Tuesday, September 29, 2009

And Why Did We Stop Traveling By Horse and Buggy???

Ok. So most of the people who read here have either heard the car story or actually lived it, but I want to get it down anyway…if only for my own memory.

So, it all started on August 17th. I was at work when I got a call from the kids’ day camp. Bubbles had been stung by a wasp…three times! Both Bear and his brother are allergic to bee and wasp stings, and we have always worried that one of the kids might inherit the allergy. This was the first time Bubbles had ever been stung, so we didn’t know what would happen. We decided it would be best if I went and got her so that if she had a reaction, I could get her help quickly. I decided to pick Animal up at the same time so that I wouldn’t have to make two trips.

As we were pulling out of the parking lot, my car started acting REALLY weird. When I put my foot on the gas, the engine revved, there was a loud KUCHUNK, the entire car shook, and then it started to move. This whole process was repeated every time it attempted to change gears (automatic car).

I called Bear at work and told him what was happening. He said he would look at it when he got home. When he got home, he added some fluids, tinkered around, took it for a drive and then came home and announced we needed to take it to a repair shop. My car hasn’t had many problems through the years (thank goodness!!!) so we don’t have a regular repair shop that we take it to. Bear had heard good things about one near us, so that is where he decided we would go.

We dropped the car off that night, and they promised to look at it in the morning. The next day, they called Bear and told him it was the Torque Converter (apparently part of the transmission??) and it was going to cost us $3600 to have it repaired. Bear called me and I hit the roof. I demanded that he call around and see if there was a better price available. He did…there wasn’t…we agreed to have the work done. They said it would be ready by Friday (this was on a Tuesday).

Friday came and they said it wasn’t ready but it would be by Saturday. Saturday came and they said there was a problem. They had gotten a (refurbished) transmission and installed it, but when they test drove it they discovered a problem. Apparently there was a broken part and the car wouldn’t stay in park. They were going to have to get another new (refurbished) part. It was going to be a few more days.

At this point, the timing gets a little fuzzy for me.

It took forever for the 2nd transmission to arrive…mainly because they didn’t want to play money games with the parts place so they shipped back the damaged one before the new one was sent to them, and then they had it shipped at the cheapest rate for them…cause, you know, they didn’t have a customer that had already waited too long to get their car back!

They put the 2nd transmission in and informed Bear that it too was damaged. This time the car wouldn’t even GO into park.

This is when the lies started. We were told that a 3rd transmission…this one brand new…was going to be used. This turned out to be a LIE! We don’t have any real idea of what they were doing during this time frame. We assume they were trying to fix the 2nd broken one, but who knows.

Bear had been dealing with a guy (we shall call him Asshat!) who claimed to be the manager. Asshat did very little to try to help. His main purpose seemed to be making excuses. Bear was calling multiple times a day to talk to Asshat, and it turns out that 99.9% of the things he told us were so very untrue.

But I am getting ahead of myself. Almost 3 weeks after we left our car with these people, Asshat called and said that it was fixed. We could pick it up that night (a Friday). That evening, the whole family went to pick up the car. Bear paid for it (there was a SLIGHT discount given for our inconvenience…and by slight I mean insulting) and we headed out. Now, you need to understand that I know NOTHING about cars (if that hasn’t been apparent already). You need to know this in order to understand how NOT fixed my car was.

Bear and the kids were riding in his car. I got into my car, adjusted the seat, noticed that all of my preset radio stations were gone, and backed out of the parking space. By the time I was completely backed out, I KNEW my car wasn’t right. I called Bear and told him just that.

Bear: How is it not right?

Me: I don’t know…it’s not right! It doesn’t sound right! It doesn’t feel right!

Bear: How does it not sound and feel right?

Me: I DON’T KNOW!! I just know it’s not RIGHT!

We pulled into the first parking lot we could find. Due to traffic, I had never gotten above 20 MPH. I got out of my car and Bear got in. He left me with the kids and his car and took mine for a drive. About 10 – 15 minutes later, Bear called me and gave me directions back to the repair place. I asked what was wrong. He informed me that once you got above 25 MPH, the car was still doing exactly what we brought it in for!!

We went back and Bear went in to talk to Asshat. I was not “permitted” to come in because Bear seems to think I have a temper and he was worried I would go overboard. I have no idea where he would have gotten such an idea.

It is probably just as well that I didn’t go in. When Bear told them they needed to give us a refund on our credit card for the payment, they tried to tell him that they couldn’t do it that night. It would have to wait until morning! He informed them that he would not be leaving without our money, and Asshat miraculously figured out how to process a refund!

About a week later, Asshat finally had a day off, and when Bear called, he got hold of RM (Real Manager). It was RM who informed us that Asshat was not who he said he was. RM also inadvertently revealed most of Asshat’s other lies. We also found out that my car was dying every night and required a jump start every morning. I about hit the roof at this point! They had actually tried to return a car to me that was not only NOT fixed, but was actually worse off than when we brought it in. I am sure they were thinking that when I went to get in the car the next day and it was dead, I would assume it was a new problem and not think to blame them!

Anyway, Bear “had a discussion” with RM about the “service” that we had received thus far, and he promised to try to make it better. He suggested trying a used transmission as apposed to a refurbished one.

Evidently, the difference is that a refurbished transmission had a problem what was supposedly fixed. A used transmission was salvaged from a car that was no longer working for some other reason unrelated to the transmission.

They were able to get us one that came from a car with 54,000 miles (or something like that) on it. Since my car has 106,000 miles, this seemed pretty good. It also came with a lifetime warranty, so that is nice too.

They also changed the battery, which was evidently what was causing the nightly deaths.

A few days later, my car was finally ready to be picked up. This was exactly one month and one day after the work originally began!!! When we went to pick the car up this time, I informed Bear that I WOULD be going in with him. I had a few things I needed to tell Asshat!

We went in and Bear insisted on test driving the car before we paid. Once he got back, we asked for Asshat and the “discussion” began. I am not known for having a quiet voice, and I was not making any attempt to keep it down when we spoke. I am certain the fairly full waiting room caught at least bits and pieces of the things we were saying.

By the time we were done, Asshat had dropped the price of the repair by $1000.00 dollars. It still doesn’t come close to making things right…and I have every intention of making a few calls about this whole thing (can we say Better Business Bureau, AAA, etc.), but I have to say that it felt good to come out ahead.

We will never be using that particular repair shop again, and we have made a point of telling all of our local friends to avoid them too. I guess that is the most justice I can hope to get.
Oh…and I did get one last parting shot in before we left that day! Bubbles and Animal had been sitting in the waiting room (where we could see them) while we took care of business. When I went to get them, Bubbles asked if the car was finally fixed. My response, “Well, honey, we sure hope so. But did you know that you can bring a car in to be repaired by these people and pay them good money for those repairs and then after you get it back you can have the same problems that you brought it in for, and it isn’t their FAULT?!?!” The looks on the other customers’ faces made me feel MUCH better.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Hangin' with Mr. Cooper

Over the summer, we decided as a family that it was time to get a new dog. The house just wasn’t right without one. Too quiet…too clean…too empty. Winston had shown us what wonderful creatures Labrador Retrievers are, so we decided to stick with that breed.

My mother works with a woman who volunteers for the Lab Rescue in our area, and she was quick to recommend her organization. In early August, Bear and I spent a lunch hour filling out and submitting the application. Then we waited. And waited. And waited.

The application said it could take 3 weeks for someone to get back to you. When we hadn’t heard anything in 4 weeks, I called and left a message. A few hours later I got a call back. She asked how we had submitted our application. When I told her it was done electronically, she said she would talk to the volunteer that handled those and get back to me. A week later…nothing.

That night, my mother talked to her co-worker who gave us her email address and said to email a copy of the application to her and she would see what she could do. The next morning I did, and within 3 hours I received an email from our case coordinator. She told me she would call me the next day (Saturday) to do a phone interview. She also mentioned that they would be having an adoption day at a pet store on Sunday. This particular pet store was about an hour and a half away, and she said the next one would be much closer to us, but after a brief discussion, Bear and I agreed it would be worth the drive. Even if we didn’t find “our dog” that day, we would at least be getting the process started.

I spoke to Wendy on Saturday, and we had a great conversation. She was a bit concerned about the hours that we keep and that we have 2 cats, but she was sure we could find “our dog”…it just might take time.

Sunday morning, we woke up early and headed to the adoption day. Wendy had emailed a list/description of the dogs that would be at the event. While Bear drove, I read the descriptions aloud. Though many of the dogs sounded wonderful, we all thought the most promising would be a yellow female named Jolie. We agreed we would check her out first.

When we arrived, they were just getting set up. We quickly found Jolie and talked to her handler for a bit. She was a very sweet dog, but she had a few problems. We think she had been abused and she was very frightened and submissive. Her handler said that if you moved too quickly or raised your hand, she would run and cower. After talking to Wendy, we agreed that she wouldn’t be a good fit for our family. The kids would probably scare her to death, and after spending time with her, we all felt she was probably beyond help no matter how much love we could give her.

A few dogs over was a gorgeous yellow lab that drew us all in. Unfortunately, there was another family that was very interested in him, so we felt that we didn’t have a chance. We visited with the other dogs, but we weren’t finding “our dog”. I was just about to suggest that we leave and try the next adoption day when Bear noticed that the family that was so interested in that one dog had moved on to other dogs. He said we should at least talk to the handler before we left.

So we walked over and officially introduced ourselves to Cooper and his foster mom. I fell in love INSTANTLY and knew that he HAD TO BE OURS! Bear was asking all these questions, and I just kept thinking “quick…lets adopt him before someone else does!” After talking for a bit and getting to know Cooper, everyone was convinced he was indeed our dog, so Bear went in to tell Wendy we wanted him. She agreed that he was a good fit and sent us to the adoption table.

Ten minutes and $200 later we walked out with our adoption papers ready to take Cooper home. When we got back outside, Cooper was meeting another family and they too had their hearts set on keeping him. I felt bad stealing him away, but the adoption was complete and they were fairly gracious about handing him over.*

We have had Cooper for about 4 days now, and he is WONDERFUL. He, like Winston, fits. He is 7 years old...not a young dog, but also not old, so we should get some good years with him. He is still very active and lives for his backyard time.** He is great with the cats. He mostly just ignores them, though he did have to chase Banana down the hall last night when he caught Banana in his bed. We all adore him, and can’t wait to get home at night to be with him.

Once again, our family is complete! :)

*We did some shopping before we left, and as we were walking out, they were headed to the adoption table themselves…so they had found someone they could love too and we all had our happy ending.

**We take him out back at least twice a day…more if possible…to play catch. He could play for hours and we often have to tell him when he has had enough. Unlike some of the dogs from my past, he is very good about not only getting the ball, but actually willingly returning it to us!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

ANOTHER RANDOM UPDATE!! (Warning...this is a LONG one!)

So you know you have been away from blogging too long when your husband starts complaining that you never update! So much has happened since the beginning of JULY that the only way I can possibly get caught up is to do another random update. So…here goes:

1) We did go to see Kimi and family over the long weekend in July. We, of course, had a wonderful time! Kimi and I watched 4 horror movies (and even got the guys to watch one with us!). I got to see her mom (who is a wonderful lady and treats Bear and I like we are her kids too!), her SIL and her daddy. They took us to see an AMAZING fireworks display. And as usual, Kimi made my favorite “Kim Pasta” & green beans!

2) Also in July, Bubbles went away to Girl Scout sleep-away camp for the first time. While she was extremely excited, I was not ready to have my baby in the hands of strangers in the woods. It was only three days though and we both survived. She had a wonderful time, but she says she doesn’t want to go back next year. Her reason…”I don’t like being away from you so long, Mommy.” Man I love that kid!

3) We were supposed to take a big family vacation this year (we alternate years…family vacation one year, major home improvement the next year), but our back stoop was getting ready to fall off of the side of the house into a void that had developed underneath and was damaging our back door in the process. A friend of mind offered her husband's general contracting services, and he did an amazing job fixing our stoop in one weekend, with no inconvenience to us, and for a spectacular price. I would recommend this man to one and all!

4) In lieu of a big vacation, and with the help of my mother, we decided to take a mini vacation this year. At the end of July, we took a long weekend and went to Great Wolf Lodge in Williamsburg. We had the time of our lives. They have an enormous indoor water park, a spa for adults, a spa for children, an arcade, miniature golf, and this interactive game where you go all over the 4 story hotel collecting jewels and spells, saving fairies and princesses, and fighting goblins and dragons. And that isn’t nearly all that the things you can do there. The last day we were there, the kids were playing in the water fort and Bear and I were relaxing by the pool. We started talking about how much fun we were having and how we hated to leave so soon. We talked to the kids that night, and we all agreed that if money (and the house) cooperate, we would like to go back next year for a full week!

5) August started with my 35th birthday. We spent most of the day taking advantage of the state’s tax-free weekend…getting school supplies and clothes for the kids. That night my parents took us to The Melting Pot for a joint birthday dinner for Bear and I (YUM!). The next day, Bear and the kids did everything in their power to spoil me rotten…ending with dinner at my favorite sushi place.

6) Ten days later, we celebrated Bear’s 36th birthday. He took the day off of work with plans to relax and do guy stuff. This was made harder by an emergency that I will talk about next. That night the kids and I took him to Logan’s for MEAT and did our best to spoil him with love and gifts. I had planned to write a post dedicated to him that day, but obviously it didn't happen...maybe next year?

7) The day before Bear’s birthday, Bubbles got stung, not once, not twice, but THREE times by wasps. I went to pick her up from her day camp and on my way out of the parking lot, my car started acting REALLY weird. Bear looked at it when he got home and determined that it needed to go to a shop. Evidently, the torque converter had gone bad and needs to be replaced. As of Tuesday of this week, it has been THREE WEEKS and the car still isn't fixed! We have had a HORRIBLE experience and will NOT be using this repair shop again. We have made it clear that they need to give us a discount on the work, but that remains to be seen. I will be surprised if we get it back before the one month mark! I am thinking most places could build us a brand new car in that time! I might have to write a whole separate post on this once we reach the end…we shall see.

8) The biggest thing to happen in August was Bear’s decision to leave the fire station! Several things led to this decision…most of them I can’t talk about here because they are not my stories to tell. Bear says that he realized that he was putting the station before his family and that we were all missing out on wonderful experiences because of that. So he turned in his resignation and instituted Family Friday. Every Friday evening, we do something fun…just the four of us. The first night we went out to dinner and saw G-Force in the theaters. Since then we have played various board/card/domino/dice games and had Little House on the Prairie marathons. We are also going to try to do more fun things on the weekends like go to museums and local area events. We have had a lot of fun, and I feel like it is bringing us all closer together. It really gives the kids a calm atmosphere to talk about things going on in their lives. I will forever be grateful to Bear for making this sacrifice for his family!!!

9) September brought Labor Day Weekend which was spent hosting several get togethers with friends and one day to relax and get ready for school to start. The Friday before, we went to meet the kids teachers. Animal loved his teacher on site and was so excited to start school. Bubbles’ teacher didn’t make a very good first impression with any of us, and we all spent the weekend worrying that this was going to be another rough year. Monday night, we pulled Bubbles aside and gave her a pep talk. We asked her to give the teacher a second chance and discussed all the reasons that she might have had for acting the way she did. Bubbles agreed, but was still noticeably nervous.

10) Tuesday morning, I took the day off to focus on the kids. I made them a yummy breakfast of scrambled eggs and muffins. My mother came over and together we dropped them off at daycare right before the bus was scheduled to leave for school. Then we rushed over to the school, found a parking spot, and waited for the daycare bus to arrive. The kids know that we do this every year, so they knew to look for us. They ran off the bus and called my name and posed for pictures. Then they headed down the hill, turning several times to wave. After that, Mom and I went home to prepare an after school treat of German Chocolate cupcakes. We went out to lunch and ran a few errands, and before too long it was time to go get my babies. I was REALLY nervous to hear how Bubbles had done. I walked into the daycare moments after the bus dropped them off and Bubbles came running up to me…all smiles…yelling “Mommy, I LOVE my teacher! She is awesome!” Instantly, I felt a weight lift from my shoulders…a weight I hadn’t really realized was there. Animal had an equally good day, and I am now hopeful that we will have a decent year this year…hope, hope, hope!

Ok…I guess that brings us up to the here and now. I am certain that I have forgotten things, but WOW this is long! I am gonna have to try to update more often!

I shalt try!*

*Name that flick!