Thursday, October 18, 2012

My Kid, the Fighter

"Hi, I'm calling to let you know that [Little Dude] was in a fight at school today."

Little Dude's teacher rarely calls us. She usually communicates via notes or email. But yesterday at 3:30pm I got that special call.

The teacher believed he was simply defending himself, which is what she told the principal. However, the school rules don't allow hitting for any reason so the boys ended up in the principal's office. (Little Dude also had to clip down from orange to purple, but he worked his way back up to green.) She said this wasn't the first offense for the other kid involved and there would be consequences.

She also told me that she was worried about Little Dude because at the end of the day he still had a red mark on the back of his neck and because she was sure he was pretty shocked by the whole matter. "He didn't even cry! I was expecting him to cry, but he didn't!"

She was obligated to ask us to talk to Little Dude about finding a teacher instead of using his fists to settle matters. But she already knows (and agrees... though she can't officially say so) what we have taught our son.

See, we've had a mini-run-in once before where a kid picked on Little Dude (as the youngest in his class, he's an easy target). After telling the teacher, the kid didn't stop so Little Dude hit him. We've taught our boy to walk away first, tell a teacher second, and if it still doesn't stop, then he can use alternative methods.

We may not be perfect parents, but at least our kid isn't going to be bullied.

During dinner, I asked Little Dude what happened at school and he gave me the entire story, names and all (teachers can't give names). He, Adam* and John* were playing together, and suddenly John wouldn't let Little Dude and Adam off the "ship."

"Ship?" I asked, sure he was talking about the jungle gym.

"Yeah, that's what we called it. The 'ship.'"

Anyhow... John began hitting Adam. Little Dude went to help his friend. "John was hurting Adam and I didn't want him to be hurt."

"Was there a teacher nearby?" I asked.

He shrugged his shoulders, "I didn't see anyone." (I'm not sure how hard he actually looked.)

The boys all ended up in a dog pile. As soon as the commotion began, one of the male teachers pried the boys apart.

How do you get after a kid for coming to his friend's defense?

Yes, we did the right thing and told Little Dude that next time he needs to find a teacher first. We also told him that he should probably stay away from John. But we didn't punish him.

To tell the truth, we're proud of our boy. It's one thing to defend yourself, but it takes guts to defend someone else. And my boy did exactly that.

Plus, I also got to hear from the teacher about how my son is a leader in his class. "He is friends with everyone. He doesn't pick favorites or leave anyone out. He's the first one to help anyone out. If someone on the other side of the classroom drops their pencil, he races over to pick it up for them. All the kids like him."

That's a boy a mother can be proud of!

*Names, as always, are changed to protect both the innocent and guilty.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Case of the Kamikazee Squirrel

Yesterday I ran over a squirrel.

Poor little squirrel.

I felt queasy and light-headed as soon as it happened.

I'm sure the squirrel felt worse.

I was driving back to work from lunch when out of the corner of my eye I saw a blur of fur running towards my vehicle. It's choice to cross six lanes of traffic was not a wise one. And soon I heard/felt the familiar thump-thump of doom.

As I drove on, I think I saw the squirrel bounding back the way it came... slower and possibly without a tail. If it survives, it will not make that mistake again!

Of course, I had to immediately call my sister and tell her what happened. "Dad would be so proud of you," she said. So I told my dad what happened. Indeed, he was proud of me... for not swerving or braking.

Growing up, one of our first lessons of the road was to never swerve or brake when you find yourself about to create a fresh batch of road kill (deers, elk and larger animals were the exception to the rule). His reason for the rule was that by swerving or suddenly braking, you could cause an accident or otherwise put yourself in peril. Therefore, it was better to send the small, woodland creature to the great free range in the sky.

The squirrel isn't my first road kill. And some people would be very happy to hear that I single-handedly took another offensive rodent off the streets. (My mom offered to get me a squirrel sticker for the door of my car.) My driving history is peppered with the deaths of a few other small furry and feathered creatures. I always found it gruesome.

But none of my stories are as gruesome as my father's famous dog-meets-trailer incident.

It happened sometime in the 1980s. My father, whom I should mention is a dog lover, was driving his truck and towing a large horse trailer through town. As he came upon a bus stop, a small dog unfortunately jumped into the path of his tires.

Unable to swerve or brake without causing harm to the horses in the trailer, my dad took a deep breath and...



Every tire on the passenger side of the truck and trailer (which had two axles) introduced itself to the poor little doggy.

My dad looked back in his mirror to see the dog's owner staring at the puddle of fur at the end of her leash.

Yes, folks. That's right. The dog was on a leash.

So hopefully this is a lesson to all. If your dog likes to bark at cars, make sure he's not barking at the front end of a truck towing a trailer. Otherwise, he might end up as the punchline of a story retold by a distinguished blonde-haired man with a twinkle in his eye.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Trifecta of Transportation Troubles, part 2

If you haven't read part 1 of our Trifecta of Transportation Troubles, you really need to... right now.

If you have...

So we limped all the way home with only one brief pit stop along the way. We finally made it back home EIGHT AND A HALF HOURS after originally leaving for our vacation.

Big Dude took Little Dude into the house to use the facilities while I quickly transferred everything from the car to the truck. We were determined to have this vacation!

We were home for less than 30 minutes before we peeled out of the driveway and headed back down the road much travelled.

Little Dude, redressed in pajamas and armed with a pillow, didn't take long to fall asleep. The soft road sounds had become his lullaby.

We did finally make it to our hotel... at 3am. And we made Oscar-worthy efforts to ignore the fatigue and stress in order to enjoy our vacation. Little Dude loved it. And that alone was worth the maddening drive.

When we returned home, my parents offered to lend us their car while ours was being repaired. So Tuesday morning, Little Dude and I piled into my mom's little red car and headed for school.

And the tire pressure warning light came on.

Now, Little Dude's school has a strict policy about being late, so I wasn't going to stop anywhere along the way. I drove him all the way to school and then met Big Dude back at home so he could air up the tires.

My parents had just moved back from Florida, so Big Dude figured the tires were low because they've been sitting in a garage unused. Besides, the tires were only a few months old.

My mom teased me about my poor luck with cars lately. I whined about my poor luck with cars lately. My husband just shook his head and called the dealership to find out how long it would take to get my car fixed.

Thursday morning we were still borrowing the little red car. Little Dude and I got ready to leave for school and... click...

The battery was dead.

Worried about getting Little Dude to school on time, I called the most reliable driver I knew... Big Dude. After all, he had shown an amazing amount of reliability during our recently fated vacation.

Big Dude ran home, picked us up. Took Little Dude to school. Took me to work. Jumped the car battery and took the little red car back to my parents.

My mom laughed at our poor luck with cars lately. I cried about my poor luck with cars lately. My husband vowed to get my car back that day.

Luckily, we did get our car back that evening. Thankfully, the transmission was still covered under warranty. However, we didn't get off scot free because our car needed a few other items done. It's not like a mechanic to let you have your car back without finding something to repair. But at least we were able to save money since they already had the engine pulled out for the free transmission replacement.

Doomed transmission. Flat tires. Dead battery. I'm pretty sure nobody will be lending me a car any time soon!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Trifecta of Transportation Troubles, part 1

Here's a story I can finally write about without ending up in the fetal position in a dark corner somewhere.

So a month ago, we took a mini-vacation. It was the 3-day Labor Day weekend, and we decided to knock off early on Friday and take Little Dude to a theme park for the weekend.

I made all the plans, packed the bags and loaded the car. Little Dude had a half day, so we picked him up and ate lunch in the car while we started on our 6-hour drive. We figured we would arrive at the hotel in time for dinner, and then get a little swimming in before hitting the hay.

But you know what they say about the best laid plans, right?

Two hours in, the "Service Engine Soon" light came on in my 4-year-old car. Usually, it's something benign and I wouldn't really worry about it. But I was with Big Dude and he actually believes that warning lights only come on for valid reasons.

We were 50 miles away from the town that sits about halfway between our home and our favorite getaway, so I suggested that we stop at AutoZone and have them check the computer code. Big Dude wanted to stop at the local dealership because AutoZone can't always read the codes right for newer cars, but I didn't want to waste the time and money at a dealership when we could get it checked fast and free. Besides, I just had the oil changed and all the fluids checked before we left. AND I just had our car at our dealership a couple weeks earlier for some annoying little master cylinder recall thingy. The car had been checked out recently and everything was fine.

Or so I thought...

We made it to the AutoZone and I quickly convinced someone there to check out the car's code. I imagined it would be something simple and we would be back on the road in no time at all. But the attendant said the code was "funny," indicating something was wrong with our transmission fluid. They suggested we visit the nearest dealership, which happened to be down the road.

So we got back in the car and Big Dude smugly drove to the dealership.

We managed to find the service department, which was tucked away in a very remote location on the lot. Big Dude talked to the service guy while Little Dude and I found the waiting area, complete with a germy-looking, rarely-if-ever cleaned, child's play area in a not-quite-soundproof glass, office.

We waited. And waited. And waited. Little Dude played and ran around and screamed like a banshee. People looked and stared. But what did I care? I was on vacation! My kid should have been swimming at a pool, not sitting in a car dealership. Just because we had to pause our trip, it didn't mean Little Dude couldn't still have some fun.

Several hours later (seriously not exaggerating here), Big Dude came and told me that I needed to call AAA and get our car towed back home.


Apparently my car's transmission was failing. It could probably limp back home, but there was no way it would be able to tackle the hills we would need to climb to get to our vacation destination. And Big Dude was worried that limping back home was iffy.

So I called AAA. Now, I will say that I was not in the best of attitudes at this point. However, I still tried to remain calm and civil on the phone. The AAA operator answered and I explained our predicament. Without a hint of sympathy, she dryly asked for the addresses of where to pick up the car and where to drop it off. The ladies at the dealership's service counter were much more empathetic as they helped me with the information I needed. Then Ms. AAA told me that a tow truck would be along in 45 minutes and that it would cost $400.

WHAT?!? (again!)

After I picked my jaw off the floor, I asked Ms. AAA-Stands-for-Amazingly-Apathetic-Attitude why it would cost so much. She curtly said that my membership only covered 100 miles and that after that it was $5 per mile. The she asked how many people would be riding with the driver. I told her I was here with my husband and child, so three of us will need a lift back. "The tow truck can only take two people and no car seats." I was tempted to ask her if she was suggesting I leave my child behind, but I'm not sure she knew what sarcasm, or any type of joking, is.

During this time, Big Dude was playing with Little Dude in the glass children's cage. Yes, it was floor-to-ceiling glass walls. But for some reason, Big Dude could not see my waving my arms and jumping all around while attached to the desk phone by my ear. (No cell phone signal in the dealership.) People had begun to notice the strange blonde lady reenacting Richard Simmons' Sweatin' to the Oldies routine. Everyone was looking... except Big Dude. So I finally did what any respectable, civil person would do... I threw something.

It worked. The loud thump of my leather wallet hitting the obviously child-proof glass wall got his attention. Big Dude came out bellowing, "WHAT is going on?" Now people were really watching because we had just turned this into a Jerry Springer moment. And to be honest, I didn't care at this point. I had been in that dealership for several hours watching my child roll around in who-knows-what-kind-of-germs. Lunch was several hours ago and I was hungry. And to top it off, my dear sweet husband dropped a bomb on me, asked me to make a phone call for him, and then walked away.

I really hate when that happens.

So I relayed all the information the AAA drone gave to me, and Big Dude had me relay back that just one person would be riding in the tow truck.

Big Dude and I walked over to the glass cage where we were now setting up house and laying out the floor plan for where we wanted our furniture to go. We discussed the idea that we now needed to find a rental car and cough up $400 for the tow. This was turning out to be a rather expensive vacation. "Hold on," he suddenly said as he once again disappeared into the service center.

A few minutes later he reappeared to tell me that he would drive it home. He said the service guy told him that if he was careful then we should be able make it home... or at least close enough to avoid a $400 tow.

So I called my favorite automotive club once again, and this time actually talked to someone with a pulse. She was much more sympathetic to my plight and said that we could call back at any time to request the tow again. She even wished us luck before hanging up.

Everyone in the dealership got together to throw us a quick going-away party. After all, we had thoroughly entertained - or possibly annoyed - them for the past several hours. The service guy had a priest give our car a quick blessing and then sprinkled it with fairy dust. We loaded back into the barely functioning vehicle and drove slowly away from the setting sun.

If only we knew what the car gods had in store for us the rest of the week...