October 12, 2014

if it ain't broke, don't fix it

A few years ago, my parents decided to give us a very generous Christmas gift. It was an early gift. It arrived in November. Our dishwasher was loud, old, and ugly. They decided to replace it. After putting Coach through graduate school, giving birth to six children in 9 1/2 years, and moving into a bigger house, we weren't in the habit of replacing appliances just because they weren't our favorite. It was a luxury that we were excited about, although I recall feeling somewhat guilty. Perhaps there was something else that needed attention or another way we should be spending the money. My parents insisted that we needed the dishwasher. Once a top of the line dishwasher was installed, it felt great to be pampered.

The following December when the dishwasher was only 13 months old, it failed. The problem could be fixed by a new part. A part that wasn't stocked on the fix it man's truck. The dishes piled up while we waited for the part to arrive. Once the new piece was installed, the next problem surfaced. The power board was out. It was only when the new part was in place that it became obvious that the appliance couldn't run because there was no power. Again we waited. A new power board arrived after our family became responsible for filling a landfill with piles of paper products. The new parts to replace newish parts in a one year old top notch dishwasher were going to cost us a fortune. Ah, noting like the gift that keeps on giving.

I braced myself to pay the fix it man, but first I made one phone call. I spoke in strong, carefully chosen sentences to someone in customer service at the manufacturer. This conversation was brief. I requested to speak to his boss. Eventually I explained to someone who mattered at this well known name brand company that we were going to require new parts on the company's dime. They explained that the product was no longer covered by a warranty. I countered that if they couldn't stand by their product after 13 months, then I would need to share my frustrations with everyone I knew. The new board would arrive shortly. The cost covered by the company headquarters. I also was informed that I couldn't contact them again. This was a one time deal. I took the deal.

About 15 mos. later I was dealing with piles of dirty dishes, sticky toddler sip cups, and crusty silverware all over again. Apparently I was the proud owner of a very pricey un-dishwasher.  Thanks to another service man visit, our testy appliance was up and running again. Costs kept adding up. Six months later, same thing. After it was serviced a few more times, I got about one solid year of clean dishes before this past Saturday morning. We were greeted with a dishwasher holding what appeared to be clean dishes, but standing water in the bottom and no power. Familiar, but unwelcome signs.

I don’t get it. I tip toed around the thing, never wanting to upset it. I followed all of the tips my service man shared with me. At his suggestion, we began investing in very pricey dishwasher soap pellets. The powder soap we were accustomed to was doing damage to the appliance. Odd. A product made specifically for dishwashers, but not safe to run through a cycle. We ran the hot water in the sink prior to hitting the start button. The board could burn itself out if it needed to heat the water up to the necessary hot temperature.

Could this be the last straw? How much more money do we invest in it? Of course there is the old saying, ‘They don’t make ‘em like they used to.’ I guess not, but they sure charge a hell of a lot more for ‘em nowadays. I wonder how long that old clunker of a dish washer would have lasted if we had insisted to my folks that we were going to turn down their gift and stick with it. I’m not sure if we should cut our losses and invest in a new one. Different brand, of course.

Too bad they don’t make a dishwasher that could hold the multitude of dishes a large family soils daily. Drawback: where to fit it? It would stand a foot taller than the standard kitchen counter top, because it would require an additional rack. In place of the taller, impractical-but-awesome dishwasher of my dreams, I have developed a great skill for loading our current model. If I am not the loader (which is rare), I typically end up readjusting, rearranging, and reorganizing the dirty dish layout in order to squeeze the rest of them in. It’s a gift. Really.

I contacted the service man today. Although I should have his number on speed dial, but I once again had to wrestle with all of the paperwork on my desk to locate his contact info. I unearthed the receipt from his last visit. It was dated: October 18, 2013. It’s as if they installed a timer on this thing. This might be the day that I start shopping around for a dishwasher that might produce dishes with a lemon scent. I‘d prefer that to a dishwasher that behaves like a lemon. Lesson learned: if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

October 5, 2014

we should be in commercials

Snapple does it to them.  Kiwi Strawberry.  Causes odd, unexpected, uncontrollable reactions.  Not allergic, thankfully.  Just idiotic fits that exhibit a true lack of self control.  It brings out an animal like response.  I don't buy the stuff, thus the ramped up excitement level when they make contact with it.  My mom will occasionally drop off a large jug of Kiwi Strawberry, because she has watched them gulp it down at her house.  She's witnessed the happy, grandma's-the-best moments.  She is lucky to escape the irrational, I-will-do-anything-to-get-me-more-of-that-liquid-love-in-a-bottle fight  that Coach and I have survived on a few occasions.  She recognizes that it is a treat for them.  If it is on sale, one magically appears on the kitchen counter top while we are out. 

I have refused to open the unannounced gift at times in order to wait for all Snapple lovers to be present, accounted for, and thirsty.  That is harder to do than it sounds.  Six kids tend to drift between after school activities, caddying jobs, and friends houses like leaves on a windy day (only noisier).  If I wait too long to give my blessing to open it, someone will open it when they think no one else is around.  Then we all have to hear about the wrong that has been done to a Snapple starved sibling.

When I do open it and pour it into anxiously awaiting cups, somehow the portions are never fair.  Whatever is left over after the initial mother-monitored serving, gets mysteriously hijacked from the fridge when no one else is around.  There is typically a gasp heard across town when someone discovers that the sweet, pink inventory has dipped below its last observed line.  A Snapple container housing less than a sip hidden discreetly behind the pasta sauce in the fridge is obviously a sign of foul play.  

It's embarrassing to admit that my offspring aren't smart enough to do away with the evidence properly when they actually do finish the remaining sip.  Shoving the empty container under the newspapers in the recycling bin might aid the thirsty fellow in getting away with his Snapple slurping crime.  Few of us would ever remember that there was actually a drop of Snapple remaining in the gallon size bottle in the fridge, if it was simply disposed of properly.  No, one of my clueless brood actually tosses the evidence behind the television stand.  The TV is positioned on a small cabinet with one door partially broken off and an array of DVDs fanned out on the carpet before it.  This scene, straight from House Beautiful magazine, is angled in the corner of the room partially blocking a window.  The space created by this arrangement is apparently the perfect landing spot for an empty, gifted-from-grandma, clear plastic container of Snapple.  It's true my housekeeping habits don't include vigorously inspecting, dusting, or collecting  debris from behind the TV.  Perhaps this clan is intelligent after all.  One of them has observed that this off limits haven for dust bunnies can throw me off the path for ages. 

I should point out that my children do not limit their consumer-love solely to the Snapple product.  I rarely purchase individual portions of Gatorade.  Our kids pack up reusable water bottles to their sporting events.  So much cheaper.  Anyway, a few years back I purchased a case of Gatorade bottles during the summer.  I was organizing an enormous garage sale for the kids' school, and I thought they would be easy to pack for the kids while they endured long hours of mommy sorting stacks of smelly clothes in the hot school.  Tetonka was getting picked up by a neighbor for basketball camp.  When his ride arrived, he made a mad dash down the basement stairs.  His excuse was something along the lines of 'Forgot to turn off the lights down there.'  On his way out, he shuffled past me without rotating his body towards the door.  Odd.  Was he practicing some kind of basketball drill?  With an eyebrow raised, I watched him head out the door.  If I had blinked I would have missed it.  There in the back waistband of his shorts covered by his t-shirt was an ill concealed Gatorade.  Unreal.  Later that day I headed to the grocery store with Curly.  She was about 3 years old.  When we arrived, she wouldn't get out of her car seat.  She insisted that she would just wait in the car.  Baffled, I chuckled.  Since when do I leave kids in the car at the grocery store?  Eventually I got her out of the seat.  There behind her was a sweaty bottle of blue Gatorade.  She winced and offered me a sheepish grin. 

There are many foods that I rarely purchase, because it requires too much energy to fight off the clan for very long.  When there is a treat in the house, they sense it.  I often joke with baggers at the store who offer to help me to my car, that I really need help at home stashing the good stuff so that it doesn't disappear overnight.  A package of frosted animal crackers just surfaced in Laddie and Eddie's room.  Only crumbs remained.  This bag of cookies traveled directly from the cabinet to their room.  It bypassed the pantry shelf.  It was never made free game to the other cookie lovers (OK, I love those damn things and I couldn't believe I never ate a single cookie).  I don't buy those often, and I only bought one bag.  Gone. 

Today Coach asked me to identify something he stumbled across in the back of the fridge.  Always dicey.  It took me a minute.  Sealed neatly in a zip loc bag were two Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls.  I was perplexed.  Let me clarify:  they were uncooked.  Who would put two raw rolls in a zip loc bag?  Where were the rest?  Laddie has used the oven on occasion when I wasn't home.  Not something I encourage.  I once came home to the most God awful smell.  Never did find out what he attempted to 'cook' in there.  I cornered Laddie and Eddie.  Did either teenage son know what the back story was to the lonely looking rolls?  Eventually Eddie cracked.  What tin did you use to bake them in?  Oh, no, he assured us.  He didn't bother to cook them.  He figured he ate about 3 of them.  Couldn't account for the other three.  Gross.  Literally.  Salmonella? 

This diving into whatever they can get their paws on has reached new levels.  Perhaps we could channel our excitement over treats, and star in some reality based TV commercials.  Viewers might actually stay tuned.