Monday, September 29, 2008

Gas craziness

Gas is still relatively unavailable around here.  It's crazy, its way worse than after Katrina and Rita.  Then the price of gas spiked for a few weeks, and there was an initial surge of high prices and lines, but it seemed like the lines went away after a few days and after about 2 weeks the prices started drifting back down too.

Now, its been over 2 weeks since Ike (and probably a month since Gustav) and we are still paying more for gas than most of the rest of the country.  And, if anything, it seems the gas lines are getting worse.  They really didn't form until after Ike, but the past 2 weeks has been wild.  Today when I went out for groceries, I passed 6 gas stations and only 1 had any gas.  It was at $4.19, had lines, and is a station I hate to use as its almost impossible to get out of coming back my way.  On Saturday when we were out fridge hunting, we saw 2 stations with gas (out of 10 or more) and both had lines out into the street.  The bigger station (a QT, probably has at least a dozen pumps) had a good 20 cars out in the street plus more waiting in the station.  The other station was much smaller, 2-4 pumps and only had about a dozen cars waiting, but if one more car had joined the line in the street, I wouldn't have been able to get past.

We've read that part of the problem is that with all the pumps running at once and not much gas in the underground tanks, that there is very little pressure so that it can take up to 30 minutes to pump 10 gallons.  Yikes!  I don't think this is happening at all the stations, though.

It has gotten to the point that we are not just looking at which car to take because of better gas milage, but also which car has more gas in it currently!  Next week the kids are off school for fall break and we would like to get away for a few days - but it may depend on whether we can fill up cars.  D managed to fill up his car mid week last week without much wait, but by this weekend he will be needing gas again.  I was hoping to get gas today, but it didn't happen.  I don't want to head out hunting for gas, but I'm certainly going to keep looking for it, when I do have to go out.  I wouldn't normally be looking quite yet as I've got about 3/8 of a tank, but... I won't be going anywhere out of town if I don't have more gas than that!


Sunday, September 28, 2008

Idiot, the game

M taught us a new card game this weekend that he learned at Scout camp this summer.  They call it Idiot and evidently they played it a lot over that week.  Actually, he taught us how to play just after camp, but I had forgotten some of the rules.  He had played it enough that he remembers them, though.  It's a fun game and generally a fairly quick game, at least if you don't try to play out to all the places.  We've been playing for 1st and 2nd place only.

Rules: (this works for 4 people playing, you might need to change the number of cards with a different number of people)
Deal out 4 cards face down to each person.  On top of each of face down card, put a card face up.  Then deal 4 cards to each person's hand.  The rest of the cards go in a stack in the middle of the table.

The goal is to get rid of all of your cards.  You have to play an equal or higher value card on top of what is in the discard pile.  If you have multiple of the same number card, you can play them all at once.

2, 4, 10 and joker are wild.  Ace is high.
2 and 4 can be played anytime and will "reset" the discard pile, think of them as being a zero, every other card is higher than them
10 can be played anytime and will "burn" the deck - take the discard pile out of play and you get to play another card to start a new discard pile
joker can be played anytime.  The very next card to be played must be LOWER than the card previous to the joker.

First person starts off with any card from their hand (they will probably want to start with their lowest card).  Then they take a card from the deck.  Next person does the same, playing any card from their hand that is equal to or higher than the top of the discard pile.  If you can't play a card from your hand, you pick up the entire discard pile (and do not have to take a card from the deck).  Soon you will run out of the deck, that's ok.

Once you have played all the cards in your hand, you can start in on the cards face-up in front of you.  Once those are done, you start playing the face-down cards - blindly!  At this point you are very likely to end up picking up the discard pile at some point.  If, at any point, you pick up the discard pile, all cards go into your hand (with the exception of face down cards, which goes back face-down) and you have to empty your hand again before you can use any cards down in front of you.

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Saturday, September 27, 2008

M walks 20K

M's school had a walk-a-thon today to raise money for the school and for Toys for Tots.  M is all excited about it because there are cash prizes if you raise enough money.  He's hoping to raise $200.  We're proud and somewhat amazed that M walked all 20K today.  That is 14, 1-mile laps around the school.  He was a bit tired when we picked him up, but otherwise doing ok.  I guess all that walking we did on vacation this summer got him used to it.

Meanwhile, while M was walking, D and I (with A dragged along for the ride) went off hunting for a new fridge.  Our fridge developed a bad leak a few weeks ago, making us worry that we were going to be imminently replacing it.  It turns out it was just the line to the ice maker, so we shut that off and no more leaks, but in the meantime the door handle has gotten progressively wigglier - and not in a way that seems easily fixable.  So we decided it was best to be proactive and get a new fridge now, rather than panicking at the last moment when we have to pry open the fridge.  The Se*ars scratch and dent stores were having a sale this weekend, so we went hunting there.  We found a nice side-by-side, only slightly scratched, for about half off, plus an additional $50 off.  Bonus is,  its an Energy star model, so it should be much cheaper to operate than our current 13 year old fridge.  It will be delivered Monday, so tomorrow I get to clean off all the fridge magnets and then Monday, I guess I will be loading up all the contents of the fridge and freezer into coolers, waiting for delivery.  I certainly hope that they come fairly promptly - they are supposed to call tomorrow to tell me when my window will be.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Webelos pancake breakfast

On Sunday morning the Webelos were making breakfast for the parents.  Or at least they started making breakfast, with the help of some of the Boy Scout parents.  I didn't get a photo of A helping fix breakfast (I was back in camp getting all our gear packed up).  But here's D and some other dads making pancakes.


Then, after the Webelos had cooked for a while, the Scoutmaster gathered them all up to talk to them about the transition to Boy Scouts.  The Webelos II's will be crossing over in the spring, so they have to visit troops over the winter to choose which troop they want to join.  A and his group of Webelos I's have a year and a half before they have to decide, but its still good to think about what's coming up and to see what the Boy Scouts do that is different than the Cub Scouts.

Here's M helping with the pancakes - he got the job of ferrying the cooked pancakes over to the 'warming cooler'.

Several Scouts decided to see how big a pancake they could make.  It took multiple spatulas to flip this pancake!
And here is M enjoying the huge pancake.  You can't quite see it, but it is resting on 3 plates.  He was full by the time he finished this pancake (on top of several others and bacon already).
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Monday, September 22, 2008

Flying Feather event

One of the events at the Webelos-ree was the Flying Feathers.  This was the event that M was in charge of.  He had the materials in kits and he explained the process and measured the results.  Most events had 2 Scouts working them, but M was doing his alone.  I heard from other leaders that he was doing a good job, which was very nice to hear.  When we went down there, he was doing well - explaining things clearly, getting the Scouts organized, etc.

The task was to create as tall a tower as possible with the given materials:  4 sheets of stiff paper, 2 rubber bands, some pipe cleaners, paperclips, 4 straws, 2 address labels, a small piece of tin foil, 2 business cards, 2 pieces of regular paper (one being the page of instructions), the gallon baggie everything came in and a feather.  Then, without the tower tipping over, blow the feather as far as possible with one puff of air.

Here is our group assembling the tower:
more assembling
Getting reading to blow the feather.  I only got half of M in this picture, but he was there to measure how far the feather blew.
Launching the feather:
The kids had fun with it and they ended up with the tallest tower.  They didn't have the longest distance the feather traveled, but they ended up tying for 2nd place overall in this event.   Scoring was height plus distance.
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My son the reptile

M's new thing when he gets bored at school is to draw on his hand.  This was from Friday.  Evidently he was quite bored as he covered the whole front and back of his left hand.

Today he only got about half his hand.  So was it only half as boring?  Luckily it washes off fairly easily, so if I cared about what his hand looked like, we could take it off.  For the most part, though, I don't care.  Just random silliness.  And at least its less obviously rude to the teacher than reading a book during class (which he has also been known to do.  ahem!). 
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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Another Webelos-ree on the books

We had a good time at the Webelos-ree this weekend. We came back tired and dirty, as usual. It was beautiful weather and no major problems. We did have a variety of minor problems, however. Like the ladies bathroom was WAY across a field. NOT fun late at night or first thing in the morning. The air mattress seems to have sprung a slow leak. It blows up fine, but by morning, we were nearly sleeping on the ground. Unfortunately that led to my hip really bothering me, esp on long walks - like, say, across a big field to go to the bathroom.

I have pictures, but I'm too tired tonight to get them uploaded. Hopefully tomorrow, in between prodding A to finish up his astronomy project and practice his speech (3 minutes, withOUT notes!).


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Weather has broken

We're finally getting some cooler weather. Actually I suppose you can say that it started on Monday, when it never really got hot, just pleasantly warm. Yesterday was also pleasantly warm, but by yesterday evening, it was getting cool. Cool enough that I was glad to be wearing jeans while standing outside at A's den meeting. Then today came along as cool. Never did really warm up today. It misted off and on all day and never got above the low 70's. I almost wished I'd worn long sleeves. We'll definitely be packing sweatshirts for the Scout campout this weekend. It looks like it will be one of those times where I'll want to change clothes multiple times as it warms up and then cools down again. definitely layers. If I had some of those pants that zip off, it would be the perfect time to wear them!


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Gas still over $4

Hurricane Ike certainly did a number on the gas prices around here. They jumped about 50 cents a gallon between Thursday night and Saturday morning. Almost every station was over $4/gallon and various stations were out of gas. There seem to be fewer out of gas now, but the average price is still over $4. Tracking the prices it seems that many stations are coming down just a bit - about a third of the stations in our area are now $3.99, but at least half at $4.09 or more, and just a few below $3.99 (though some of those are out of gas).

I'm not planning on filling up any time soon. After all, I now have 2 vans that are almost full of gas! That's not a good reason to hold onto an extra car, but it is there as a backup while I get it cleaned up and then sold.


Sunday, September 14, 2008

New Car!

Yes! We finally got a new minivan. The old one was just that - OLD. We bought the Dodge Grand Caravan when M was 4 months old. Not the best age kid to be test-driving cars with. But probably better than doing it with a 2 yo.

The Caravan had some good points. Like the built-in child seats. LOVED them. It was so easy. I always knew they were installed correctly, but when I had adults in the car instead, I could fold them up and no one was the wiser (well, unless they saw all the crumbs all over the seats). I had both kids in the built in seats until they were 6 years old.

But the Caravan also had its not so good points. Like the fact that it would not hold an alignment. just would not do it. 116K on the car and I had to have it aligned about every 18 months - and often a new set of tires too. I think I put about 5 sets of tires on that van - I don't think I ever managed to get more than 20,000 miles on a set of tires, even though they were rated for at least twice that. Ugh. And the AC. We completely redid the AC a few years ago - front and back. Had the van in the shop for the better part of 2 weeks. And then this summer the AC went out again. I've been living without the AC, but its not fun. And then lately, it was raining and fogging up the windows. Guess what - without AC, the defogger won't work. Definitely not fun and not too safe either. Combine that with a planned trip to visit the grandparents in VA over Christmas, it seemed like it was time to look at a new vehicle.

Evidently the timing was pretty good to be looking for a van. We got a great deal on a 2008 Honda Odyssey. It's silver. It's the bottom of the line, but it still seems pretty fancy to me. I guess not having a new car for 12 years gets you out of the loop as far as what to expect. We actually didn't want the fancier models. The kids wanted a DVD player (of course!), but I didn't. I know it would turn into arguments about how long a trip needed to be to use it. Easier not to have the thing in the first place. Our mechanic strongly suggested we not get the powered sliding doors. As he put it, "if you get those, you'll be seeing me to the tune of $1000. It may be sooner or it may be later, depending on the model, but they will break". Umm, yeah, with thoughts like that, I think the kids can open and close the doors themselves!

I'll have to get a picture and post it in a few days. Haven't managed to take one yet.

It was the easiest car buying I think I've ever done - though perhaps also the longest. I wished I'd taken a lunch. I was at the dealership for 4 hours. Internet quotes have done a lot to simplify the negotiating. Our dealers "best deal" was laughably higher than my internet quotes - like $4,000 high. So I pulled out a quote and they met it - though little did they know, but that they actually beat it by at least $450. The quote I showed them didn't include a documentation fee, but our local dealer didn't add one, so savings to me!

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Friday, September 12, 2008

Easy money

I got my account all set up with ING just fine. Then when I was poking around, learning the site, I saw that I can refer people. Hmm - could I refer the kids? Called up ING and they said yes. So, if the kids can come up with $250 to start their account, they get a $25 bonus and I get $10. No brainer.

So, I sent off referral emails to them. And then promptly went and opened A's account because he had just over $250 in his old savings account. Bingo, he now has $25 more. And I have $10 more.

M doesn't have the $250 yet. He's at about $200-210. So he will have to wait until he gets the rest of the money to open his account. He is interested in earning money, but only if its easy. Not manual labor. But there's not much we can think of that he can do for money that doesn't involve manual labor. But if anyone wants to hire a 12 yo to do computer work, M's your kid!

If anyone is interested in opening an account, I can send you a referral - just let me know...

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

7 years ago

7 years ago, I heard while I was in the car, returning from dropping A off at preschool. I couldn't believe it.

I briefly thought about getting the kids, but decided that that would just alarm them more.

A was 2 and M was 5.

I remember watching the coverage all morning until it was time to go get A. Then we sat in the living room and played some game, him with his back to the TV, so I could watch with no sound.

When I heard M coming up the stairs from the bus stop, I turned the TV off - to stay off until he went to bed. I wanted to preserve their innocence a little longer.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

new way to handle allowances

I've thought of a new way to deal with the kids allowances and savings.  I checked with ING and I can set up accounts for the kids, linked to our checking account.  Then if they want to put money in the bank, they give it to me and I transfer money from our checking to their savings, electronically.  I'm hoping that this gives them a little more incentive to save - or at least they will be earning some money (albeit a rather small amount) while they save up.  

The kids seem to think this is a great idea and were disappointed that I have to wait until my ING account is open before I can open up theirs, probably Monday.  

About a year ago, we opened up savings accounts for both kids at the local credit union, but it was too much hassle to go up there to deposit/withdraw money, so we didn't do it much (umm, maybe 1 deposit and 1 withdrawal).  I think this will work better, and since M is still saving up for that iPod touch, he's all for anything that will get him more money - especially if painlessly!

Oooohhh, M will be all excited!  The iPod touch he's wanting has come down in price - by a good bit.  The 16GB that he's been wanting was $299 refurbished - now its $239.

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Monday, September 08, 2008

Christmas shopping already?

Yes, I know its still early September, but I did my first specific Christmas shopping today.  I can't mention what (because I know some of the recipients read here).  But it got me thinking about Christmas lists.  We're starting to work on a list - slowly, because Christmas just seems soooo far away to the kids.  I know its going to seem like the blink of an eye and we'll be staring it in the face, though, so I'm trying to get ready.  

It always seems that I get so busy and hectic come December, so I'm going to try really hard to get my shopping done by Thanksgiving this year.  It's a bit harder for me for the kids because if I do everything too early, they come up with some great, new, must-have item or I just see something that I know they'll love and I end up over-buying.  At least it makes it easier for birthdays though, as I always end up with something I decide to save for a birthday present.

Maybe this year will be the year I try my mom's trick of pre-addressing all the Christmas cards early.  She does it while watching baseball games, which I probably won't do, but I should be able to find some time - maybe during A's scout meetings.


Saturday, September 06, 2008

M's hair is longer than mine!

I went yesterday and got my hair cut - I donated 11 inches to Locks of Love.  It wasn't my intention to get my hair shorter than M's, but that's what happened.

Since I can still get my hair into a ponytail, obviously M's hair is long enough for that too - even though he swears it isn't.  It is!  

My hair grows fast.  I had another 11 inches cut off not quite 2 years ago, which I never got around to sending in (oops).  So, now I guess I will be mailing in 2 ponytails.
Looking at these pictures also reminds me of just how much M is growing.  I figure I have until he turns 13 before he's taller than me, but not much longer than that.  And I expect he will be wearing a bigger shoe size than me before then - though so far he is growing steadily, not in huge spurts, so I haven't had the outgrowing shoes in a few months bit (yet).
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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Back to Scouting

Tonight was A's first night back at Cub Scouts for this year.  Although they only just started den meetings, we got his popcorn packet almost 2 weeks ago so he could start selling.  We got the popcorn kernel (yes, they really do call the person who coordinates popcorn that) to send the packet in to school, so that he wouldn't be totally out-gunned by the other Scouts in our neighborhood and church.  It's a good thing too as one of the Scouts at church was getting sales fast and furious the last 2 weeks.

A has managed to sell about $400 worth of popcorn already.  Way to go A!  We know that he needs to get to $500 to get his dues paid and there has been some talk that if he sells some larger amount (undetermined at the moment) that maybe his fees will be paid for the trip to Huntsville space camp in January.  It's driving me a bit batty at the moment that they don't have that number - or haven't told the Scouts anything about when the popcorn would come in - or even told us about the Webelos-ree campout which is coming up in 2 1/2 weeks.  They say that they will tell all at the pack meeting in 2 weeks - one day before the campout!  That seems a bit late!