Thursday, February 16, 2012

"It was just my imagination, running away with me...."

So, after the Impossible Son's soccer practice, it was decided to head to our favorite local Tex-Mex restaurant, Mr. Taco. We were in the mood for fajitas, or at least the Husbandly One, the Impertinent Daughter, and I were. We have discovered that Mr. Taco's "fajitas for two" plate feeds the three of us nicely. The Impossible Son had his usual chicken strips, no gravy.

We forgot that Thursdays are live mariachi band night.

Did I mention there are all hard surfaces at Mr. Taco, with nothing to absorb sound?


Anyhow, yeah, it was loud, but the food was worth it! Once we'd eaten ourselves to a lull, the Impertinent One begged a pen off me, grabbed a clean napkin, and immediately began to sketch the mariachi band members, then took it to them before fleeing back to our table.

They passed it around among themselves, looking at it intently, then marched over to our table and serenaded her with "Just My Imagination," and a Spanish/English version of "I Just Called To Say I Love You."

Her smile was incandescent, and she giggled almost the entire time, hiding her face every once in a while, but mostly beaming at them with delight. I rubbed her back from time to time when it looked like she was getting overwhelmed, but mostly? She absolutely loved it!

I think she was also chuffed that two of the mariachi singers actually fought over who would get to sing to her! And if you've never seen a violinist and a trumpet player arguing over who is gonna sing to the pretty girl, then you have no idea what you missed!

I think she's just beginning to have an inkling of the doors her art can open for her. This is going to be an interesting journey to watch!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Adventures in Air Conditioning...

Friday was a very eventful day in our household, some good, some not so good, and some downright alarming!

I'll start off with the good. We got our central air/central heating unit replaced, and it only took one day, and while it came with its own horrors, it was a definite Good Thing.

The horrors?

Well, first off, when they pulled out the coil? Okay, one thing you should know about an air conditioning system is the coil should be kept clean. It should be flushed out and cleaned twice a year at the very least, monthly if you want to be particular. I knew this. When we had window units, this was something we did regularly because it kept them running efficiently.

With the central whole house unit, though, that's a bit trickier, and with the unit we had, it was pretty much impossible.

And it wouldn't have mattered, because apparently no one ever cleaned the damned thing! There was an inch and a half mat of... hair. And dust. And dirt. And other things it doesn't bear thinking about. The A/C guys figure that thing hasn't been cleaned since 2003, the last time it was fully serviced. We couldn't have cleaned it anyway, because it was inaccessible. What really chaps my hide? When the fan motor burned out in 2010, and the capacitor burned out last summer, one of the first things they should have done was check the coil and clean it. Because... a dirty coil will freeze over and cause the fan to work harder and eventually burn the motor out, or burn the capacitor out.

They never looked at the coil. Just asked us if we used filters regularly, and when we said yes, said, "Okay, you're good." And that was that.


Okay... so, the next thing? When they opened the intake register? There was carpet on the floor inside the intake chamber. And... it was full of dirt and MOLDY. They rolled it into a plastic bag and carried it quickly out of the house and disposed of it, then cleaned the chamber out thoroughly, even asking if I had bleach, because they hadn't expected to have to swab the chamber out. And then spent time drying it thoroughly.

No wonder I kept getting pneumonia!! No wonder the kids kept getting upper respiratory infections. No wonder the Husbandly One kept getting sinus infections!! No wonder the Impossible Son was almost constantly congested!! It makes me want to bang my head into a wall!!

Okay, so they cleaned everything, replaced it all, sealed it all, and put a ceiling in the closet where the unit is housed... no, there was no ceiling in the closet. It was open to the attic and that was a problem, too! Anyhow, there's new ductwork up there, everything's been taped and sealed, and then they turned the A/C on (because it was a warm day and the house was stuffy).

Normally, it takes about half an hour to cool the house off after turning the A/C on.

In ten minutes, I was shivering!!

I was sitting at the kitchen table, defragging the laptop and doing other maintenance on it, and nearly jumped when papers on the table started... fluttering. And I blinked when I realized I could feel air moving against my face. Mr. A/C Guy comes in and says, "How's that?"

I said, "What's that breeze? Do you still have the front door open?"

He grinned at me. "Nope. That's coming from the overhead vent."

Y'all... we've never been able to feel the air coming from the vents. Well, not from a distance. We'd have to hold our hands up to the vents to tell it was working.

Right about that moment, the wind chime I have hanging from the kitchen vent started softly chiming. It's never done that before!!

Totally AWESOME!!

And when they got the heat set up? WONDERFUL!! It's a sealed system, so no more checking obsessively to make sure the pilot light is still lit, and worrying that it's gone out every time the wind starts blowing outside. SO AWESOME!!

And the house is actually warm!! I no longer go around bundled up in the house like a little Eskimo, as THO puts it.

Totally full of WIN!!

Yes, those idiots at Mr. Blow Hard's company really screwed us. Oh, yeah, when they replaced the fan motor? They put in a super-charged fan motor, so it would work with the crappy, dirty coil and not burn out. Not only that, but they replaced the 30 amp circuit with a 40 amp without telling us so the fan would work and not overload the circuit.

Yeah, that has to be replaced. Yay.

*grumble grumble grumble*

Put all of that together and it explains why our power bills were so damn high!


The Impertinent One had a game Friday night, and right about the time that Mr. A/C Guy was putting the finishing touches on our system, I got a text from her. Their game, which had been scheduled for 6 pm, had been moved to 5 pm. Which meant scrambling to get food into them before game time.

Except they didn't. They pretty much had them practicing until fifteen minutes before the game, and then they had to change out and set up, and nowhere in there was there time for the junior varsity team to eat, or even text their folks to ask for so much as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. So basically, they hadn't eaten since lunch.

Oh, and did I mention it was cold and rainy by that point?

Not that cold and rainy is a problem, but on an empty stomach, it is.

To say that they didn't play well would be a major understatement. We had a lot of injuries in that game, including the Impertinent Daughter.


I was answering a parent's questions, trying to keep an eye on the Impossible Son (who was living up to his name, believe me), and on the field, but I missed Miss Impertinent taking a ball to the face straight off her opponent's knee. By the time I was focused on the field again, she was on the bench. And she stayed on the bench through the rest of the first half, and part of the second half until one of the coaches noticed her face was swelling, so they sent her to the trainer, who slapped ice on it.

Her eye was swollen shut, apparently.

The Tall Blonde noticed that the Impertinent One was sitting on the trainer's cart, and after looking through the zoom lens of her camera, determined she had an ice bag held to her face. Then we heard that she had a headache, and that was all I knew until the end of the game when I was finally able to make my way to the team's bench, just in time to hear the trainer assessing her for a concussion.


So... I got her home, did my own assessment, and decided to keep her home and resting until Monday, when I could get her in to see the family doctor. She had a headache, but it wasn't severe. Her face was swollen where she'd been hit by the ball, but had improved by the time we got home, and she was fairly steady on her feet. By Sunday, though, she couldn't walk a straight line if her life depended on it. And she was sleepy. We kept an eye on her, and I got her in to see the doctor first thing on Monday.

The physician's assistant did her assessment and said, "CT scan time!" The verdict? A mild concussion, so she's benched by the doctor until the 10th, and benched by the district's concussion protocol until the 17th, provided she passes the trainer's assessment.

I'm glad of this, because when I was in high school sports, their concussion protocol consisted of, "Can you still see? Can you still stand up? Okay, rub some dirt on it and GET BACK IN THE GAME!!"

In other words, unless you were bleeding out your eyeballs and nose, you were fine to play, especially if you were one of the better players.

I'm glad this is no longer true!

Still, the coach looked like she was sucking on a lemon someone had found in the garbage when we let her know. Oh, well, my priority is my kid, not the coach's happiness.

So, new CA/CH unit - YAY!!

Mild concussion - BOO!!

And there you go!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Shout It Loud!!

The Impertinent Daughter had an AWESOME game tonight!! And Junior Varsity won their game, 3 to 0!! She had two truly sweet corner kicks and many assists, and omg, y'all... she was so fast tonight!! I'M SO PROUD!!!

*dance of joy, dance of joy*


LIFE. It Happens.

Can I just... step off the roller coaster for a few minutes? Kinda feeling dizzy... just a bit.

Let's see, we're having to replace the central air/central heating unit in our house because (1) it has reached the age where there are no spare parts available any longer and (2) even if there were spare parts available, it wouldn't be safe to fix.


Yeah, that was fun. The guy who came to repair it works for the company who installed it in the first place some twenty years ago, and after first telling me what needed fixing and how much it would cost, then telling me the parts that needed fixing needed to be replaced, then telling me they don't make those parts any more, I got to deal with the blustering, Good Ol' Boy owner of said company. Mr. Good Ol' Boy took one look at me and decided that I was the type that could be easily manipulated into what he wanted me to do, and proceeded to try to intimidate me into agreeing with him that his company should be the ones to do the work.

Y'all know that went over like a lead balloon, right?

Funny how Mr. Blow Hard and his tech went all through the closet where the CA/CH unit is housed, with Mr. Blow Hard taking measurements and loudly telling his tech that they'd have to rip out the wall, and probably part of the floor to put in a new coil, and he would recommend a contractor to rebuild the wall after they were done replacing the unit, blah, blah, blah, and it never occurred to him that I was texting the Husbandly One basically a blow by blow account of what was going on while I sat quietly at the kitchen table with the laptop. Mostly, Mr. Blow Hard shouted out a series of arcane numbers that I'm guessing were supposed to be measurements of some kind, or maybe it was just supposed to impress me with how technical he was...

When he finally "presented" me with his "findings," I said politely, "Well, I'll discuss this with my husband, and we'll let you know what we decide."

He frowned, then smiled indulgently and looked at his tech, nodding as he said, "Oh, right. You'll discuss this with your husband." He snickered. "You mean, you'll ask him what to do and then do what he tells you."

Yeah, that pretty much made me see red, but I just raised an eyebrow and said, "No, I mean I'll discuss it with my husband. We're partners. Neither one of us makes big money decisions on our own. We talk it out, go over the pros and cons, and go from there. Sometimes he has the final say, sometimes I have the final say, but either way, it gets discussed, we do research, and decide how big a hit our budget can take, because it affects both of us. So when I say we'll discuss it and let you know, that's precisely what I mean. You have a problem with that?"

"Well, if you go with us, you won't have to pay the service fee for this visit," Mr. Blow Hard said, still trying to work the intimidation factor. "But if you go with someone else, I'll have to send you a bill for $85."

"That's fine," I said with a sweet smile. "We'll let you know."

"You should decide soon, because we might be booked up," he said as he headed for the door.

"We'll take that chance," I said firmly. "Bye now."

Yeah, that was fun.

We called a couple of companies, but decided on one recommended to us by the Tall Blonde. What settled it was (1) he got back to us and (2) he didn't just look at the main unit. He also went up into the attic to check the ducts and connections, and went under the house to check the coil and the drains. He was very patient with my questions, and also cleared up a mystery that's been driving us crazy for some time now.

Every time the A/C or the heat came on, I'd smell this... faint burning odor that made the back of my throat burn, and would sometimes set my asthma off. We had the unit checked several times because of this, but there was never anything we could find to explain it.

Then Mr. A/C guy takes a look at the duct work and peers up at the top of our unit and goes, "Huh."

Yeah, that's not a good sound, either.

Seems that when Mr. Blow Hard's company installed the unit, they used a type of duct work that has since been banned in our country because it's... well, basically a piece of crap. And when all the new ductwork was installed, they left this original duct work in place where the unit connects to it all. Basically, what happens to the crap duct is that it dries out and starts cracking, then dry rots and gets blown about in the system. That's what I've been smelling every time the unit comes on.

Mr. A/C said, "What I don't understand is why they left it there. Because even if the new duct wouldn't fit, there's a way to work around it and adapt it, so... why leave the old stuff? It's not safe!"

Well, judging by the crap unit Mr. Blow Hard wanted us to buy, I'd say it was done to cut corners. After all, how many homeowners actually look up into their attic to see what they've got up there? And how many of those that do would know what to look for or what they're even looking at?

We're fortunate that the weather has been mild, though the first three or four nights after we lost our heat were tough, because it got down in the thirties. Thank goodness for lots of blankets!! This house holds on to the cold like you wouldn't believe, and I've had to open the windows during the day just so I can feel my fingers!!

The Impertinent Daughter's team survived a three day soccer tournament over last weekend, and so did we! Again, in San Marcos at the fields where the Impossible Son and I froze our katooshies off. And, yes, it was cold, but not as cold as last year! Friday night, they were in first place, but by Saturday afternoon, because of the bizarre point system the folks who were running the tournament were using, the JV found themselves playing for third.

I'm still not sure where we placed, because every person I've asked have said something different. Personally, I think they placed pi.

Hey, it makes about as much sense as that point system!!

And the Impossible Son has started soccer practice for the rec league this week, which is going to be frustrating, I can tell already. Why? Because once again, there weren't enough coaches for the record FIVE U12 teams that were formed this season, so they basically started grabbing any warm body. And one of the warm bodies is the woman who is coaching my son's team.

I have nothing against her. She's a good person, I've known her since the Impertinent Daughter started playing soccer, and now her daughter and mine are playing JV for the high school. It's cool. However... she's never coached soccer before in her life and has no idea where to start. The good news is, she knows this, and has enlisted the help of several girls on the high school team, as well as any parents who have any sort of know how, or is willing to help out. This can work, I've seen it work before.

I've also seen it go to hell in a handbasket.

So... I'm hoping and keeping my fingers crossed that things will go well. However, the Husbandly One and I have decided this will be Mr. Impossible's last season playing here. If he plays rec league next fall, it will be in San Marcos.

And that is the State of Jo so far. Woo.