Saturday, March 31, 2007

Game Day

Saturday is game day for Kailey and Kyra, and we were up early for Kailey's 8:00 a.m. softball game followed by Kyra's at 10:00. Of course it would be WAY too convenient for both games to be in the same location, but I'm not complaining (that much) because I was at least able to take in most of both games.

Kailey had a heckuva game in the Blue (balls) Bandits' 2-1 loss to the Red Monkeys...yes, they lost to a bunch of monkeys. The Bandits were up 1-0 in the third inning when the Monkeys caught our second baseman napping with runners on second and third. Both runners scored and the Bandits were not able to make up the defecit. Kailey went 1 for 2 at the plate and scored the lone Blue Bandit run. In her second at bat, she lined a shot right back to the pitcher, who, by sheer luck, stuck out her glove and caught it. BOO. She had no plays on the field, but still paid attention for most of the game, even though there was plenty of dirt to play with. Way to go, Kailey!

I had to leave Kailey's game early to get Kyra to her game, with, of course, a Starbucks run in between. Kyra plays for the Purple (nurples) Pixies. As you can see, our league has a fondness for colors and alliteration when it comes to selecting team names. Kyra had a great game as well, but I have no idea who won the game. She plays on a T-ball team where there are no winners or losers, where everyone hits in an inning, and where, by the end of the game, everyone knows your name because most everyone has had a great laugh watching these little girls learn the ins and outs of softball. It's just plain fun to scream "RUN" at the top of your lungs whenever the kid hits a trickler and then stands there admiring her work. The batter takes off towards first, holding her shorts so they don't end up around her ankles while EVERY SINGLE player on the field flocks to the ball like a pack of wild hyenas on a fresh kill. By the time the ball is thrown the ball to first, the batter has been standing on the base for about ten minutes. The parents then cheer as though the kid just hit a home run or performed a diving, backhanded grab followed by a searing throw to first that barely nabs the runner. But the really cool thing is that the parents cheer for all the kids, regardless of team. We just want to see them all succeed.

Kyra had some good hits off the tee, but even more impressive was her field play. She played the pitcher position in the first inning, and, as you can imagine, most of the hits come that way. She cleanly fielded everything that was hit to, and she followed those up with good throws to first base. She, like Kailey, did a great job of paying attention to the game, with no noticeable bug-chasing, dirt-diving, or nose-picking. Hey, your standards have to start somewhere. Great job, Kyra! I'm proud of my girls and can't wait until the next game day!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Losing My Faith in Humanity

Or perhaps I should say "lost", because people can really suck sometimes. Diane called me at work tonight at the tail end of the 5:00 newscast. I told her I'd call her back, wondering what would make her call me when she knew I was in a newscast. When I called her back twenty minutes later, after getting sidetracked by a couple of projects, I found out. "I think I lost my debit card," she confessed. Not good. She used it to buy coffee on her way into work this morning, and when she went to retrieve it sometime this afternoon, she couldn't find it. I told her I'd look into it and hung up. I was upset, but I also knew my getting mad wasn't going to help the situation, so I kept my mouth shut.

I logged on to our banking website to check on recent/pending transactions and found a mysterious one from today for $18.77. No merchant was listed, only an address. I wrote down the address and called Diane back, and she confirmed once again that the only money she spent today was the few dollars for coffee. At least it was Starbucks. I put on my detective hat, the Sherlock Holmes one where you can't figure out which side is the front and which is the back, and did a reverse address search online. The $18.77 had been spent at a Safeway grocery store on the other side of Tucson, a store that neither Diane or I have ever stepped foot in. Great. Then I called the bank and cancelled our debit cards. WTF!!!

Diane doesn't know if she left her card at Starbuck's or if it fell out of her wallet, but that doesn't matter to me. Mistakes happen. I know because I'm the King of them. But what's happened to human freakin' dignity? When did ours become such an opportunistic society, where people think they have the right to take advantage of others' misfortune? Just because I see a debit card lying on the ground doesn't give me free reign to a shopping spree! And it really pisses me off! Right now the damage is only $18.77, but I can guaran-frickin-tee the total will go up tomorrow when merchants have had a day to post their transactions. That's when the real damage will be done. I'm sure we won't be liable for all of it since I canceled the card in a timely manner (I hope), but that's not the point. These jerks will probably get off scot-free, and that pisses me off, too! I could rant on and on, but I'm going to stop here before I break a blood vessel in my head and seize right here on the floor.

I just wish people didn't suck so often.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A Little DAY Reading

When I was a teenager and into my early twenties, I was a huge Stephen King fan. I got this from my Mom, and everything of his she read, she passed down to me: Carrie, Salem's Lot, Cujo, Firestarter, The Shining, Pet Sematary, Misery, The Stand (my personal favorite), It (a close second), and various short stories of his. I stopped reading Stephen King for subliminal reasons back in college. During the winter of my freshman year at the University of Illinois, I read It, a story about a sewer-dwelling monster that manifest itself as a clown and lured kids to their deaths..."down here, they all float"...and it scared the hell out of me. The U of I has a series of steam tunnels linked to several steam vents peppered throughout the campus. I would walk home to my dorm in the wee hours of the morning after an evening of study in the library or in a classroom on campus, and have to pass several of these steam vents, all the while keeping a wary eye out for Pennywise the clown. After finishing the book, I guess I decided to take a break from Mr. King. Yes, I am that big of a wuss.

Last year, Diane and I were perusing the bargain table at Barnes & Noble when I came across King's "On Writing", his book about, well, writing. The book was priced right, something like $4.99 for a hard cover (apparently not too many people are interested in taking writing tips from Mr. King), and after thumbing through it and seeing that a good portion of it contained a mini-autobiography, I bought it. I was interested in discovering what went on in that demented mind of his. I wasn't disappointed. I breezed through the autobiographical section, then stalled during the "tools of the trade". I put the book down for a couple of months only to pick it back up and finish it about a month ago.

Although Stephen King is probably not the first person you'd think to go to for a lesson on writing, there's no denying that he's had a long, successful and lucrative career, and is therefore worth listening to. His no-nonsense approach to writing was refreshing and inspiring, and it was interesting to see him use his works as examples of his approach to writing.

On completing "On Writing", I decided it was time to end my Stephen King break for real and pick up one of his newer novels, and so I did. I was on a Target run one afternoon where I saw what I believe is his newest novel, Cell. Without any clue of what it was about, I grabbed it along with a couple of other books (John Berendt's City of Falling Angels and David Sedaris' Naked, both great reads), and headed for the checkout lanes. It seems like I can never get out of Target without dropping at least $100, but that's neither here nor there.

Yesterday afternoon, I started reading Cell after I dropped Kyra off at school, where I soon discovered that it is King's contribution to the "zombie" genre of horror stories. On October 1st at 3:00 pm of an unknown year, every user of a cell phone gets their minds turned to mush which causes them to go on a maniacal, homicidal rampage. By page 8, the people of Boston are attacking and chewing on each other, cars are crashing, planes are blowing up, and mass chaos ensues. The city of Boston is burning to the ground. Wide eyed, oh he just knifed that guy in the throat, I kept turning the pages because I needed to see what these people were going to do and how the crap they were going to get out of Boston. But I eventually had to put the book down because it was time to get the girls from school.

I returned to my book after we put the girls to bed. Diane had some work scheduling she needed to do on the computer, so I plopped down in our big comfy chair and began to read. The wind was howling last night and it beat upon the house as I read. Then the lights in the family room began to flicker. Did I mention that I'm a big wuss? Suddenly, the book that I had been able to read with little problem in the daylight had become much more sinister in the night. Our heroes were hunkered in the lobby of a hotel as night was falling and they kept hearing loud thumps from the floor above. Coincidentally, I kept hearing loud thumps from outside, and then the lights behind me began to flicker.
I began looking nervously over my shoulder until finally I decided that perhaps I should should give Cell a rest and just flip on the TV.

I wandered into the den where Diane was working instead. "He he he," I laughed nervously, "Perhaps that book is a good DAY book." Diane shot me a pathetic look. "These are not your normal, arms in the air, shuffle your feet zombies," I explained, trying to defend my honor and what was left of my masculinity. "These are quick, frickin' zombies that..." I rushed across the room, grabbed her shoulders, and began nibbling on her neck. She usually doesn't mind this routine except that this time the Hannibal Lecter, fava bean "pht pht pht pht" noise I made kind of freaked her out.

"Maybe you shouldn't read that book at all," she suggested, wild-eyed. Not a chance. I have to know what's going to happen, but I'll have to rebuild my tolerance for King. I'll start during the days for now and ease my way back into nights. But there's still one thing that's haunting me now. If I was nervous about the steam tunnels on the U of I campus twenty years ago, what the hell am I going to have to go through, what courage will I need to summon, to answer my cell phone every time it rings?

Monday, March 26, 2007

Building a Case for Worst Father of the Year

Recently, we've been having issues involving Kailey's decision making abilities when it comes to resolving conflict with her younger sister. Forsaking our constant reminders to "use her words" to settle issues, Kailey has chosen instead to pummel the crap out of Kyra, or at least that's what you'd think when you hear Kyra's horrified yowls from the other room. In reality, Kailey merely pushed, hit or kicked her out of frustration, but Kyra is such a sensitive soul that Kailey may as well have danced on her face. Still, pushing, hitting or kicking is not acceptable, and Diane and I set a course to put all such activity to an end.

Six months ago I seemed to find a solution. Time outs weren't working, and my spanking her for hitting her sister seemed to be a little inconsistent. One afternoon, totally exhausted after putting Kailey into time out for the umpteenth time for hitting her sister, I decided to give the "eye for an eye" solution a try. "The next time you hit your sister," I explained, "Your sister gets to hit you. Do you understand? Your sister gets a free shot. Then you'll know how it feels." Now I understand that there's inconsistency here as well, but at least it seemed more appropriate than me hitting her. I also explained to Kyra that it did not give her free reign to hit back; she was only to hit Kailey when I TOLD her to. Yeah, right. I was hoping that the mere threat would scare Kailey out of her hitting mode, and for a while, it did. But one day Kailey decided to test my threats, and I finally had to call her bluff. I called Kyra over after Kailey hit her in the arm and told her to hit Kailey back. Kyra is such a sweet girl that her idea of "hitting" was to give her a love tap on the arm. Kailey fell on the floor wailing and wrything in pain as though she had just taken a right hook to the kisser. Problem solved. After that, Kailey "used her words" or consulted Diane or me when Kyra was bugging her.

Last week though, Kailey relapsed into her old behavior and forced my hand to return to the "eye for an eye" technique (Super Nanny would be so proud). Yesterday after enduring two time outs and two threats of Kyra's retaliation, Kailey finally forced my hand. She had just kicked Kyra in the hand right in front of me, and I asked her if she wanted Kyra to kick her back. Kailey cast a defiant gaze at me. "Do you want Kyra to kick you?" I repeated, hoping she would back down. She didn't and gave me a nod. "OK, Kyra. Come here."

Now I was envisioning the love tap Kyra gave Kailey six months ago, but Kyra had apparently had enough of Kailey's bullying. Kailey was stretched out on her back across the chair and ottoman. Kyra walked up to her and, in a flash reminiscent of a ninja warrior, drew her leg up to her head and karate kicked down directly into Kailey's stomach. WHAM!! Kailey doubled over and started bawling.

"Holy crap!" I exclaimed, mortified. "Kyra, she kicked you IN THE HAND!!"

"You told me to kick her," she rationalized.

I had, indeed, told her to kick Kailey with no instruction as to where or how hard. She had me dead to rights. I sent her over to the couch and turned my attention to Kailey. Huge wet tears rolled down her face, and I suddenly felt like the world's biggest jerk. She was crying freely and I was surprised that Kyra's abdominal blow hadn't knocked the wind out of her. Kailey calmed down after a minute and I realized that the whole incident looked and sounded worse than it really was. It was at this point that I started laughing uncontrollably, which DID worsen the situation. It sent a mixed message to Kyra, who joined in my laughter, and to Kailey, who began crying harder. I collected myself and explained to the girls that there would be no more hitting, kicking, or pushing of any kind. They were also told not to tell their mother of this incident or they would be shipped to Siberia.

I later confessed my stupidity to Diane, and we agreed that if this didn't teach Kailey her lesson, nothing will. I know I learned mine: always give detailed instruction to a six year-old who is poised and ready to exact revenge upon her older sister.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

A $50 Toy Vs. a 70¢ Balloon

The balloon will win out every single stinkin', frickin' time. Diane gave me a task to fulfill on my way home from work for Kailey's birthday party on Wednesday: pick up some balloons. I stopped by a party store where they had a whole wall-full of balloons to choose from. It was a little overwhelming. I stood there staring at the wall for about ten minutes before someone came over and asked a really stupid question, "Do you need some balloons?" No, I'm making a mental sketch of every freakin' balloon on your wall so I can go home and construct exact duplicates in an attempt to avoid paying the exorbitant prices you people charge for a mylar balloon. Did I say that? No. I simply responded, "Yes, please."

"Are you having your party within the next eight hours?" she asked. I shot her a puzzled look. "The regular balloons only last eight hours after being inflated," she explained. Allll-righty then. I assured her that we would be partying as soon as I got home, roughly twenty minutes after she fulfilled my order. Satisfied, she scooted behind the counter and began rounding up balloons.

I bit the bullet and bought one of their $13 mylar balloons, an enormous heart-shaped "Happy Birthday" balloon that had four smaller stars branching off of it, along with a dozen regular ones of varying colors. The balloon lady filled them up while I settled the bill, and I went on my less-than-merry way. These party people are running a racket, and they know it. They also know that I'll be back to pay their ridiculous prices because they understand that the look on my child's face once she sees their balloons will make my suddenly lighter wallet worth while. And they're right. Kailey was ecstatic when she saw me walk through the door with my posse of balloons in tow.

We tied the balloons to her chair and proceeded with the birthday festivities: lunch, cake, and presents. Presents. The kid made a quite a haul in that department: dolls, art stuff, outdoor play gear, electronic gadget toys...enough stuff to keep her busy for a month. They did keep her busy for the day. But on Thursday, one guess as to what captivated her attention. Balloons.

True to the balloon lady's prediction, the regular ones wilted overnight. The girls cut the strings off of them and proceeded to bump and kick and swat them all over the house...for hours. It was maddening. What was worse is that they then had the audacity to argue over one balloon. And of course all of this happened while I tried to take a nap (I'm not lazy...I worked the early morning shift and had been up since 3:30). "THERE'S TWELVE BALLOONS AND I'LL BREAK EVERY LAST ONE OF THEM IF YOU CAN'T STOP FIGHTING OVER THE PEARLED BLUE ONE!!!" I threatened. They normally ignore my idle threats, but I must have sounded really angry because they relented...for about twenty minutes. Then, like a dog returns to its vomit, they returned to their folly. It's been a long couple of days.

The good thing about balloons is that they don't last long. By tomorrow they will have deflated enough that they'll need to be thrown away. Hopefully, Kailey will then return to play with the gifts we bought with our hard-earned money. If she doesn't they'll sit in her closet and collect dust with all of her other forgotten toys only to be remembered several years from now when we try to give them away to Goodwill or The Salvation Army. Then Kailey will petition and plead like mad to keep them. The headaches will begin all over again, all because of a 70 cent balloon.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

You Say It's Your Birthday...

Eight years ago today, my sister-in-law white-knuckled Diane and me to Overlake Hospital in Bellevue, WA for the birth of our first child, a girl. It was shortly after 1:00 am when Diane was blindsided by her REAL contractions prompting us to cram into the backseat of our '94 Olds Cutlass Supreme where we were rushed to the hospital by my pale-faced and sickly looking sister-in-law. Diane twisted and writhed in pain as I did my best to rub her back and legs in a vain attempt to comfort her. "HELP ME!!" She bellowed. "I AM!!" I retorted. I realized that she was in pain, but I was doing everything I learned in that stupid, useless lamaze class, and she didn't appreciate it. I think that the two of us screaming at each other did more to take her mind off the pain than any rubbing I could do. Debbie stepped on the gas.

We arrived at the hospital and were escorted to a room where Diane's first words were, "Epidural, please." Moments later, she received her epidural and was able to rest until it was officially time to push. Kailey was "pushed out", as she likes to say, roughly seven hours later. I remember everything like it was yesterday, and I can't believe that eight years have passed. Where did my baby go? She has grown into a beautiful, fun, creative, athletic, and hard-working little girl. We are so proud of you, Kailey. Happy Birthday.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Fathers, Do Not Exasperate Your Children!

My Dad loved to torture my brother and me when we were kids. Most kids love to wrestle with their dads, but we absolutely hated it because my Dad's idea of fun was pinning us to the floor and smothering us until we screamed bloody murder and pleaded for him to let us go. He thought this was great fun and would cackle with delight at our cries. "Jim," my Mom would plead, "Leave the boys alone." He would eventually let us go, but not until he was satisfied that we were truly hyperventilating and not just faking it. Whenever my brother and I saw that mischievous gleam in Dad's eye, we'd each try to throw the other in his direction in an attempt to make a clean getaway.

Now that I'm a Dad, I've learned my lesson...sort of. It might have been different if I had boys, but I don't. I still wrestle with the girls, but I'm always quick to remember those claustrophobic moments of my Dad pinning me to the floor. No, my torment of the girls has become more mental than physical. And I rationalize it. I figure they torment me for a majority of the day, so they can handle a few minutes of torment from me. Not to mention the fact that I just can't help myself. They hate it about as much as I hated becoming one with the green shag carpeting, but I just can't overcome the temptation. It's in my genes.

My favorite form of tormenting the girls goes like this. Every morning after we get up, the girls play for awhile and then they come find me.

"Daddy, I'm hungry."

"Well hello there, Hungry. My name's Daddy. It's good to meet you!"

"Nooooo, my TUMMY's hungry!"

"You named your tummy, Hungry? You're weird."


"I'm sorry, Hungry, I guess I just got a little confused."


"But you just told me that you were Hungry."

"I AM hungry!"

"Well make up your mind."

The same dialogue works for "thirsty", "hot", "cold", "tired", and pretty much any other adjective they use to describe themselves. If I'm in a merciful mood, I'll let them off the hook early. Most times I'm not. And all my fun will come to a screeching halt the day they finally learn to simply ask me for something to eat. I hope that day doesn't come soon. At least it's not as bad as eating carpeting.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Locks of "Love"

We're trying to be good parents, we really are. But sometimes our efforts to encourage our girls to become extraordinary people goes unappreciated. We try to do our best to model giving, and have enlisted their help in donating clothes and household items as well as doing things like buying toys for Angel Tree at Christmastime. I should also mention that our efforts in this regard are few and far between, which could explain the girls' underappreciation.

Kyra has a head of long, straight, thick blonde hair that stretches halfway down her back. Other than having the ends of it trimmed, Kyra's hair has never experienced a formal "haircut". I guess Diane had been thinking about getting Kyra's hair cut and styled, so she decided to discuss the option of donating her hair to Locks of Love. Diane explained that sometimes people get sick and the medicine sometimes makes their hair fall out. Locks of Love makes wigs for them to wear until their real hair grows back.

Kyra, normally a very compassionate and giving person by nature, let out a big sigh of disgust. "I already GAVE my clothes to the POOR."

I guess our giving is done for the year.

Saturday, March 17, 2007


Kailey's first softball game of the season was this afternoon and I missed it because I had to work. It's times like these that I hate my weird work schedule and the inflexible hours. As the girls get older, it will become increasingly difficult to attend all of their extracurricular activities. And this year has become a little crazier as the girls are now in different age divisions for softball. And so it begins: double the practices and double the games. And it will be this way until they're ready to fly the coop. I just don't want to become the "absent dad"; the dad who missed special events because of work. And I don't want the girls to think that my work is more important than them. It's not. My work is a paycheck, nothing more, nothing less.

Kailey called me after the game and told me all about it. Actually, I had to drag it out of her as I grilled her with a barrage of questions. "What position did you play? Did you catch any pop-ups? Were any grounders hit to you? Did you throw them out? Did you get any hits? Did you win? Did you have fun?" She played right-center field and second base over the course of the game, which warmed my heart because I played second through high school. She had no pop-ups and one grounder, and struck out in one at-bat...we'll work on that...and she didn't know if they won. I love that. Wins and losses will matter one day, but for now, I just want her to learn the game and have fun. She was bummed about the strike-out because, she said, "the girl pitched too fast." Kailey's a good hitter, and she'll make those pitchers pay as soon as she learns to lay off the high heat.

Before we hung up I told her that I loved her and that I was proud of her, and she seemed to be OK with that. Her next game is Monday night and I'll be there, cheering her on and shaking my head as she digs in the dirt and chases butterflies around the outfield. I can't wait.

Friday, March 16, 2007

My Cup Runneth Over

Last night we moved into our new home, or at least it felt like a new home since we haven't stayed there for the past two weeks, and the latest of our string of nightmares has come to an end. I'm thankful that we had a place to stay so that we were able to avoid running up an even huger water bill, but I'm even more thankful to be able to sleep in my own bed, shower in my own shower, and shi-nola in my own, er, shi-nola-er.
We were supposed to be back in our house on Wednesday night, but the plumbers extended the job into a two-day affair. To be fair, they had five guys call in sick due to a stomach virus that was running rampant through their offices, or so they said. If that's truly the case, then, by all means, please stay home. Keep your infectious diseases to yourselves, thank you very much.

Two guys showed up Wednesday morning to dig sixty feet of trenching in which they would lay the new pipe. One of the guys sounded like he had the plague. He'd move a couple of shovels full of dirt and then spend the next five minutes hacking and coughing and complaining that he couldn't stop hacking and coughing. The other guy had played in his first pickup basketball game in four years on Tuesday night and could barely move, and he did just that, barely moved. I sat there thinking that we were never going to get back into our house. I felt bad for these guys, but I really needed them to dig a frickin' ditch. At this point, head colds and achy muscles fell squarely into the category of "Not My Problem".

They persevered, and dug throughout the day. Not that speed mattered, because they still had to wait for the "Master Plummer" to show up to tie off the old connections and reconnect the new. He made an appearance at about 12:30 to assess the situation. He had another job to complete and told me that he'd be back in an hour to finish the job at our place. He returned two hours later. By that time, the trench was dug, and the health-challenged trench diggers had been sitting around for at least a half-hour with nothing to do. Shortly after the MP arrived, two more plumbing trucks pulled up in a desperate attempt to complete the job by the end of the day. We now had eight plumbers wandering around investigating the carnage that stretched across the west side of the house. I laughed as I announced to them that there was never a plumber around when you needed one. I was the only one laughing. Apparently, they'd heard that one before. Or they didn't speak English.

The MP reassessed the situation, then declared that this would probably be a good stopping point for the day. He needed about three hours to complete the job and he didn't want to leave us without water overnight. While I was a little disappointed at the realization that I would not be sleeping in my bed that night, I was OK with the decision. The girls were making their theatrical debut later in the evening, and I didn't want to miss it. So all the plumbers scrambled to their respective trucks and called it a day. They would return first thing in the morning to complete the job.

Their idea of "first thing" is different than mine. I arrived back at the house at 7:30 on Thursday morning, but the plumbers didn't arrive until 9:00. Must be nice. The MP then realized that he didn't have all the materials he needed to complete the job, so he left two guys to putz around at our place while he went on a quest for plumbing supplies. He obviously shops for all his plumbing needs in Mexico because he was gone for three hours. I needed to get to work (I had already taken Wednesday off), so I didn't witness the new line being installed. I wasn't very happy when I left because I had also been told that they should be done by noon. Shoulda-coulda-woulda. Fortunately, once the MP returned with all of the necessary materials, he was able to knock out the rest of the job in a brief period of time.

Diane called me at work at 2:00, and I answered my cell phone to the sound of running water. It was probably just in my head, but I swear I heard "The Hallelujah Chorus" blaring in accompaniment as well. Diane then got on the phone and told me in her sweet, sweet voice that I could come home. I felt all the anxiety and frustration lift from my shoulders. I could go home to my bed. Go home to my stuff. It's great to be home.


Locating a water main leak under your driveway: $275.

Hiring a series of plumbers to replace water main: $1787.

Settling the corresponding water bill: $1000.

Sleeping in your own bed: priceless.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

My New Life Calling

This experience with the broken water main has opened up a whole new realm of possibilities for me, and I now know what I want to do with the second half of my life. I'm going to become a master plumber. Not a mere plumber or a plumber's assistant, because those guys really have to work their butts off. They're the ones who get stuck with the crap jobs, spending hours digging trenches, cutting out dry wall, or plunging turd-filled toilets. Blech! They do all the dirty grunt work getting the site prepped, but then the master plumber comes swooping in to save the day and hog all the glory! He, or she, is the one who can make the connection. They cut out the old pipe and solder in the new. When the master plumber finishes the job, leaks stop dead in their tracks, toilets flush, and faucets flow with crystal clear, life-sustaining water. And they make a butt-load of money. Oh, and they show up on the job whenever they want, which is OK because once they finish the job, the clients are so thankful to have flushing toilets and flowing water that they forget how pissed they were over how long it took for the job to get done in the first place. Being a master plumber is the bomb. I'm not even going to mess around being an apprentice. I'm going straight to the top, 'cause that's where it's at! Master Plumbers...their crap don't stink!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Bridge Over Troublesome Water

That's what our driveway has become. I received our water bill yesterday, and I just about dropped a load even though I knew it was coming. Actually seeing it printed in black and white was a sobering experience. In our previous billing period we used 6,000 gallons of water for a total bill of $48.48. This billing period, thanks to the flowing river under my driveway, we "used" 105,500 gallons of water for a total of $1004.64. The water company even includes a handy little bar graph on the back of the bill to give you a visual representation of your water usage. Ours was almost literally off the chart.

I called the water company to see how much of that bill we were liable for. I explained the situation to the customer service rep and she asked for my account number in a classic, monotone customer service voice. I gave it to her and she asked me to hold while she located our account. After several seconds of silence, I heard her gasp, "OH MY!!" She apparently found the right account. She was very helpful, but the news was not good. I qualified for a $720 credit that they would apply to our account AFTER our next bill. Basically, they want to see that the problem has been corrected before applying the credit. So we still need to pay the $1000 bill this month, and after that, we won't need to pay a water bill until roughly 2026.

The next question of the day: where did 105,500 gallons of water go? And equally perplexing is the thought of what kind of cavernous expanse lies beneath my driveway. So many questions, very few answers.

Friday, March 09, 2007

The Blue WHAT?

Kailey left softball practice last week with an assignment: to brainstorm potential team names that would correspond with their team color, royal blue. They would then gather at the next practice, share their ideas, and take a vote. Kailey's brainstorming took on more of an ethereal bent: Blue Skies, Blue Moon, etc.

The girls huddled at the end of their practice Wednesday night to settle the issue of the team name, and their coach encouraged them to share their ideas.

"Blue Birds!"

"Blue Tigers!"

"Blue Bandits!"

"I know," cried the coach's seven year-old son, a clever young lad, "THE BLUE BALLS!"

After the adults picked themselves up off the ground, the girls took their vote and settled on the Blue Bandits. But we all know what the real, unspoken name of the Blue Bandits is. I can tell you without a doubt what will be going through every parent's head each and every time they hear a "Blue Bandits" cheer:

Gooooooooo BLUE BALLS!!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

...And Into the Fire

It's been one week and $750 since we first discovered the leak/break/rupture in our water main, and we are not much closer to having it fixed. Diane arranged for a plumber to come out early Monday morning, and she was assured that he would be able to locate the break, dig it up, and fix it that day. I met him at the house at 8:00 am, briefed him on the situtation, and he went to work. Most of his work entailed head-scratching. He'd never seen a set-up like ours and told us we needed to hire a leak detection business to locate the leak. That'll be $140 please.

I called the leak detectors, whom up until Monday morning I never knew existed, and arranged an appointment for Tuesday afternoon. He came out and spent the first 15 minutes scratching his head: he'd never seen a set-up like ours. I was beginning to notice a theme. He finally hooked up his contraption through our water heater where he forced air through our plumbing system. He then went through a process of turning the air on and turning the air off, followed by turning the the water on and turning the water off, interspersed with times of plopping down what can only be described as a giant stethoscope on the ground and listening for bubbling sounds. This process went on for the better part of an hour. The problem was that he was looking for the logical route that the water line should take. He eventually deviated from that route and quickly detected the leak...under the sidewalk at the foot of our driveway. He created a duct tape "X" at the site of the breach. That'll be $275 dollars please.

I still didn't know the route of the main line or the definitive point at which it tied into the house. So Wednesday morning the plumbers returned, two of them this time, the owner and his son, and traced the line. They disconnected the water main at the water meter and fed fishing wire into the main until it stopped. They then used a metal detector to trace the line. Their findings left all three of us scratching our heads: we'd never seen anything like this before. The line tied in near the northeast corner of the house. The main shutoff valve is located in the garage on the southwest side of the house. The water meter is located on the northeast corner of our property and there is a three-car driveway separating the water meter and the tie-in point. You can see where this is going.

The pipe used for the main line is a blue, plyable polyeurothane that has since been outlawed due to its propensity towards leakage. That coupled with the fact that the break was buried under 6 to 8 inches of concrete left leak repair out of the question. The whole line needs to be replaced. I asked the plumbers to write up an estimate. For some reason, hmmmm, they were reluctant to run a new line along the west side of the house and tie into the main shut-off at the back of the garage. They thought the best thing to do would be to tie into the original location on the northeast corner of the house. This meant cutting through 28 feet of driveway concrete. Estimate: $3100. I told them I had their number. Oh, and by the way, that'll be $237 for today's visit. I'm in the wrong line of work.

I jumped on the phone and began calling other plumbing companies to come out and submit estimates on the job. The first came out this morning, and, after being shown all of the details, was quick to tell us that his company had done a lot of work in our neighborhood, but he had never seen a set-up like ours before. Thankfully, he had no problem suggesting running a line up the west side of the house. Estimate: $ of charge. I never thought I'd be so relieved to spend $1300 on plumbing in all my life. So hopefully we'll have water early next week. We'll see.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Out of the Blue...III



"What do you call the person who gives you an X-ray?"

"An X-ray Technician?"

"Yeah...I think I need to go see an X-ray technician because my leg hurts."

"I'll get right on that."

Friday, March 02, 2007

Out of the Blue...II

Diane and the girls were having dinner out with her parents one night last week, and one of the keys to enjoying a pleasant dinner in a restaurant, as any parent with young children knows, is keeping the kids occupied. Diane sometimes carries around this gargantuan purse, and on this particular evening was content to allow Kyra to root around in it to give her something to do. They were talking and eating and talking when Kyra spoke up:

"Mommy, what's this?"

Diane turned to see Kyra holding a certain feminine hygiene product. Diane paused, then replied, "I'll explain it to you when you're older."

Kyra contemplated this for a moment. She doesn't like to get blown off. When she believed she had it figured out, she shook the white wrapped product in Diane's face.

"Mommy, are you smoking CIGARETTES?"

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Out of the Frying Pan...

Remember how I said I needed a vacation? I now won't be able to afford one anytime in the near future. Two weeks ago, it was new tires for the van, this week it's a new hard drive for my computer. Next week is going to be much, much worse.

This afternoon I was standing in the control room at work when my cell phone rang. I'm normally alone in the control room, but today it was full of people. It's been full of people for the past two weeks. The station is in process of installing a new system and they're having troubles working out all the kinks. OK, that's a lie. They can't get the frickin' thing to work at all. And this week they brought in a trainer to train us on this new system that doesn't work. So as my cell phone rang, I was standing in a group of about ten people all of whom were staring at a computer screen and scratching their heads. The phone call was a merciful reprieve from this torture, so I excused myself. It was Diane.

"Hey hon," she sounded harried.

"Hey. What's up?"

"We have no water. I tried several faucets and none of them work," she explained. Why does this crap ALWAYS happen when I'm at work and can't do a THING about it.

"Well, the only thing I can think of to do is to call the water company and see if they know anything."


We hung up and I returned to my head scratching (as if I would have anything to contribute to the flex capacitor problem). A minute later my cell phone rang again.

"There was a note on the door. It says 'Overuse Investigation'."

What the heck?! Did the H2O Gestapo come and shut down our water because I like to linger in the shower? "Well, Hon, what do you want me to do? Did you call the water company?" I know I wasn't helping the situation, but I was frustrated not to be there to handle it.

"No. I just thought you'd want to know what was going on!" She was annoyed at me, and rightly so. Sorry hon. So we hung up again, and I awaited her next report. It was so not good.

As it stands right now, we have a $1,000.00 water bill. Yes, you read that right. ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS. I can think of roughly one thousand things I'd rather do with one thousand dollars than pay a freakin' water bill. The water company came and read our meter on Tuesday, and when they calculated our bill and realized the magnitude of our water usage, obviously a broken pipe of sorts, they sent someone out to stop the hemorrhaging. Diane's dad came out to the house (thank goodness) to help her isolate the problem, and it looks like we have a broken pipe between the main shut off valve on the street and the shut off valve to the house. Can someone explain to me the deal with broken pipes and my house?!? It's only thirteen years old!! And there's no physical evidence of a broken pipe: no puddles, no mud, no mushy ground, no water running into the street; absolutely nothing to warn us of a potential problem. It's so frustrating!!

So my in-laws gave Diane the name of a plumbing company they've used and trust. She gave them a call, but they can't get to our place until Monday. I'd much rather wait a couple of days on someone who can be trusted than to rush in and hire someone who will stick it to us. Have you ever been screwed by a plumber? Wait. Don't answer that. I really don't want to know.

For now, we're bunking at my in-laws (thanks guys), and I'm working on a fund-raiser, probably something along the lines of setting up my open guitar case on a corner and performing some choice Art Garfunkel tunes. I may even debut the "Rodeo Days" song. I'm going to need to raise some major cash because my next stroke of fortune will probably be my house collapsing into the sinkhole that was created by a month of gushing water. That would be just my luck.


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