Sunday, February 28, 2016

And the winner is...

It didn't take long to figure out what was next in the replacement line. Our vacuum cleaner died today. I'm not sure it died as much as it just figured it was time to surrender. We bought the vacuum cleaner before Holly came to live with us. I'm not sure the machine was ever able to handle the amazing quantity of dog hair Holly sheds daily. We often say that Holly sheds a small Chihuahua daily.

We didn't have time to do a lot of research. We really cannot go more than a day without vacuuming the house. We found a decent vacuum cleaner meant to handle dog hair. We brought it home, tried it out and threw away the box. 

My money was on the hot water heater going out. The vacuum cleaner wasn't even on my replacement radar.I suppose it should have been. Any machine that worked as hard as our vacuum cleaner did really should have been a top candidate.

I'd like to think we're done for the year, but I'm feel like that's just wishful thinking. I guess I'll just cross my fingers and toes. It always works, right?

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Everything breaks down

If there is going to be a theme for 2016, it will be "everything breaks down." First our washing machine died during winter break. We were so busy that we decided not to even look for one until after the holiday entertaining was done. We spent a lot of time at Grammie's doing laundry there.

Our furnace broke two weeks ago during a cold spell. It was a long process, but in the end Bill was able to fix it. The day after the furnace was fixed, Daddy said, "Is the dishwasher done already?" The answer was that it was not done cleaning our dishes. It was broken.

Today as I watched the very nice appliance installer tell us about our new dishwasher's features, I did wonder what might break next. Then I crossed my fingers that we were done for 2016. Our bank account needs a few months to recover from the last two months.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Heat is overrated

Our house was built at a time when insulation was an afterthought. We're often cold in one room and warm in another. This winter our furnace has seemed to really struggle when temperature fell below zero.

During the last sub-zero blast, I kept saying it was cold in our house during the day. The furnace struggled to get to 70. I worked with multiple layers on under a blanket. I was really cold. We talked about having our HVAC guy come out to look at the furnace. 

Last week the cold snap arrived. Our house was cold. We called our HVAC contractor. He came out and said he needed to get a part, so he'd be back the next day. It was barely 60 downstairs when we went to sleep. The second floor was even colder.

The contractor came back the next day and fixed part of the problem. He still had to figure out another part of the problem. We had heat, but now the fan wouldn't turn off. He put a call into the manufacturer and was waiting to hear back from them about the fan problem.

At one point we had the HVAC repairman in the basement while the city dug up our driveway to fix a water main leak. I was talking to a neighbor about the water main leak. Shortly after I told her the story about our furnace, her husband came by with two space heaters to keep us warm. Between our fireplace and his space heaters, the house was finally a decent temperature.

From Monday until Friday our HVAC contractor spent several hours a day at our house trying to figure out what was wrong. When he left Friday he was defeated. He kept apologizing that he couldn't figure out the problem. 

Late Friday night he called. He had one more thing to try. He was coming back Saturday morning to test his latest theory. Within minutes he fixed the problem. The furnace turned off and on. When it was not running the silence seemed so loud. After nearly a week of listening to the fan run constantly, we just enjoyed the peace and quiet -- and the heat.

It was a long week, but in the end our contractor figured out the problem. He felt good when he left our house Saturday morning. He finally figure out the puzzle and we finally had a functional furnace again.We could all bask in the warmth that only a working furnace could provide.

Monday, February 8, 2016

The adventure begins long before the passport is issued

This was originally posted on The Chicago Moms.

The item showed up on Facebook feeds before we saw it on the news. It said that Illinois driver’s licenses and state IDs were no longer federally compliant for airline travel. This meant that TSA could require additional security measures before allowing Illinois residents to board an airplane. The measures could range from additional identification to a pat-down to a private conversation in an office. The way to avoid these additional measures was to get passports.
Our daughters are twelve years old. We have had Illinois identification cards for them since they were six. Now we had to decide if we were going to take our chances with their ID cards or go ahead and get passports. The thought of having our girls endure a pat-down or office interrogation was so disturbing that we decided to get passports. We knew we had at least one family event that might require us to board a plane in 2016. We didn’t want to wait and see what TSA decided for fear that we would run up against travel deadlines. We made plans to get our girls’ passports.

If you haven’t gotten a passport for someone under 18 years old, let’s just say it’s a process. You have to bring a certified birth certificate as evidence of the child’s U.S. citizenship, both parents, the child, evidence of the child’s relationship to the parents/guardians, and parent/guardian government-issued identification. In addition to the paperwork, you need two small photos. We took our girls to get their passport photos. It was fairly easy, even though there are a lot of rules about what the photo needs to show. We paid $25 and ended up with two images each.

With all our stuff and everyone needed to complete the process, we ended up at the Western Springs post office on a Saturday morning. We waited patiently in line until it was our turn. When we walked in the door there was one clerk helping a woman who appeared to be paying in coins. Eventually JL came to the counter and asked if he could help us. We explained that we were there to get passports for our children. JL replied, “We don’t do passports after 11:00 a.m. on Saturdays.” We protested that it was 11:05 a.m. and we had been waiting in line since before 11:00 a.m. JL said it was past time and no one would help us. We were angry as we left the post office. No one was in line behind us. We had been waiting since before the cut-off time, but no one would help us.

Our next attempt to obtain a passport took us to the Bridgeview post office on a Wednesday afternoon. We took time off work with the hope that we could get it done more quickly on a weekday than on a weekend. All four of us stood in line while the clerks helped people with their mailings. When we made it to the front of the line, we found ourselves waiting behind a young man who seemed confused by the options. We spent nearly 30 minutes behind him as he went back and forth. Should he get both the passport book and the card? Just the book? When might he need the card? Should he pay the extra fee to expedite? He didn’t have travel plans, but he might want to just go somewhere. Was it worth the extra money to expedite?

By the time we made it to the front we were exhausted and we hadn’t even started yet. Lisa went through our papers carefully, often asking the same question more than once. Our girls stood around trying to be patient, but it was a long wait followed by a long process. We were all bundled in our winter gear, so everyone was overheating. We started taking off layers, which meant we were standing around holding all our stuff. At one point Lisa said she needed to talk to our daughters. She looked at one application, asked our daughter her name and birth date. She confirmed that her hair and eye color matched what we wrote on the application. She moved on to the next daughter, asked the same questions and finalized the paperwork.

We started writing checks to cover the fees. First we wrote two separate $95 checks to the U.S. State Department. Second we wrote a $50 check to cover the U.S. Post Office’s “handling” fees. At one point I overheard another clerk suggest that his customer applying for a passport should send the paperwork via registered mail. He said that they had issues getting the paperwork to the U.S. State Department. I snickered at the irony of a U.S. Post Office employee telling a customer that they couldn’t guarantee the passport application would arrive without tracking. We were paying $25 per passport for a handling fee, and postage to mail the documents, yet the clerk wasn’t confident that the U.S. Post Office could get the envelop to the correct address.

Nearly $300 later and many lost hours, our daughters’ passports were in progress.

Of course our girls’ passports were probably not at the U.S. State Department yet when another news report started showing up on Facebook. Yes, You Can Fly With An Illinois Driver’s License: Getting Real On REAL ID meant all our work was for nothing. We could have avoided three days of frustration gathering documents, getting photographs and standing in line if the news came earlier, but at least it is over now. No matter how many times the federal government changes its policy, our girls are covered for the next five years.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Living on the edge

Our family room is a long, narrow rectangle. On one end is the couch, which faces the TV hung above the fireplace. For whatever reason, people find it hard to walk into the room without touching the couch edge.

After a few years of this, there is a bare spot worn on the edge everyone touches. We certainly knew this was happening. I've been reprimanding everyone who touches the couch as they walk by for what seems like forever. For the life of me I cannot understand why anyone needs to touch the couch edge as they walk by.

I know, I know. It happens. Furniture wears from use. Things happen. It just drives me crazy that the couch isn't that old and we already have a bare spot. There is no real way to repair it. The area will just continue to wear, with the area growing more and more bare.

Now when I go to the fabric store I look for something to cover the area. I haven't found anything yet, but I'm still working on it. The reality is that touching the couch is a habit now. I just have to learn to live with it and figure out how to minimize the damage.