the issue now?

I looked at Alana and at first I said, "We can probably make it..." but then started thinking about it. If we got stranded 30 minutes away I would feel like a complete goof. Alana offered to follow me to the service shop, which is right down the street from the mall anyway. We could leave my car there for maintenance while we had our grand adventure, then pick my car back up on the way home later in the afternoon. Alana hopped back in her car, intending to follow me to the shop. Much to our surprise...

Alana: When I turned my key in the ignition, there was a clicking noise, but MY car would not start. My immediate thought was that something was wrong with the car battery. However, I was perplexed. As the car had been sitting idly for only 10 minutes, how could the battery have died? After a quick check of all gadgets (paying special attention to the interior dome light Emma sometimes plays with) indicated that nothing was amiss, I held my hands up in a "surrender" to Katie. How could we BOTH be having car problems at the same time? I proceeded to empty my trunk of the back-to-school crate and bags full of supplies, along with Emma's beach play-gear so that I could get out my jumper cables. Meanwhile, Katie sat in the car with three kiddos (Emma age 5 and twins Megan and Jeremy age 4) trying to entertain the kiddos and explain why we were sitting in a parking lot rather than going on the adventure we had promised. After clearing my trunk, I lifted the flap where my spare tire is stowed only to determine that the jumper cables and emergency kit my Dad purchased for me several years ago were not there. (Oops...I seem to remember moving them to the garage when I needed extra trunk space a while ago. Sorry Dad!) Doh! My thoughts of having Katie jump-start my car were dashed. Guess we'd have to move on to Plan C. Wait! What's Plan C?

Katie: Plan C? I was still trying to figure out why Plan B wasn't working out. I am a cop's wife, so you think I'd be smart enough to keep jumper cables in my car. Nope. I had taken them out a while back when we had the car in the shop for repairs. Oops.

We tried to find a mall security guard, then tried asking the maintenance people at Sears about how much a battery would cost for Alana's car. We wound up taking my car to the shop, since it was still in driving condition. They have a kids' playroom there, and we basically vegged out in the waiting room until the service rep came and told me (almost an hour later) that the check engine light was not caused by the same problem as before. It appeared to be the catalytic converter, which "lucky" (and I use this term loosely) for me is still covered under the warranty. Just one problem...the shop we were at used to be an official Saturn dealership, but Saturn went out of business early this year and the shop had become a used car lot with a maintenance bay. To get warranty repairs done, I'd have to take the car to a different dealership that was an "authorized maintenance location." But first, I had to pay $65 to the shop for the diagnostic fee. Ugh. Already out that much and haven't had any actual repair work done.

The bright side of this part of the story is that the service rep had checked into an issue with the rental car company down the street...they had rented a car for me for one day when my vehicle was being held overnight for service, and somehow the rental agency had charged my card twice the amount of a one-day rental when I wasn't supposed to be charged at all. The rep from the shop told me they had me listed as a three-day rental, not a one-day rental. We ran by the rental place after leaving the shop and Alana stayed in the car while I straightened that mess out. Yay for progress!

Alana: Two things to add before I forget. One: The guy working at the Sears car shop at the mall told me it would be "at least a four-hour wait" AND $120 - $140 to replace my car battery....NO WAY, buddy! Two: Cracked me up when Katie said her kids thought our "big surprise" (intended to be the indoor play center, of course) was just the small play area at the car shop. Are they sweeties, or what? Back to the story...

Next, we went back to the mall parking lot and met up with my AWESOME father-in-law, Craig, who had agreed via phone to come to my rescue. Katie kindly volunteered to take Emma with her and her kiddos to the car dealership so they could play together in the dealership playroom while she had the "check engine" light on her dashboard investigated.

This is where our story separates for a bit. Craig and I stayed in the parking area while I did my womanly best to hold his flashlight while he
dug through his tool bags trying to find the correct-size wrench to loosen the cover on my car battery. Katie and the kids...

Katie: After dropping Alana off with Craig, the kids and I made our way to the "authorized maintenance location." I had talked to one of the service reps there about four or five months ago when I was getting quotes on tires for my car, so I felt pretty good since I at least had a name. The kids and I unloaded and walked into the service department to explain our story. I brought juice boxes to distract them (which worked for about 30 seconds before my kids started harrassing the service rep and asking him where all the toys were). Long story short...the other service department had switched off the check engine light, clearing the error code, when they ran the diagnostic on my car. And this service place wouldn't even look at my car unless a) I had a check engine light on or b) I was willing to pay for another diagnostic, which wasn't even guaranteed to work since the error code had been cleared by the other guys. Even when the service rep who had helped me with tire pricing came to my rescue, it was obvious that they couldn't do anything to help. I decided to wait and see if the check engine light comes back on in the next week or so. Car maintenance is a necessary evil.

The kids and I piled back into the car and got on the road. We headed for Chick-fil-A near the mall because I figured it would be less crowded than another one close by (wow...I was so wrong). We ordered kids' meals (all four of us...because you get free ice cream if you trade your "toy" in at the counter without opening it) and settled in for our lunch. The kids ran around in the playground at the restaurant for a while, and when Alana called to say she was on her way with Craig we left the playground and went to get our ice cream so we would have a treat while they ate their lunch. It was probably about 2:30 when they got there...and I was anxious to hear how Alana's car was faring...

Alana: When Craig found the correct size wrench to undo the cap on my car battery, we discovered a lot of white/green corrosion. The Amazing Craigster was able to use a pocket knife and screwdriver to clean the majority of the corrosion off. We were then able to jump start my car. (By the way---the jumper cables Craig used were made by DH's Pappaw years ago. Cool, hey?) As with the jumper cables assistance my car started quickly, I was hopeful the battery had died due to age and corrosion, and we'd be able to replace it and my car would be fixed. However, as a precaution, Craig followed me to the mechanic to verify how much "juice" was left in the battery and to verify all was okay with my car.

After running a diagnostic test, the mechanic informed me that the battery appeared to be okay. It had most likely been drained due to the car needing a new alternator. Gulping at the $380 fee, but knowing it was necessary, I "approved" the work order.

Craig kindly drove me to meet Em, and the gang at Chick-fil-A in order to pick Emma up while my car was being repaired.

Katie: Alana and Craig got their lunches and sat with us so we could catch up. Megan and Jeremy took an instant shine to Craig, so now he's got two admirers. If I'd been thinking about it, I would have had a picture taken of the whole group of us to go with this blog post, but I wasn't exactly thinking clearly after such a long and drawn out day. We parted ways right around 3:30 to head home, and I felt pretty foolish driving home and wishing that my check engine light would click back on. It was definitely "the playdate that wasn't," but somehow we weren't too much worse for the wear, and the kids really enjoyed themselves and the time they spent with Emma. Although I feel pretty bad that Alana's car repairs were so expensive, since our intention for the day was to use the free passes I've been holding on to since June and then eat lunch at O'Charley's (since the kids' meals are free). It was such a great plan! We'll definitely have to attempt it on a different day. :)

Alana: Emma fell asleep in Craig's backseat as he drove us to pick up my car from the mechanic. Thus, I asked him if he would mind if I followed him to his house to allow Emma more "nap" time. He kindly agreed. I paid the mechanic, waved at Craig that my bill was taken care of, and walked to my car. Just as I saw Craig turn out of the parking lot, I tried turning the ignition on in my car. Guess what? It was the same clicking noise that had occurred at the mall. ACK! Though annoyed, I was relieved that if my car was not going to function, at least it "chose" to break at the car mechanic's.

I returned to the inside of the mechanic shop. The guy was aghast that the car wouldn't start. "We turned your car off and re-started it several times before calling you for pick-up." They had replaced the alternator, thinking that the battery would be fine with a new alternator. However, turns out the battery was also fried.

I called Craig...who I had inadvertently pawned Emma off on. He said I could just pick her up at his house whenever my car was done. $70 bucks (battery cost, no charge for labor) and 40 minutes later my car was finally "done."

What a day! Despite the financial and logistical burdens of my day, I had two HUGE blessings: Katie and Craig. Both stepped in, helping with my car woes and childcare without prior notice. I don't know what I would have done without them! And while car issues are always a hassle, I'm also grateful that the alternator/battery issues occurred during the summer instead of when I'm back to work in 2 weeks.

I have to smile at the odds....what is the likelihood of BOTH cars having issues at the exact same time? Katie reported that her check engine light did not come back on during her 20-minute drive home. As for me, I can't wait for our next playdate...maybe DH will let me borrow his car next time, just in case! :)

Katie: That's all we wrote, folks. Our adventure in hindsight was not exactly "fun" like we planned, but I was just grateful that we got to spend some time together. The kids got along really well, and all three were actually very, very good considering how boring it all must have seemed for them. Talk about counting our blessings!!!