February 26, 2007

SO, after a night spent...

...clinging to the tiniest sliver of mattress whilst wife and youngest child snuggled up on the remaining 9/10s of the bed, I was up early Saturday and ready to face the day ahead of me!

Not really.

I was up early, but only enough to get Reba woken up. The three oldest kids had a service project thing at church at 9:00 and she had agreed to take them. Which I thought would be nice because I could sleep later and then get up and do laundry and work on the car and Cat could go do whatever.

Such is what I get for thinking.

After a night spent unrestfully, and then several rude rousings gotten by having my eyes poked out by an errant finger belonging to my child, I was a bit late getting out of the sack. I wanted to get out, knew I should get out, but just couldn't get my legs and head to get me out. SO I got to sleep late and feel guilty about it.

BUT, up I got, finally, and got dressed and started getting the clothes together. And then I decided I'd get the sheets off the beds. And then I began to find huge varieties of clothing articles in various hidey places in the children's rooms. The task grew and grew and grew until I was full into a wholesale cleaning and renovation project, all the while someone kept asking for breakfast.

The net result? TWO AND ONE HALF HOURS LATER, I finally was able to get the first load of clothes started.

Then, the next chore. The Focus has started running weird again, and so I promised I'd take it out and see if I could figure out what was wrong with it, and go down to the parts place and get them to reset the Check Engine light. And get someone some fast-food breakfast since it was now lunchtime.

But first?

Have to clean out the car seats. Oldest is quite the slob. Books, papers, junk, scattered all over the interior, much like it is in her room. So Cat and I neatened it up a bit, THEN took it out for a drive.

Whoa. It was running rough right from the start, and it didn't get any better. And the Check Engine light wasn't on. So, not any good excuse for driving it down to the foot of the hill, when it was obvious something else needed to be done to it, and whatever it was, it was finally beyond my abilities to figure out what was wrong with it. I suspect there's still dirt in the tank, but I needed to take it to a real mechanic and let them fool with it.

Turned around and went back to the house.

"But Daddy, what about breakfast?"

Persistent little cuss, she is.

We parked and got in the Volvo and hopped back down the hill for a stop at Sonic. I'd intended for us to eat there, but as soon as we'd gotten our food, someone called me. "We're home--where are you?"

Avoiding work, that's where.

Packed up our food and went up to the house, got filled in on some of the juicy gossip that comes from having your wife spend three hours up at the church building on a Saturday, and then started my NEXT chore.

No, silly--nothing to do with changing the oil in the Volvo and doing stuff like that.


Rebecca had volunteered me to help her three-member group video a little skit for a product they had to come up with for their science class. They're studying simple machines and had to figure out a product using a screw that could be sold in stores. They hatched an idea for a pad of stationery held together with screws.


Anyway, they were supposed to make an ad for it, and so the group was to meet at the library. With me. And my camera. SO, off Rebecca and I go.

Sat outside on the bench and waited.

"You know, Rebecca, they probably wouldn't want you doing this in the library, since it requires us to make noise and stuff."

"Hmm. I don't know."

"What do you do in your commercial?"

"Well, we have a cell phone that rings and we answer it and then it rings again and then we write down the number and..."

I pointed to the door with the sticker that said "Cell Phones Not Allowed In Library."


"Maybe we could use a room in the community center," I said.

Maybe so.

We waited some more and chatted. The other two girls showed up with their moms, and I explained filming in the library might be dicey and so I took the girls next door, asked the office lady if we could use a room, and she kindly offered us the big room with the stage. Cool!

Took about thirty minutes overall, and they had their stuff pretty well figured out. We did a little set dressing with a chair and table and potted plant that were on the stage, had a couple of run-throughs to figure out their lines and scenes and camera positions, and wound up with a really cute 30 second bit. Not a lot about how the humble inclined-plan-wrapped-around-a-cylinder played into the product or its advertisement, but it was still cute.

And best of all, I finally got to meet one of Rebecca's bestest friends.

She really likes her, mainly because the girl is nice, and nice to everyone, and likes school, and likes to study, and is smart as a whip. Her family immigrated from Venezuela last year, and she came into the 7th Grade not knowing more than a smattering of English. But due to the force of her own bubbly personality and intelligence, she seems to have adjusted better than any kid should have a right to, and now speaks perfectly idiomatic American (as well as standard English) with a fluency that is better than about 98% of the kids she goes to school with. Just a super sweet girl, and pretty as a peach, and full of mischief. She'll go very, very far. And I'm glad she enjoys being around Rebecca--I think it's helped her open up a bit this year from being so incredibly quiet. A lot of the kids bother Rebecca because they want her to talk, and it embarrasses her when they keep egging her on to talk. But her little dark-eyed friend just accepts her and jabbers away enough for both of them and makes Bec feel as much a part of her family as ours. (Because Rebecca is VERY outgoing at home and rarely shuts up for more than a second or two. Which none of her school friends believe.)

Anyway, it all was great fun, and I hope they get a good grade. (Or at least their director/cinematographer does.)


Cell phone shopping!


Rebecca has been needing a phone for these soccer practice afternoons--she usually borrows someone's to call, and it's getting embarrassing for her. Resisting the urge to dust off our old giant bag phone, I agreed to take her to the store and see what there was in the way of prepaid phones like the Tracfone I've been using.

And there is another tale--Oldest has been using hers as if she thinks minutes are free. Which, in fairness, to her they are, seeing as how all she does is complain about being out of minutes and they magically appear on her phone. The idea that she'd use it only for emergencies was delusional on the face of it, since she has no idea what that means (i.e. "only"), and to her, everything is an emergency.

AND ANOTHER THING, Reba likes to talk on her phone, which again was supposed to be for minimal usage. She is supposed to have 300 monthly minutes, which she can gab up in about two weeks or less. Those overage minutes are expensive, let me tell you.

SO BASICALLY, I've got gabby people who won't shut up their incessant yammering, and it's expensive, to boot. And here I was wanting to get another one a phone.


Maybe it's time to change plans.

So, I gathered up Rebecca and we went to the Verizon store (since that's what Reba's phone is) and I figured out that the deal where your family shares a pool of minutes (and call each other for free) was the only thing that made sense. But that wouldn't stop me from shopping.

Went on to the Cingular store (which would have the benefit of allowing Oldest to call #6 for free since that's what his family uses) and found that although the price was the same, the lady wasn't much interested in selling us phones, or service, or much of anything. I've heard of the soft sell, but this was downright apathy.

"Do you have x?"

"No, not really."

"Can I have brochure with y?"

"Mm. Yeah."

"How much are these?"

"Uhh, they aren't bad."

Thanks, Cingular! I figured that it was going to be more expensive (maybe I'm wrong) since we'd have to pay new activation fees for all the phones, and buy four phones instead of three (since I'd now decided I wanted to get in on the deal) and the girl wasn't interested in helping me find a cheap phone, and only wanted to sell me the $50-with-rebate jobs.

Walked out with the intention of going up to Wal-mart and see what they had.

"I need to go to the bathroom."

"Well, I suppose we could go to Target and..."

"But they don't have a lot of phone choices."

"I thought you had to pee!"

"Well, the other--but I don't want to go to Target."


Like her mother, she is.

Then I remembered that we had a brand new Circuit City up the road beside Target, so that seemed to satisfy both her need to look at phones AND make use of the privy.

We looked, and I did some more pseudo-mathematics in my head trying to figure out the least expensive alternative, and then remembered that while I was out, I needed to get a battery for Reba's phone because it will only hold a charge for about a day.

"Rebecca, let's do this--let's got get Mom's cell phone, go back to the Verizon store, and get a battery for it, and then sign up for that plan they showed me before."


Back to home, parked, opened the garage door, and...

No van.


I bet there's a load of clothes that hasn't been finished, too.

Walked in, found the place pretty much as I'd left it. Took clothes out of the dryer, put clothes in the dryer, put clothes in the washer. Found that Oldest was still home--"HEY! Where'd Mom go!?" I yelled up the stairs

"TARGET!" came the yell back down.

"When'd she leave!?"



So, if I'd just gone on to Target, I probably would have seen her.

Tried to call her on her cell phone, and obviously, couldn't get her.

"Come on, Bec."

Off again to Target, where by the sheerest of lucky chances managed to see her as she was leaving and got her to pull into the side parking lot where I could wrest her phone away from her and hear about the fratricidal combat that had prompted her to wrestle Cat and Boy into the van for a trip to the store where they COULDN'T GET ANYTHING!!

Such a horrible punishment!

Parted ways, went back to the Verizon store.

Showed them the phone.

"Uh--whew. Hmm. Well, let's see."

The younger guy was looking at it and trying to figure out from what Pre-Cambrian layer I'd retrieved the relic. He asked the older guy if they had any batteries for this fossil.

"Whew! Well, I might have an old battery out in my car that would fit it."

That was when I found out that it was so old that a new battery would cost as much as four cheap new phones that are only four weeks obsolete! No use buying an old used battery, and a new phone would have the benefit of being able to be located via GPS should one of us plunge off a cliff somewhere in Mongolia or Montgomery.


It's only money.

Started to work on the plan, and let them know I wasn't that fond of having to pay MORE fees for activation, so they worked a deal with me and after much wrangling and signing, we've got four new phones that have all the features the kids like--mainly, the ability to flip open. No camera, no nothing else, really. And no texting. Which, when Oldest found out about it, she was incensed. Good. The last thing I need is her getting caught texting someone so she can cheat on a test. Not that I would ever suspect her of such nefariousness.

At least now the calls back and forth to Miss Reba and me and Oldest and Miss Reba and Rebecca and Miss Reba and me and Oldest and Rebecca are free. Probably going to pay more per month, but at least there will be some actual utility to it.

Or not.

Anyway, that was Saturday. Along with more clothes folding and washing. But not the completion of same.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at February 26, 2007 12:20 PM

Dang, I wish I could have advised before you upgraded phones. I discovered almost by accident, that most Cingular stores are franchises and only a few are actually "company" stores. I do my business through a company store where the service is remarkable, completely unlike most of the franchise outfits with apathetic or uninformed staff.

Cell phone shopping/buying is a trying effort though and to stressful for nearly anyone.

Posted by: Nate at February 26, 2007 01:07 PM

Your experience with Cingular is typical of their customer service - you're better off anywhere else.

Out of curiosity - are the phones incapable of texting, or is it just that texting not included as part of the plan? If it's the latter, and Oldest figures out she can text, you may be in for huge charges.

Posted by: Diane at February 26, 2007 01:09 PM

You are right, there, Nate. I'm basically going on faith that the guy was shooting me straight. I think he was a standup fellow, though.

AND AS FOR TEXTING, yes, Diane, the phones will text, but I had text block put on all the phones. We can always unblock it if I find a need to spend 10 cents to tell someone hihowru, but I don't anticipate it. Texting isn't free among family members, and it's a dime per, plus airtime.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at February 26, 2007 01:30 PM