Thursday, August 31, 2006

GE : They Bring Bad Things To Life

Rather than spew on for paragraphs about how bad GE's top-of-the-line appliances are, I'll just list for you all the problems I've had with them. We've lived in our house for 5.5 years. The house and its appliances are 7 years old. Ready? Let's go!
  1. The control board on the GE Monogram wall ovens has been replaced twice. Every time I run the self-clean cycle on both ovens simultaneously the control board sounds an error code.
  2. The control board on the GE Monogram dishwasher with custom cabinet insert blew 4 years ago on the morning of the day I was hosting a big dinner party for 12 friends. That part took over a week to come in. This control board has since been replaced once more.
  3. About 2 years ago, the transmission on my GE washer blew twice in 6 months. After the second time it happened, the service company paid me to get rid of the GE washer. I bought a Whirlpool-made Kenmore washer, which I hate. WineGuy loves it b/c it's simple. It holds about 4 beach towels and is entirely too small.
  4. My $4000 GE Monogram side-by-side refrigerator blew its thermostat once. Now, the refrig. freezes the eggs and mushrooms and leaves the ice cream soft.
  5. My GE Monogram warming drawer switch broke and had to be replaced about 18-24 months ago.
  6. My GE over-the-range microwave blew its magnetron and control board twice in the last 18 months. Of course, every time the serviceman came to diagnose and fix the problem, the micro worked fine. He finally told me his company would no longer cover control boards and to just buy a new micro, which he would install. I did, and he did this week.
  7. The motor on y GE dryer burned out the week before we went to Boston. The first replacement motor was defective, but the second one was successfully installed this week. It works fine, but it sounds like a dump truck is driving through my laundry room. I want to replace both the washer and the dryer now, but WineGuy and I are at an impass. I want a front-loading washer that will hold the equivalent of a dead body. He doesn't want to bend his butt to load the washer. I would compromise on a super-capacity top loader, but its open lid is too tall for my wall cabinets. Time to move them up the wall, I think.
  8. This morning, the GE monogram dishwasher died again, with both racks completely filled with dirty dishes and glasses. There aren't expletives enough to express my anger and frustration. When I called the service co. to request an(other) appointment, the owner laughed at me and said, "I'm going to have to raise your rates." Haha. Who does he think he is ... State Farm? They're coming tomorrow to see what's wrong.
I don't need a psychic friend to tell me that this dishwasher will need a new control board. Since the service co. no longer covers control boards under their contract, I'm either going to have to pay $300 for a new one or just get a new dishwasher. Guess what? I'm doing dishwasher research on the 'Net tonight. Guess what else? I'm not going to buy a GE.

I cannot believe what crap GE appliances are. Nor can I believe the retail prices they charge for these things. I am fairly certain that they are kicking back money to builders who put GE appliances in their homes. Otherwise, they're wholesaling these machines for pennies.

And, BTW, I'm not dealing with Sears anymore either. The closest store is 20 minutes from me, while Lowe's is merely 5 minutes away. Sears prices on their appliances are no bargains. I do like their vacuums and toasters, though.

If GE's household appliances are this bad, I wonder how accurate their breast-imaging machines are. Kind of makes me worry about that digital mammogram I had earlier this year.

Update (9/2/06): Yes, it was the control board on the dishwasher. When the technician opened up the front panel, the motherboard sparked twice and nearly caught fire. I flipped off the breaker so the repairman could remove it: it was burned to a crisp, and the surrounding insulation had a big black hole in it. I spent all day Friday shopping for a new dishwasher. I ended up getting a great deal on a KitchenAid from Lowe's. They have it in stock, and I sure hope they'll deliver it soon. Washing everything by hand is tedious.

The dryer is still not working right. It screeches and scrapes metal on metal. The noise was unbearable. The service co. tried to send out a repairman late on Friday night, but he could only fix air conditioning, not appliances. I have to wait until after Labor Day to call for more service. The dryer is the next appliance that goes out the door, along with the washer. I'm going to buy the new Whirlpool Cabrio set: 4.2 cu. feet of tub space in that washer. I'll have to raise my cabinets on my laundry room wall for the washer to open up all the way. I don't care. I am so DONE with mediocre appliances.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Waiting for Ernesto

The rain has started, and the lightning sirens have sounded. Ernesto is on his way into South Florida. We're ready for the storm. I picked up several more gallons of water at WalMart this morning. We have plenty of food in the pantry.

Wild Thing and Moose really stepped up to the plate to help me get ready. WT carried armfuls of things from the lanai to the garage. He also showed great organizational skill in fitting everything together as tightly as possible. I am very impressed with his efforts. Moose, OTOH, did a tiny bit of work and fussed the whole time. He did, however, manage to pick up all the pool toys and put them in a garbage bag.

As I was hauling wrought iron furniture off the lanai, I noticed how rusted the set is. Time to find someone who can clean and refinish the set. That will probably happen sooner than the roof will be fixed. People aren't even returning phone calls. Grrr.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Wild Week and Blissful Sabbath

I aged an entire year in the last week. At 6:45 a.m. the morning after I posted about Boston, the phone rang. It was my mother calling, very upset, from the East Coast of Florida. She had just sent my father in an ambulance to the Emergency Room. He ran a fever overnight, and then his gut exploded in pain. Several hours later I find out he had a ruptured diverticulum and needed emergency surgery. I call Wine Guy, relay the facts, and he says, "This is bad. You need to get over there right now."

Oh my G-d. My kids were supposed to start school the next day. Wine Guy had a full schedule. I'm walking in circles. I get the kids together in a flash, drop them at Wine Guy's office. I hastily write directions and permission for his nurse to take the boys to school and pick them up. I drive 80 mph across Alligator Alley and make it to Delray Beach in less than 2 hours. I find my mother in the surgical waiting room as they were taking my dad into surgery. Another flurry of phone calls reveals that Doctor Brother cancelled his patients and was flying in ASAP.

We sit and wait ... and wait .... A few hours later the surgeon calls us out of the waiting room to say the surgery was a success. He only had to remove about a foot of large intestine, but he had to perform a colostomy on my father. My mother's face nearly fell on the floor. When I asked him to repeat the specifics of the operation, he retorted, "Why? Are you a doctor?" No, I'm married to one and related to another, and they're going to want specific information, you jerk. He gave us an approximate time when my father would be transferred to the Intensive Care Unit, so we waited some more. My mom went for a bite to eat while I waited in the lobby for Doctor Brother. [He's one of three brothers: The Eldest, Doctor Brother, and Lawyer Brother.]

DocBro finally arrived after a delayed flight. We finally were allowed into the ICU. Found Dad awake, intubated and pretty groggy. The nurses and doctors were having a hard time stabilizing Dad, so we finally left. We had a late dinner with my mother and turned in early. We had a leisurely morning the next day b/c ICU visiting hours started at noon. It was nice having a quiet morning to read the paper and catch up with DocBro about his family.

We found my father awake and extubated when we arrived. He was alert and in a lot of pain, but he looked pretty good after surgery. We visited for the requisite hour and left. After lunch, we came back to another glad surprise: Dad was sitting in a chair and fully alert. DocBro left to go home that evening. I stayed on with my mom another night. I checked in on Dad the following morning and drove back home.

I arrived at school in time to pick up the boys. They were excited to see me, and I was so happy to see them. Wizard hugged me so hard I nearly fell over! The joy was short-lived, however, when homework time came. Wild Thing fussed and fumed over his work. Misery. Wizard got his done quite efficiently. The next 2 days were filled with the return to school routines: lunches, homework, bedtime, etc.

By Friday evening, we were ready for the weekend. We attended a cookout at the beach with our new synagogue. It was warm and muggy and breezy, but relaxed and comfortable. A retired rabbi led us out to the sand, where we gathered in a circle. He led a brief but beautiful Sabbath evening service. It was cathartic and joyful singing remembered melodies and prayers to welcome the Sabbath Bride. Wizard was able to follow along with some of the service. WT and Moose just played in the sand. Somewhere between V'Ahavta and the Amidah a Great Blue Heron soared over our heads and landed on the beach. We watched, captivated, as he strolled along the beach. A few minutes later someone spotted 2 dolphins feeding in the pass. It was bliss. The sun was setting against a cloud-filled sky. Thunder rumbled in the distance as we said our closing prayers. I was filled with such peace.

Not for long. Soon enough there were showers on the lanai and bedtime. I got up early the next morning to drive back over to the East Coast to see my dad. Wizard had gotten up early and finished all his homework, so he came with me. Dad was so surprised to see me and Wizard. It really cheered him up. We chatted for a while, and then the phone rang. My three brothers were calling from Israel to speak to Dad. Dad was overcome with emotion to talk with his boys. Eldest lives there with his family; his daughter was getting married that weekend. The other 2 brothers and some of their families were there to attend the wedding. The moment Shabbat ended in Israel, they picked up the phone to talk to Dad. They told him they would use the cell phone to call him the next day so he could hear the wedding. What a wonderful gift modern technology is.

Wizard and I drove back home and met our boys at the annual Back To School party. It was circus-themed, cotton-candy-fueled, face-painted chaos. The kids loved it. The next day all the boys went to Sunday School, and WineGuy and I had a quiet morning to ourselves to read the papers. WineGuy got stuck with WT and Wizard while I took Moose to a gymnastics birthday party. WT wasted hours fussing and fuming over homework that should have taken 30-40 minutes. That nonsense killed any plans to go out to dinner that night. The boys had sandwiches. WineGuy and I shared a bottle of wine and some cheese.

I hope things calm down now. I could use a break.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Die, FPL, die

Florida Power & Light (FPL) is our electric company. In fact, it is the power company for most of the state of Florida, with some small exceptions. Those Floridians whose power is supplied by someone else should consider themselves lucky. The rest of us slobs are being lied to, getting poor service, and are being charged through the nose for those.

Witness one typical southern Florida thunderstorm: lots of lightning, quite a bit of wind, and torrential rain. This happens nearly every day during our rainy season, which happens to coincide with hurricane season (ssshhhh!), June 1-Nov. 30. We had one such frog-floater this afternoon.

Somewhere around 4:00P the power flickers. Less than 15 minutes later the power goes off entirely. OK, no big deal. It's getting cooler out b/c of the rain. There are plenty of clouds to keep the temps down. I wait a few minutes, and then I call 1-800-4-OUTAGE, FPL's automated power outage reporting number. [Does your power company have this wonderful technology? Pray it doesn't.] The friendly automaton on the end of the line – "Press 1 for residential. Press 2 for complete outage. Press 3 to entire your account number. Please hold while we verify your account information. Is this your last name: D-O-O-F-U-S? If so, please press 1." And so on. The friendly automaton reports that there are 294 people experiencing the same power outage, and the service should be restored by 7:00P.

Great! Now I have an excuse not to cook dinner. Wine Guy took the boys to the library for books and DVDs. I have a few quiet minutes to myself, which I use to hand-stitch Boston patches on to WT's backpack. I felt much like Betsy Ross, stitching by candlelight (make that battery-operated lantern light). But, I digress. By the time my boys return from the library, it's nearly dinnertime. We read the papers outside for a few minutes and then went over to Jason's Deli for dinner.

We get home around 7:30P. No lights. Now, I'm pissed. I call 1-800-OUTRAGE again to find out what's going on. Javier, the barely-English-speaking Customer No-Service Rep. in where-else-but-Miami tells me that I'm one of 294 homes experiencing this power outage. Duh! I heard that 3 hours ago from the automated system. Tell me something new, you witless wonder. I con Javier into divulging when FPL dispatched a crew to solve this problem: 7:30P. WHAT? FPL, that bloated bureaucracy of overpaid paper pushers, didn't bother to dispatch a crew to fix this problem until 3 hours after the first incident was reported. New estimated time to restore service 9:15P. Yeah, right.

Oh, did I mention that the neighborhood immediately west of mine had power -- everyone in my backyard had power. Did I also mention that the seniors and condos immediately east of my neighborhood had power? Did I mention, as well, that the townhouses less than 100 from the gate to my neighborhood had power? No? Just to be clear, the stoplight at the entrance of our street was working. The streetlight adjacent to that stoplight was working, and these utilities are not even 1 mile from my house. One of the main power lines for this county runs down a major thoroughfare 1/2 mile east of my house. But, MY STREET DIDN'T HAVE POWER. And, no one could tell me why.

After sitting discussing every trivial thing with Wine Guy for nearly 2 hours, I decided to call
1-800-OUTRAGE again. This time they recognize my phone number and tell me that my call will receive "Priority Status". Ooooooh. I'm not impressed. I speak with another Customer No-Service Dummy who immediately transfers me to a Stupid-visor (read "Supervisor"). The Stupid-visor, Mr. Stevens (no first name, no employee number), proceeds to tell me that I'm one of 294 homes experiencing this power outage. Hearing this juicy fact for the fourth time sent me into orbit.

Me: How many homes in this county have lost power?
Stupid-visor: I don't know.
Me: So, it takes FPL 3 hours to call out a crew to restore power to 294 homes -- out of a county population of 300,000? Why did it take so long?
Stupid-visor: I don't know. There are many homes without power.
Me: Aha! So, there are other homes w/o power. How many?
Stupid-visor: I don't know. I don't have that information. Yours is one of 294 homes experiencing this power outage.
Me: I heard that from a pre-recorded message 5 hours ago. What is the point of your being a supervisor if you don't have better and more information than the recording? What kind of power outage is this?
Stupid-visor: I don't have that information.
Me: Well, what information do you have? Do you have a map of my city?
Stupid-visor: No.
Me: Do you have a computer display of this county?
Stupid-visor: No.
Me: Where are you located?
Stupid-visor: Miami.
Me: Let me put the problem into terms you'll understand. [I choose a major artery in Miami, explain how all the areas around me have power but I do not. An easy translation for someone who lived 8 years in the northernmost port in Latin America.]
Stupid-visor: I'm sorry for the inconvenience. Your power should be restored around 9:15P.
Me: I want to file a complaint about shoddy power service in my neighborhood: every time there's inclement weather, the power goes out in this neighborhood. I have filed this complaint every summer with FPL, and they still haven't figured out the problem. You pass this on to someone who can actually do something about it, and have them get back to me. You have my phone number b/c I've entered it at least 4 times this evening.
Stupid-visor: Someone will return your call within 3 business days.

I hang up my cell phone and turn on a lantern. I try to distract myself by starting the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle. Wine Guy wanders back in and wants some attention. Go away, leave me alone. I am so not in the mood for this after dealing with a complete confederacy of utility dunces this week. Wine Guy goes to sleep. Alone.

At 10:00P, the power roars back on. Not 7:00P. Not 9:15P. 10:00 in the dark, muggy evening. I'm not fooled. I'm thinking the juice is going to go right off again, but it doesn't. I make my rounds re-setting clocks, thermostats, televisions, pool equipment, appliances, and computers. I go upstairs to retrieve an extra lantern from the boys' area and re-set everything up there. I find Wild Thing on the floor with his blanket, puppies, pillows and assorted other stuff. He hates the dark, and so does Moose. I wake WT up and shoo him back into his own bed. I go back downstairs and turn off all the lights and settle down to watch a show – on digital cable, which is now working properly, thank G-d – about the Medici crypts.

As the professor reveals the last of the Medici bones, the POWER GOES OUT AGAIN, at midnight. It comes back on a minute or two later, and so I roam around trying to re-set everything again. Which brings me here ... to my computer ... at 1:00 a.m. the next morning.

Die, FPL, die. You're a bunch of lying, thieving, sub-moronic automatons that couldn't screw in a light bulb without a 20-man crew.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

TV Torture

Wine Guy and I are not exactly Luddites when it comes to new technology, but neither do we race to own the latest thing. We'd been looking at plasma and other HDTVs for years, but we never bought a thing. Mostly b/c WineGuy takes forever to make a decision on big purchases.

So, last February, a few days before the Super Bowl, our main TV (20 years old) gave up the ghost. We, along with 500 other consumers, were at Best Buy that Saturday to purchase a new TV. We got a good salesman, who hit us for some big buck$: one plasma TV, one LCD TV, 1 DVD player, and 1 DVD/VCR combo player, plus assorted extended service contracts, etc. Once we figured out how to work everything, all the equipment worked fine.

Until ........ we ventured in the sheer hell known as Digital Cable. When we switched our home phone service from Sprint to Comcast, we switched Internet service and upgraded to digital cable. One of those package deals that sounds good during the trial period untl your first "real" bill shows up. We had CableCards installed in both new TVs in early June, and nothing has worked right since. It took Comcast nearly 2 months to rectify serious signal problems at our house. Weeks and weeks of service calls, hours spent on the phone with Customer No-Service, and fighting with everyone. When we finally got the cable TV issues, fixed, the plasma TV went psychotic, turning itself on and off repeatedly.

So, I call the Mfr's Customer Service, who puts me through to their warranty service, which is based out of Fort Lauderdale, FL, nearly 1.5 hours away. Warranty Svc shows up in early August and says, "It's not our TV. It's the Cable Card, but just in case, we'll program a new motherboard for you" and leaves. Of course, the TV did not malfunction once while he was here. Then I called Comcast, who subsequently replaced the CableCard. Then we went on vacation and turned everything off for a week. The motherboard had to be programmed in WhoKnowsWhere and then shipped to the service center in Fort Lauderdale. They called me while I was on vacation to schedule today's service appt.

Meanwhile, we return from vacation, turn everything back on, and the plasma TV works fine. A different warranty service tech shows up today and installs the new motherboard. He's here for less than an hour, proclaims the plasma TV to be in good working order, and then leaves. I sit down to program the TV and find that I've lost all my digital cable channels (again). I call the service man on his cell phone twice to report the problems. He tells me the TV is working fine and that it's the CableCard. I spend another 45 minutes on the phone with Comcast, who tries to re-program the CableCard 3-4 times. No luck. No digital channels again. Back to the phone to call Fort Lauderdale to get the technician back here today. Forget it. He's booked. Maybe tomorrow. Comcast is supposed to be here tomorrow to replace the CableCard again. If I could get these people here at the same time, I'd tie them together until they fixed the problem.

I hate, Hate, HATE being caught in the middle like this. The kids are complaining. Wine Guy will surely bitch when he gets home from work. And, all I have to show for my day is a huge number of wireless minutes devoted to fixing a wired appliance.

Bah, humbug!

[2 hours later]

The warranty service center just called to say that they've been on the phone all day with the "Engineering Dept" (makes you think of geeks with plastic pocket protectors). Engineering is supposed to overnight me a new motherboard to my house, whereupon I am to call the repairman who is supposed to still be in my area tomorrow. Comcast is also supposed to install a new CableCard tomorrow, too. If the gods will it. they will both be here at the same time to work this nightmare out together. Let us pray.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Back from Bahstun

I love Boston. I can easily see why people gravitate back to that city where they grew up or went to school. We had a glorious week in the city. The weather was magnificent everyday: 70's, low humidity, blue skies, occasionally overcast. It was such a welcome relief from 95ยบ temps and 95% humidity that is the norm here now.

We crammed in every possible tourist attraction in our week there, thanks to the City Pass. It was a great deal, and I highly recommend it. One highlight was the ferry trip across Boston Harbor to the Charlestown Navy Yard to see the U.S.S. Constitution and the U.S.S Cassin Young, a WWII destroyer. The boys adore all that military stuff -- as an aside, I found Wizard watching The Military Channel this morning. Another great day was the one spent in the Museum of Science, which is the finest science museum I have ever visited. The boys ran from one exhibit to the next, having a great time, and with no clue of how much they were learning. Query: Why can't school be like Boston's Museum of Science? Hmmmmm.

Lots of delicous dinners in Chinatown, followed by fresh fruit smoothies with tapioca pearls. Lord, how my kids love "loogie-tea". We even made 2 trips to Cambridge to both Toscanini's locations. My favorite flavors were Burnt Caramel and Pistachio Gelato. The most unbelievable ice cream anywhere, bar none.

The kids really enjoyed some down time watching street performers in Quincy Market. They even asked for some money to give the performers. It was a joy watching them laugh and appreciate someone else's talents.

Best memories for Wine Guy and me were seeing old friends again. DKNJ is a dear friend from our days in PA. She invited us over to her new home in Newton for dinner one evening. Her two boys and our three played together all evening. We had a great time catching up with her and her beyond-brilliant husband. I miss her a lot, esp. now that we all have children. Another great reunion was the boisterous dinner in Chinatown with Wine Guy's professor friends. Mathman teaches at one of Boston's fine institution's of higher learning. He's a member of that beyond-brilliant club, but he is social and articulate and not offended by our children. I thoroughly enjoyed chatting and joking with Mathman, although I feared I sounded stupid. The second Ph.D., Mr. History, is a fellow dyed-in-the-wool Democrat. He and Wine Guy have been friends since they were teenagers in DC. They love to talk politics and foreign policy, but it was difficult while tending to Wild Thing, Moose, and Mr. History's two children. Thankfully, Mr. History's son is the same age as Wizard. The boys found lots of things to talk about that night and were glad for each other's company.

Now I'm home again. The dryer is working but not really fixed. The new motor they sent was also defective, so the repairman jerry-rigged the machine so I could use it. I'm going to have them fix it , and then I'm going to sell it and its evil washer twin. Then, I'm going to Lowe's and buy the biggest damn washer and dryer they make. I'll need to buy a new microwave while I'm there. The repairman said he'd install it for me (for free) when he comes to fix the dryer again. He's a prince; he should have his own key to this house.

Back to reality. School starts in one week. I am counting the hours. We've bought supplies, sweatshirts, and hats. We have orientation later this week, although we met a couple of teachers when we were on-campus yesterday. Moose is so excited to be joining his brothers at this private school.

And then, maybe, just maybe, I can get some stuff done.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Up to My Ass in Alligators

Thought I'd add a little visual interest to this post.

It's not enough that:
  • my Dad had surgery last week and is still in the hospital with complications;
  • my mother threw her knee out;
  • the brand-new beautiful plasma TV is "possessed" b/c it turns itself off and on;
  • the cable co. says it's the TV's fault, and the TV service tech says it's the cable co's fault;
  • my digital cable TV service has not worked properly in the 6 weeks I've had it;
  • the cable co. has been out here at least 8 times in that time, and the TV is still having problems;
  • the cable co. rang the doorbell at 8:00 a.m. today;
  • the TV serviceman swore to me last week the TV was fine. It's not
  • the TV needs another warranty service call from the tech 150 miles away;
  • the brand new tires on my car make it shimmy all over the place;
  • Wizard needs new lenses in his glasses;
  • my children behave like wolves.
NOW, my dryer broke. Are you there, G-d? This is not funny anymore. I still have laundry to do for Wild Thing and myself before I can even contemplate packing for our trip to Boston on Saturday. Maybe I'll just go naked. It will be cooler that way.

Appliance update: the dryer motor blew. It will take a couple of days to get a new one installed. I don't have the time, so I'm off to the laundry with big bundles. Wash-dry-fold service for I don't care what it costs per pound, as long as they can get it done today. Don't even speak to me about the heat wave up there.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Addicted to Costco

Just a quick note here. I went to Costco this evening to buy some jellybeans and get a little chocolate (major PMS jonesing right now). I walked out an hour later and $220 poorer with a cart full of who-knows-what. Well, I did buy myself a new suitcase. And, there were a few bags of junk food.

Note to self: do not go shopping while fighting PMS cravings.

It's not just Costco either. I'm worse at Sam's Club b/c it's only 1/2 mile from my house, and I'm always in there. I find so much "useful" stuff there. Dangerous!

Apparently, I'm not the only one who thinks this way. Here's another perspective on "Costco-ing", a new verb. Does that mean you go "clubbing" if you're hitting Sam's Club? Hmmmmmm.

Headless Chicken

Much going on right now. Dad had surgery last week. It was successful, and the surgery site is healing well. But, true to his pattern he came down with an acute attack of gout. He's in terrible pain, and it does not appear he is being managed well. Of course, my parents chose to have this surgery in a hospital which their internist does not attend, so there's no one really overseeing Dad's care. Between My-Brother-the-Doctor and WineGuy, I have some idea of what's going on.

I am really frustrated I can't be there to help manage things, but I have no one to watch my kids. They have been particularly bad this week, adding to my stress level. My car went in for service on Monday to the dealer. They only did so much. I spent my entire afternoon at the tire store getting new tires and (what feels like a snow job) shocks and struts.

In the middle of all that the cable co. has been out here more than 7 times in the last 6 weeks trying to figure out why my brand-spanking-new TVs don't get the full digital cable signal. They were here on Monday, too, but they didn't finish the work. They're coming back again tomorrow. I didn't mention that I was on the phone for an hour with cable TV customer no-service last week. I made them give me credit for 6 weeks of digital cable. If they don't get this mess straightened out tomorrow, I will make them give me another month's credit. My secret weapon, however, is the name, phone and cell phone number of the Technical Operations Supervisor. I warned him that, from now on, whatever cable problems I'm having, I'm calling him directly. He'll be sorry!

Let me add that my friends are amazing. I called my Very Best Friend, nearly hysterical, on Sunday. She totally calmed me down and helped me prioritize my week. Of course, I can't stick to a schedule like she can, but she's priceless. I also happened to run into a close friend as I was leaving a kid's b-day party on Sunday. She was supportive and understanding, as she caught me venting in the parking lot of the bowling alley. BTW, Moose was supposed to attend this party, but he didn't. He didn't clean his room like he was asked, and he lied about it. So, I dropped of the gift and left. I spent the remainder of the day directing Wild Thing in cleaning his room and helping Wine Guy oversee the excavation of Wizard's sty, um ... room.

My children belong on a farm.