Passport Fiasco

The Older Daughter has been invited by her grandma to take a 15-day European cruise this summer. (I am very jealous, but that’s another story.) Her passport expired a few weeks back, so we needed to get it renewed. We went to the State Department’s website to find the requirements. It said that we needed to bring her old passport or her birth certificate, and that we could pay by cash or check. Knowing how the government operates, I asked The Wife to call the local office to make sure the details from the website were correct. She did and they confirmed everything. Great, right? Not so much.
 
When they got to the office, they were told that she needed her old passport and her birth certificate. Well that sucks. My worst fears were realized in that no matter how hard you try to make dealings with the government easier, they always go awry. Anyway, they headed back  home to pick up the birth certificate. They made it back to the office, got all the paperwork filled out and processed. Then it was time to pay. The Wife forked over the $100 fee in cash. That’s when they told her that they don’t accept cash. You’re kidding me right? This after they said that was an acceptable form of payment on their website and The Wife double-checked over the phone? Not to mention that every Federal Reserve Note says “THIS NOTE IS LEGAL TENDER FOR ALL DEBTS, PUBLIC AND PRIVATE”.
 
I just wanted to rant about this to you and I hate to turn this political, but think about this for a moment. Think about this experience at the passport office; think about what a nightmare the DMV is; think about the IRS. You may have had other experiences interacting with the government. It’s nearly always a nightmare. The crush of massive bureaucracy and rampant incompetency is staggering.
 
How can anyone out there really think that the federal government can do a better job with health care? Universal health care would be an unmitigated disaster. Think of your DMV experience…that’s what going to the doctor or hospital will be like. We’ve got to stand against this.

Teen Translator

Finally, news I can use. Last Sunday’s ZITS comic has a fantastic invention for parents of teens: The Teen Translator. Enjoy…

zits

Tired

Okay, I’m forcing you to join me in my boredom at the tire shop. Hey, get back here. I need some company.

Yesterday, we woke up to some snow on the ground. The Older Daughter is now driving to school every day. Being an adult with lots of life experience, I advised her to keep her speed down and not follow too close. Then I headed out to work.

It really wasn’t that slick…until…the final road leading to my workplace. Me…the responsible adult…with all my life experience…found myself going a little faster than I should have and following a little too close. I discovered this fact when the truck in front of me came to a sudden, dead stop. I hit the brakes, but just slid. All I had time to do was swerve to avoid rear-ending the truck. I jumped the curb and then ran over some concrete scraps. There was a nasty scraping noise underneath the car. Not missing a beat, I regained control and got right back on the road. There didn’t seem by be anything wrong with the car.

Backtrack with me to a few months ago. Same tire shop said that I needed new tires, but that they could go a little longer. Looking at the bank account and the economy, I decided to wait. I was hoping I could milk them until next fall to save a few bucks. This is the responsible, smart adult thinking again. I had noticed some loss of traction…particularly with water, dirt, or gravel on the road. After yesterday, it would appear that this same loss of traction also applies to ice and snow. Go figure.

toyo

Since I drive about 30,000 miles per year, I decided to go with tire that has the longest tread life, longest warranty, and, therefore, the highest price. They are the Toyo Eclipse. It’s going to be a little under $600 out the door for the 4 tires. The warranty is for 70,000 miles. Sheesh, they’re only going to last a little over 2 years. Oh well, better $600 every couple years than $400 every year I guess.

While I’m here, they’re going to hoist the car up high enough to see if there is any damage under the car. I’m keeping my fingers crossed. However, given my luck, you’ll see another post soon about the damage.

Thanks for hanging out with me at the tire shop and listening to my sad, boring tale. You may go now if you would like. I might just take a nap while I wait.

The Next Big Step

15 and a half years ago, she had absolutely no freedom. She was completely confined to the womb–barely able to move at all. Birth was a huge step forward as she was able to flail her arms and legs about as she wished. After this, there was a steady stream of increased independence during the first year or so:

  • She started turning over on her own
  • She began crawling
  • She took those first steps
  • She learned how to run

The rate of new freedoms slowed down significantly after this and became more subtle: She was able to spend the night at a friend’s house for the first time, she learned how to ride a bike, she learned how to make a simple meal for herself, etc. All small, but important, steps to growing up.

However, one of the biggest rites of passage and strides forward in freedom and independence took place today. Yes, the Older Daughter is now Idaho’s newest licensed driver. I have feelings ranging from happiness to sadness to worry to excitement. In the end, I realize that I have to let this happen even if it means my little girl just keeps growing up. It’s my job to provide her with the knowledge and tools to have the best chance at success (and safety). Beyond that, it’s in God’s hands.

I’m so proud of her.

Reasons I’m Smiling Today

You know, there are lots of things going on in the world, the country, and even personally that I could fret about. However, I’m finding lots of things to smile about. I’d rather focus on those. Here they are, in no particular order.

  • It’s Friday! That’s always a good reason to be happy.
  • The Broncos are ranked #9 nationally and poised to be invited to a BCS bowl game. Tomorrow, they will kick some Vandal butt.
  • We are entering my favorite time of the year with Thanksgiving and Christmas coming up. It’s always an opportunity to spend cherished time with family and friends, and enjoy good food and good times. More importantly, it’s a time to renew and reflect on the things that are truly important.
  • In just 3 short days, the Older Daughter will be getting her driver’s license. While this generates lots of mixed feelings with me, I’m very proud and excited for her.
  • I have a job that I love. Just 5 short months ago I was facing a layoff in a really tough job market. I was fortunate enough to find a new job and have no time out of work. The fact that I absolutely love the job is a big plus also.
  • I have the best family and friends in the world. They are more loving and supportive of me than I feel that I deserve at times.
  • Blogging rules! DITH is nearing its one year anniversary (just a few short shopping weeks left folks). I am having a great time and have made some great new friends along the way.
  • Did I mention it’s Friday? Have a good weekend!

Hey, She’s Still Paying Attention

I really thought that as of 2 or 3 years ago, the Older Daughter no longer cared about my opinion nor was at all influenced by me. It really seemed that she was in her own teen world and had it all figured out–at least in her opinion. Well, I found out this week that I actually do still have some influence.

Her high school held a mock election on Tuesday. I asked her who she voted for and she told me. When I asked how she came to the decision, she said that she really didn’t know who to vote for. But she knew who I was voting for, so that’s who she chose. Now of course that’s not the right way to pick a president, but it made me smile that she thought enough of my judgement to make the same choice.

Then last night we were at Wal-Mart picking up a few things. Homemade dinner was not in the cards, so we we picked up some stuff at the deli. The Older Daughter and I both chose the turkey sandwich and threw them in the basket. Then I noticed her checking the shelf again. Pretty soon, she grabbed this huge turkey sandwich and put the smaller ones back. It seems that she noticed that the huge sandwich was roughly equivalent to 3 of the smaller sandwiches but was cheaper than the 2 we were going to buy. When I complimented her for noticing, she said “I learned it from you.” More smiling on my part.

Just when you think you have lost them, they go and show you they are still watching and learning from you after all.

Halloween Night Wrap-Up

It seemed that the night had such promise. After all, it was Halloween on a Friday night. No need to watch the clock and worry about getting to bed at a certain time. Just party and watch scary movies as late as we want, right? Not so much. In the end, it was a pretty big letdown on all fronts…

Of course, the Older Daughter is too old for trick-or-treating. Instead, she spent the evening/night at a friends house. No surprise there.

The Younger Daughter also went to a friend’s house and her mom took them trick-or-treating.

Now that we live out in the country, we don’t get any trick-or-treater visiting the house.

Our best friends have traditionally joined us for an all night scary movie marathon when Halloween is on a weekend. However, they were unable to join us this year.

The Wife and I stayed home and watched some horror movies. Unfortunately, we chose movies that we had already seen multiple times, so we found ourselves actually laughing at the movies rather than being scared.

Don’t get me wrong, it was a nice quiet evening together. However, this was the first time since we became parents that we didn’t take kids out trick-or-treating. It think we were both mourning the passage of yet another parenthood ritual as we watch our girls grown up much faster than we would like. Sure, the Younger Daughter still has probably 1-2 years left, so we’ll probably be able to enjoy it at least one more outing. However, the writing is clearly on the wall.

The Things a Dad Has to Do

The Older Daughter is taking a physical therapy class in high school. For extra practice for the class, she has been going to the high school football games to help out if someone gets injured.

For further practice, she asked me to let her bandage my ankle (like you might need if you sprain your ankle). I was more than happy to oblige. This was all great until I had to remove the tape. Let’s just say that I now have little to no hair where the taping took place (I am quite hairy). It was also quite painful. I guess there is some product called pre-wrap that we need to get to avoid the very painful removal of hair. I’ll be buying a pallet of that stuff tomorrow. Sheesh…so is this what waxing is like?

It almost makes me long for the kids’ younger days. I few times, I let them paint my toenails. That only tickled a little bit and that was okay. Okay, I guess this is okay too. Just ignore the screams of pain!

Birthday Concert Addendum

Despite the tsunami of negativity in my previous post (Concert Rants), the concert was actually awesome. I didn’t include the most awesome thing of all that happened. It’s a long story, but we had to take separate vehicles to get there. While waiting for the rest of the family, the Older Daughter dropped by the sponsoring radio station’s booth and signed up for a contest to win an upgrade to front-and-center seats.

Well, as we were about to be seated, she got a call that she had won! So she and The Wife sat in the front row and had a great time. It was an added treat for The Wife on her birthday.

Insanity on Wheels: The Final Chapter

You may recall that we had decided to buy a used vehicle, sight unseen, from an out of town dealership. Indeed, the Older Daughter and I flew to Portland over the weekend. We took a quick test drive, had lunch with our family there, then drove home.

It was an extremely long day. However, the RAV4 is exactly what we were looking for and this appears to be a good pick. There are a few minor cosmetic things that we need to get fixed up. But for a 10-year-old vehicle, it is in excellent condition and runs great.

And here is the Older Daughter beaming with pride. Of course, you can’t tell because I have blurred her face out of my extreme paranoia.

Insanity on Wheels: Go With Throttle Up

You may recall from a previous post that we are considering buying a vehicle in another city without actually touching it and test driving it ourselves. We have a little bit of an advantage in that my brother-in-law lives near the vehicle in question and was able to test drive it today for us. The report came back that it drives and looks great.

So…we’re going for it. I’ve made a deposit on it and booked flights for me and the Older Daughter this weekend. We’re going to fly over in the morning, go take care of the paper work and payment, and then start driving.

The flight is with Alaska Airlines on a Bombardier CRJ-700. I really don’t like these planes. They are “tiny” and only seat 70. They bounce around way too much for my liking versus the big planes. Oh well, that’s how things go. I’ll update you soon…assuming we don’t die in a fiery crash.

Insanity on Wheels?

Using our Ford F-250 as a commuter vehicle is killing us. Plus, we will soon have a licensed teenage driver (run for cover folks!) So, we decided that it was time for a third vehicle. The third vehicle will become The Wife’s primary commuter vehicle, but will also be driven by the Older Daughter quite a bit. Unfortunately, there has been no agreement on what type of vehicle is wanted. Here is what we were basically looking at:

  • Me: I’m the household accountant, so I want one of those coffins-on-wheels that gets like 67 miles per gallon.
  • The Wife: She wants a 4-wheel drive pickup. Wait, that’s what we are trying to replace as her commuter vehicle. What the heck? Okay, maybe a smaller truck would get slighter better mileage. That’s not very helpful.
  • Older Daughter: It has to be cute and/or hot…preferably both.

You can probably see that this is a very difficult situation to resolve. However, after much weeping and gnashing of teeth, we settled on the Toyota RAV4. It’s a 4-wheel drive (Wife: check), it gets great gas mileage (me: check), and according to the Older Daughter it’s cute (someone kill me now please).

Our budgeted price range put us at about the 1997-98 model year. We couldn’t find any locally, so we widened our search to places within a day’s driving range from home. This evening, we found this one in the Portland area:

I spent some time on the phone this evening with the salesman. He test drove it for me and checked it out. Of course, the report back is that it’s a great vehicle. Fortunately, my brother-in-law lives in the area and is going to check it out for us tomorrow. If he gives the green light, we’re going to buy it. Yes, Sunday morning I may be flying to Portland to buy a vehicle that I have never seen in person, touched, or test driven. Is that complete insanity? Stay tuned. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Driver’s Edge

Several weeks ago, I took the Older Daughter to Reno for the Driver’s Edge program. This is a free program that takes driver’s education to the next level. Frankly, driver’s education in this country is pathetic. Teens are basically taught how to pass a driver’s test–not how handle extreme driving situations in a way that can save their lives. This is where Driver’s Edge comes in. It is a free half-day program to teach teens techniques that can save their lives.

There is short classroom component, but the most valuable portion of the training is the behind-the-wheel time. In a closed training facility, they are taught how to maneuver a car out of skid, evasive lane manuevers, proper use of anti-lock braking, and panic braking. Traditional driver’s education program may talk about these situations, but there’s nothing like hands-on learning.

Before going, I don’t think she was really looking forward to it nor did she think that it would be worthwhile. However, she admitted afterwards that it was worth attending and that she felt more confident about handling dangerous situations.

The number one killer of teens is not drugs, alcohol, or violence–it’s car crashes. I highly recommend this program for all teen drivers. Again, it is completely free. Unfortunately, they only tour to a little over a dozen cities at this time. If you have a teen driver, make a weekend of it and travel to a city where they are touring. If yours are still too young, keep this in mind when they get there.

Check out Driver’s Edge here.

Little Boys and Matches

It really was with the best of intentions that I set some piles of used animal bedding on fire last Wednesday. It was burning along quite nicely. Then along came the wind. No sweat though. I was ready with a shovel and the water hose. I actually spent a couple of hours dousing it. It seems that the pesky fire didn’t want to go out. Finally, it seemed to be out. However, to my surprise, it was smoldering again Thursday morning. No biggie. I doused it again for awhile. Then when The Wife got home from work, she turned the sprinkler on it.

She went to bed and asked the Older Daughter to keep an eye on things. In the mid-afternoon, the Older Daughter told The Wife that there were some flames. No problem. She was instructed to move the sprinkler over to water that hot spot. Well, thing starting going bad really fast from here. Now it seems that the Older Daughter simply had to take a shower as The Wife went back to sleep. Oh yeah, and Mr. Wind decided that this was a good time for him to blow.

The Wife was awakened to the kids screaming about the field being on fire. Looking out, she saw 5-foot-high flames and a racing fire. She called 911 and then headed out with the kids to do what they could while waiting for the fire department. She first stopped the flames heading toward the house. Then she raced over and put herself between the flames and the pasture fence to prevent it from spreading into the horse pasture.

Several hours and several fire trucks later, the fire was under control. Probably about 4 acres were charred. Here’s a small section of the burn:

Now I was at work when this all started. When I got the call from The Wife, she had some choice words for me that I really can’t repeat here. Also, I believe there was some sort of mention of homicide or something like that. Somehow, I survived and am able to report to you. (In other words, she didn’t break my fingers to prevent me from setting more fires.)

Hey, here’s something you don’t see everyday. Where else can you find a cow, a fire truck, and a fire fighter dousing flames…all in the same picture? This may by an Internet first.

By the way, thankfully no humans, animals, or property were harmed in the making of this fire.

Farmer Brown, at Your Service

As you may know, we have approximately 5 billion animals. Okay, that may be a bit of an exaggeration. I believe the Older Daughter took the time to count and found that the number was 26.

Anyway, since we have so much free time on our hands, we decided to start a small garden this year. A few weeks ago, I planted a couple of tomato starts courtesy of a friend who had way too many. Funny thing is, The Wife is the only one in the household that likes tomatoes. She even asked why I was planting them. My reply was, “can’t we do something nice just for you?”

The Younger Daughter and I went out this evening and planted a hill of cucumbers and 3 hills of pumpkins. So the tomatoes and cucumbers will be for our use and any we’ll give any extras to friends. With the pumpkins, we’ll keep a couple but hope to sell the rest. You know, another attempt to make this ranch pay its own way. It won’t be any sort of huge windfall, but every little bit helps.

We have talked about having a garden for years, but this is the first time we actually followed through. So I have no idea if this thing will actually work. I mean, I took a look at my thumb and it is not the least bit green. Good or bad, you’ll see and here the results right here. Stay tuned…

Bar Hopping Time?

The Older Daughter wraps up her Driver’s Ed course this week. She passed her written and behind-the-wheel tests with flying colors. She is extremely excited to move to the next step. Now she will need to rack up 50 hours behind the wheel with us before she gets her license.

The Wife had a fantastic idea: We’ll let her drive us from bar to bar. That’s right, no more playing rock-paper-scissors to determine who will be the designated driver. Heck, she might be able to complete her 50 hours in 1 weekend! And I can’t think of anything safer or more responsible than leaving our teenage daughter alone in a car outside of some seedy bar.

Dorky Humor

We had an enjoyable Saturday afternoon/evening. The Younger Daughter is over at a friend’s house for a sleepover and the Older Daughter didn’t have any plans. So, we convinced the Older Daughter to join us for dinner at the Olive Garden. We had a great time and enjoyed some great food (as always, too much, but hey…) and great conversation. It was a rare treat that we enjoyed. However, the Older Daughter quickly grew tired of the puns I kept throwing out. She finally said, “Mom, make him stop.” Sorry, I’ll never stop with my dorky humor. It is just a part of who I am.

Why I’ll Never Be President

Okay, I posted what might be considered an embarrassing picture of the Older Daughter. So, I’ll follow suite and share one of myself. We finally entered the digital photography age about 5 years ago. Shortly after buying our shiny new camera, the girls wanted to try it out. So, being the accommodating dad that I am, I hammed it up for them so that they could take this picture.

Crazy Hat

Okay, she’ll probably kill me for this (sorry that this might be my last post), but I wanted to post a picture of the Older Daughter that I took yesterday. The dichotomy is amazing. She’s wearing a crazy fuzzy winter hat that covers most of her head. Yeah, this while wearing sunglasses and a tanktop in 70-degree weather.

Get to Know Me Better

Rick tagged me on this meme. Thanks man. Let’s get ‘er done.

The rules are:

1. The rules of the game get posted at the beginning.
2. Each player answers the questions about themselves.
3. At the end of the post, the player then tags 5-6 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read your blog.
4. Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve posted your answer.

1) What was I doing 10 yrs ago?

10 years ago the Older Daughter was 5 and the Younger Daughter was just 5 months old. I remember attending the Older Daughter’s dance recital that year–very cute. We were just settling into our previous house. I also started a custom software development business with a buddy–it didn’t work out.

2) What are 5 things on my to-do list for today (not in any particular order):

  1. Post to my blog (check)
  2. Get some laundry done (in progress)
  3. Check on the status of a job application (check–no answer yet…grrr)
  4. Do some more work on our business website (probably not going to happen)
  5. Blog surfing (check)

3) Snacks I enjoy:

  • Cheez-Its
  • soybeans
  • beef jerkey
  • popcorn

4) Things I would do if I were a billionaire:

  • Build a nice new house on our ranch
  • Buy a monster motor home and travel
  • Do charity work

5) Three of my bad habits:

  1. Staying up too late
  2. Procrastinating
  3. Not eating right

6) 5 places I have lived:

  1. Lebanon, Oregon
  2. Ontario, Oregon
  3. Cheney, Washington
  4. Boise, Idaho
  5. Caldwell, Idaho

7) 5 jobs I have had:

  1. Petroleum Transfer Technician (some people call it a Service Station Attendant)
  2. Clerk-Typist
  3. Computer Lab Consultant
  4. Software Engineer
  5. Database Administrator

8 ) 5 peeps I wanna know more about:

  1. Bekki
  2. Jon
  3. Bonnie
  4. Allison
  5. smysore