Friday, June 22, 2012

When the going gets tough, the tough break out the old world methods.

 So, in the suburban family life files, living on one income with the kids, house, and dog, we've finally entered into large appliance maintenance hell. This is when you have to pay hundreds of dollars on fixing old appliances and cars because you cannot afford to buy new ones, but you can't exactly afford to fix the old thing either.

Today's crisis involved the clothes dryer.

After ten years and living through four household moves, the heating thing-a-ma-jig and the motor finally gave out. So, spousal arguments ensued between the idea of spending money to fix the damn thing or to buy the cheapest new dryer out there and hope it's not a lemon. The former option would at least give us a few more years of use until I found more paying work and could afford an upgrade to a better dryer. The latter option might have us buying another one in a few years anyway. The math of fixing vs buying gave me a headache, but the bottom line was, either way most of it was going on the credit card.

So, I called the repair guy. Unfortunately, I've already developed a fine working relationship with the repair guy over the washer and the oven. His name is Jose.

Jose arrived and took the thing apart. As it was laid out on the floor of the hallway that I refer to as my laundry room, Jose showed me the motor and the drum, which were both in obvious decay.

On his way into the garage to find the gas line, Jose noted that we had a “pony bike.” This is a child sized, but very real motorcycle. It looked like a miniature Kawasaki. This was not the subtle and cute European motorbikes that go about ten miles an hour. This was an actual, mini road chopper. It was a bad idea when they made these things. I mean, really -- little kids on real motorcycles, speeding along at 50 mph? And it was an even worse idea when my husband found and bought this one at a garage sale for $40. 

The boy can learn to ride it to school!” he said, referring to our 7 year old son.

I don't think so,” I said.

It languished in the back of our garage for two years, until Jose spied it.

Ah, you have a pony bike!” he informed me, excitedly.

Yes, we've only used it once.” I said.

They don't make those anymore.”

I gave him a sideways look. He was enthused.

Do you want it?” I asked him.


Yeah, are you interested in making a trade?”

He stared at me for a minute. This concept was foreign to him.

Let me interject here that I live on a somewhat affluent street in a somewhat affluent neighborhood in the most affluent county in my state. People don't generally bicker with gardeners and repairmen over a couple hundred dollars.

I drive an old grey mini-van and have no flowering shrubs in my yard. I wear solid color shirts and capri pants a lot. I appear to most as a rather uninspired middle class, conservative mom. These people don't know me very well.

The back story is longer than I'd prefer to go into here, but I will say that I don't have a job at the moment and am trying to write a novel. . . and that I am the descendent of Armenian merchants and traders. I grew up seeing some of the best hagglers in the world in action, namely, my mother and grandmothers. Over the years, my negotiating abilities might have waned a bit, but when the chips are down, we revert to our ancestry. 
Yeah,” I said. “I'll trade you your labor costs for the bike.”

I knew Jose was a one-man shop. He didn't know what to make of this offer. He was still staring at me, doing the math in his head. Brand new, those pony bikes cost around $700. He charged about $60 per hour labor and would be here more than two hours doing the work.

You order the parts direct?” he asked.

Done.” I said and held out my hand for him to shake – the old world way. 

Now, the dryer works, my credit is good, and the bike is out of my garage.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Last Day of School Rain

My son looked out the window just now and said, "I'm so depressed!"

He has a good reason.

It is the last day of school. A half day. First day of summer. . . . and it's raining.

The big plan was to get everyone out to the playground near us that is made entirely of old tires. It's a pretty cool place. The girl scout troop and other friends were all coming and now?

Guess, what? They are coming to MY HOUSE instead.

and now, the boy says, "What a rip off!"

 . . . out of the mouths' of babes.

Monday, June 11, 2012

And this is why you should not take Garine camping

Nobody in their right mind would ask me to go camping with them.  . . And this is why many of my best friends, my husband and various scouting groups have done just that. I would not love you if you were not a little bit nuts.

This particular camping weekend was instigated my those pesky Cub Scouts that are always tying knots, waving around pocket knives, and pushing caramel popcorn at you, i.e. my son. 

In keeping with the Isassi activity theme of "rain-will-follow-you-everywhere," there was a tornado watch and warning on the eve of our trip. This cleaned out the campsite of any debris and other various camping wimps. 

We arrived in the morning to a sparkling campsite and blue skies.  We also arrived very late for the mandatory cub guided hike had left already - bad camper moment #One. 

My husband, the allknowing camper who never allows us to forget that he used to "wilderness camp" in the scrub mountains of northern Mexico with nothing but a bottle of Vodka, one match, and a pocket knife, headed up our family hike - not via the wide and luxurious path taken by the scouts, but "Orange Trail"  - marked as such for avid hikers.  This path included scaling large boulders and tripping over smaller ones.  My kids, as mountain goats are called sometimes, had no problem with this. I, on the other hand, had somewhat of a problem with this. I wound up as the baby sister left behind, serially calling out, "Hey, guys! Wait for me!" as they disappeared around a bend.

Eventually, we arrived at a beautiful waterfall called Cunningham Falls. The sign said that people should not attempt to climb the rocks around the falls. As you can see from the photo here, nobody heeded that warning.  

My daughters flung off their shoes the second we arrived, saying they wanted to use their toes as God intended -- to hang on to the side of rocks for dear life. I said, "Don't come crying to me when you cut your feet and lie bleeding to death in the killer babbling brook!"

They, in their bare feet, waded across the creek. Me, in my sneakers and socks, tried to pick and hop my way across. I made it . . . sort of.

That is actually me standing in the middle of the above photo. You are not close enough to see that I am holding a sopping wet pair of sneakers and soggy, white socks. The only sneakers and socks I had brought with me on the camping trip. Bad camper moment #Two. 

The air was warm. The sky was sunny. The water was cool. 

After some splashing and climbing and sunning and dipping, we headed back to the legal side of the creek. The kids found their dry shoes, slipping them on easily before returning to the forest. I rolled on my wet socks and shoes and made squish noises all the way back to the campsite. 

Once back, we started up a fire for dinner. I had one of my scathingly brilliant ideas! I put my socks on the fire ring to dry. They were far from the actual fire. They would be dry in a flash and I would have warmth for my feet when night fell and it got cold out. This turned out to be bad camper moment #'s Three through Ten:

My socks caught on fire!
I pulled them off the ring, beating them on the ground, since I could not stomp on them in my bare feet. My family watched with their mouths hanging open. Then, they laughed at me. 

I had to call to another scout mom to beg for socks to rescue my chilly tootsies. Good thing we have cell phones for these emergencies.