Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Day's Happenings

My family came over to bake Christmas cookies today.  We made many cookies in many kinds.  How many?  Who knows?  We've never made a serious effort to count, and when we try, the discussion goes like this:
"Well, there's 9 dozen-- so, that's how many?"
"That whole tray is broken, so don't count those."
"Do we count the ones we eat?"
"Wait-- you messed me up-- let me count again."
"How many?  We CAN'T have made that many!"




So, that took pretty much the whole day... But, along the way, Grandpa took the kids swimming at the gym... And, then, Daddy took the kids to see the movie "Frozen."

Oh, and some of our favorite people stopped by:


They were less inconspicuous when they visited us.  One even had a shiny, new ring to show.

We also got the Christmas tree lit.  Then, the kids put on the decorations.


Shortly after this happened, the Christmas tree fell over onto Little One.  She is fine, but cried and cried because she was so scared by my scream and both Todd and I running to the rescue.  Also, in my haste, I spilled Diet Coke all over the carpeting.  The tree is back up, the floor is clean, and we made a new plan to put ornaments on both sides of the tree.

Plus, my dad fixed the outdoor nativity scene so the angel lights up just like the others.  Where is the Lord?  Just ask Madeline: "Baby Jesus isn't borned yet!"

Friday, November 29, 2013

Catching Up

Todd took Amanda to the movies tonight.  "How can you?" I asked. "I am just beat." Todd shrugged and said, "I don't get many days off, and I feel like the weekend is already slipping away... But I'm beat, too."  From all the eating and family fun yesterday, to early-morning shopping and the Christmas tree hunt today-- it's enough to wear anyone out.  And it did:


And, at this moment, I have both the dog and the 10-year-old in my bed, and it's difficult to judge who's the worse snorer.  Good night!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thankful for Family

The holiday season is officially underway!

We celebrated a wonderful Thanksgiving today, spending much of the day with my side of the family... And then heading over to Todd's mom's house for the evening.  I did not go shopping-- even a die-hard bargain hunter like me honors the holiday and values my family more than the deal.  I am thankful for all of them!


The uncles played Old Maid.


The cousins decorated in turkey cookie tradition...


...and then gobbled up their masterpieces.


Full of both kinds of turkey, the kids really turned into turkeys when it was time to take Grandma and Grandpa's Christmas card photo.  This is actually one of the better shots (though not the one headed to a mailbox near you!)

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

List of Thankfulness

Naturally, with the holiday approaching, the children have been tasked with various projects of thanksgiving.  Today, Elisabeth bounded off the bus and proudly displayed her list.  Read it and know, whether she lists you explicitly or implicitly, you matter to my child:


Oh, and here's a Pre-Turkey-Day chuckle, from my two favorite pilgrims, Benjamin and his beloved (and somewhat insane) adaptive phy. ed. teacher:


Seriously, I don't know if she's mortified when I post these dazzling displays... Or, if the chance of press is exactly why she does them.  Maybe she's testing the waters to see if the boy will play along.  That's what I would do-- keep myself in stitches!  

Thankful for sweetness and laughter, too!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Meet

Amanda is swimming three evenings a week on a recreational club.  It is a great fitness activity, and, so far, she seems to be enjoying it.  We tried this once before, a couple years ago, and her enthusiasm really waned partway through the season.  Looking back, I think the reason may have been that she never wanted to compete in meets.  She was working hard, but never getting the payoff.

So, this season, when the first open meet opportunity presented itself, we agreed she would sign up.  This weekend was the meet. And we all survived.

I swam on the school team and with an off-season rec club throughout junior high and high school.  I was slow-- far from a record-setter and typically at the bottom of the heap.  Swimming was not my passion, but I worked hard, did what the coaches asked, and enjoyed being part of the team.  I used the skills I learned to get training as a lifeguard and swimming instructor, which was great part-time work through high school and college.  I have no regrets and no complaints.

Heading into the weekend meet, however, it was fascinating to me how the memories came back, in waves.  I knew which snacks to pack and that we'd need a quilt and some lawn chairs for the waits between races. I did not, however, think to bring the Aerobed... I am behind-the-times.  And I immediately dispatched Todd to find a program with printed lists of all the races and all the racers.  That turned out to be unnecessary in this modern age, because, wouldn't you know, there's an app for that.

My non-swimmer husband had lots of questions: "How long will this take?"  (All day.)  "What's the wi-fi password?"  (Really?! It's our daughter's first swim meet!)  I explained who all the players were on the pool deck, what the officials would be watching for, and how swimmers were organized into lanes and heats.  He commented on the noise in the pool and asked about all the cheering.  (Yeah, swimmers totally cannot hear it from under the water.)

Amanda swam four races today-- three individual and a relay.  She also swam three different strokes, with freestyle, breaststroke and backstroke.  That was the part I found most amazing, as it is quite a challenge, especially for your first meet.

Amanda was disqualified a couple times, due to issues with her turns, so there is definitely more work to do before she races again.  Yet, she finished all her races and now has some established times for the next time she does sign up.  She returned home exhausted, but proud of what she accomplished, simply finishing and leaving the pool with her head held high.

In all the excitement, I neglected to take a single photo of my swimmer at the meet.  So, here is a shot of Amanda back at home, eating her celebratory egg sandwich:

Amanda came home exhausted, but satisfied with her effort. In typical fashion, at bedtime, she whined that I should let her take off the day from school tomorrow... But then switched gears and thanked me for coming to watch her swim. Is she kidding? It's what I live for.

Lesson Learned

Amanda answered the phone yesterday and, after a brief greeting, covered the mouthpiece and said, "She needs a sub to serve at 7:30 tomorrow morning.  Can I do it?"  A look of horror, I'm sure, crossed my face and I said, "Well, I certainly wouldn't recommend it-- you have such a busy weekend." Amanda returned to the call, "Sure, I can do that... You're welcome."

I scolded my oldest daughter after she hung up: "Amanda, you are babysitting late tonight and you have your first, big swim meet tomorrow. Why would you add to that stress by serving at the earliest mass?!" She replied, "It's not that big of a deal, Mom. I will just have to wake up at the same time I get up on a school day. She needed help, and you always say, if you can help someone, you should. So, I did."

I helped, too-- I drove.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Working Weekend

Todd had to work today.  This is something that happens, not often, thank Godinheaven, but only occasionally.  Working on a Saturday is different from traveling for work.  At least, my approach to his absence is different.

When Todd is out of town or out of the country, we pretty much go into slacker-survival mode.  By this, I mean, meals come from the freezer or the drive-thru, laundry piles up until it spills out of the room, and the bedtime ritual consists of me locking myself in my bedroom and letting the others fall where they may.  I spend most of the time in the car, as there is no other parent to share the taxiing duties. We don't do any real cleaning until Dad calls upon landing at the airport. All my energy goes into praying that: nothing breaks, no one breaks in, and I don't break anyone while Todd is gone.

However, it is a different situation when Todd has to go into work on the weekend.  Basically, it means what already felt like a long week just feels longer.  I have never really figured out why it feels like such an affront to have Dad gone on Saturday.  He works fairly long hours during the week as it is, at least, when he's not showing up late after a long gym workout or leaving early for a "therapeutic" massage.  And, when he is home, he seems to spend most of his "free" time combing his beard. 

Yet, when Todd works on Saturday, he is sorely missed.  I feel robbed of my friend, my honey-doer, my partner in crime, my relief pitcher.  It's kind of like going on vacation and seeing a crowd lined up along the street, so you ask, "Why are you waiting in line?"  And someone responds, "Free tequila!"  So, you get in the line and wait.  Then, when you reach the front of the line, you discover you have to sit through a timeshare pitch before you can collect your bottle.  EXCEPT, when Todd does come home, there is no liquor reward.  There is just a tired, grumpy man asking accusatorily, "What did you do today?"  (Frankly, from the looks of the house, not much... but, if he said that, he'd risk getting clocked by my bottle of tequila.)

What I DID do today is put on my teacher glasses and aim to school these kids.  Look for them in the course syllabus "How to Keep Mommy Sane With Very Little Effort":

What Is This Cardboard Tube and How Can Replacing It Improve the Bathroom Environment?

Do Not Seek Praise for the Closet Mom Just Spent Two Hours Cleaning

When a Banana Peel Is Left Behind the Television (Not Purely a Scientific Discussion)

Think Big: Mom Has a Punishment for That

Frostbite Is REAL-- That's Why Mom Said "Mittens"

How Many Times Can I Ask Before Mommy Blows?

Be the Change You Wish to See in the Laundry Stacks

Anything You Can Scream I Can Scream Louder

Slapping Mommy on the Tush: A Cause-and-Effect Experiment

Friday, November 22, 2013

Morning Drive Time

I know I am far from the only parent who cherishes car time with the children because it makes us all captive audiences of one another.  And sometimes, only sometimes, when I am not screaming at them about lateness and irresponsibility, we have some very enjoyable conversations.  Mostly, though, since it's Krinkeland, the talk is just weird.  For example, last evening when I was driving to the two older girls' away basketball game, the girls were hypothesizing on our destination, since they were playing a school they had never before played, and they were nervous.  "I just get really anxious when I don't know what to expect," Amanda said.  "What are you worried about?" Libby asked.  "Well, the gym could be nothing like ours-- I guess I'm most worried we might have to play on carpet." 
 
Hmmm... a very real and logical fear.
 
On this morning's drive to school, I really wished I could have been recording the conversation.  It was just BIZARRE.  I mean, the drive from home to school is only about two miles long... just one stoplight and two stop signs... so you wouldn't think there would be much time for talk.  BUT:
 
First of all, it was really chilly and very windy this morning, and, even though there's no snow yet, I advised my kids to pack their snow clothes to wear for warmth during recess.  On the way to school, I discovered Benjamin had packed his snowpants and boots in insulated freezer bags from the grocery store-- I am guessing he was making some kind of freezing weather-frozen food connection.  What must the teachers and other parents think of me when my child walks in toting this "luggage?"


 
Then, I overheard the kids playing a game of "I Spy":
B: "I spy with my little eye something that is brown."
M: "That building?"
B: "No."
L: "The grass?"
B: "No, but, Libby, you can't play."
M: "No, Libby, you can't play with us."
L: "Why not?"
B: "Because you're always mean and you don't give us fair turns."
L: "But I want to play."
B: "Too bad. We're not playing with you."
M: "Yeah, Libby, you can't play."
L: "But I want to play, and if you guys don't let me in this game, then you can't play at all.  I won't let you."
B: "But, Libby, you can't do that-- because we're not even playing with you."
L: "Ispysomethingyellow."
B: "The sun?"
M: "That sign!"
 
After dropping the elementary schoolers, I had to make a quick detour before taking Madeline to the preschool entrance.  She wanted to keep playing the game with me:
Mom: "I spy with my little eye something that is huge, kind of round, flat and wet."
M: "A giant pancake?"
Mom: "No."
M: "A flat giant?"
Mom: "No.  This is something real."
M: "That fence post?"
Mom: "No, it is large, round, flat and very wet."
M: "A lamppost?"
Mom: "No."
M: "Ugh, this is a hard one.  A beanstalk?"
Mom: "NO.  It is REAL and I see it out the window RIGHT NOW."
M: "That farm?"
Mom: "The other window."
M: "Ugh, this is HARD."
Mom: "It's huge, and pretty round, and flat, and wet, and it has swans on it."
M: "Hmmm... I have NO idea!"
Mom: "I can see it out that window right now.  It has a park by it."
M: "Wait-- is it the lake?"
 
Sometimes, I think I should have become a child psychologist.  I would be horrible at the psychologist part, and I am sure I would be absolutely no help for their problems or the reasons for the appointments... but I would have a young person in a captive setting, where I could ask whatever questions I wanted, and be entertained all day long.  Or maybe I'm just feeling like I need therapy after that morning drive.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Underwater Horror

It has been impossible to not follow the local news story today of the crash, where a car, driven by a young mother with five children as passengers on its way to school, veered off the road and ended up submerged in a pond; as of this writing, two of the children have died, and the other three are hospitalized in critical condition.  Read more through the link here: http://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2013/11/21/police-car-plunges-into-pond-in-st-louis-park/.

Prayers go to the surviving mother and the entire family.  

I shared the horrifying story with my husband after we put the kids to bed.  That lead to his extensive Google search and subsequent video viewings for "How to Escape a Submerged Car."  At this time, he is shopping on Amazon, and just asked me which color I prefer for my Original Keychain Car Escape Tool.  Uff.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

I See

You always knew me to be exceptional, didn't you?  Well, I have proven that once again, landing in the tiny 5% of near-sighted people for whom LASIK eye surgery is not a permanent solution.

I had my eyes zapped back in 2000, shortly after it was determined there was no Y2K bug to bring down the computers that directed the eye surgeon's lasers.  At the time, the procedure was not experimental, but not commonplace either.  And, it was really expensive.  Naturally, the price tag may also have been inflated due to my engineer-researcher-non-compromiser husband needing to be certain I had "the best of the best."

I did... I think... Maybe... At least, it really felt that way for a decade or so.

I got my first pair of eyeglasses in fourth grade, when I was having difficulty seeing the blackboard in school.  My eyesight steadily declined until I was legally blind.  I got contact lenses in junior high, as even my parents were merciful enough to not make me be that girl with the thick glasses and the braces.  Todd was fully aware of my vision issues when we met and fell in LOVE, and he accepted me, "Coke bottles" and all.

At the time of the LASIK, I was working insane hours in television news, and often ended up wearing my thick glasses because there were no round-the-clock contacts like there are now.  Todd and I were yuppie-DINKs with a hefty health spending account and a fascination with progress.

It was amazing.

For the first time in my adult life, I could see the numbers on the alarm clock when I awoke.  There was lots of other great stuff, too, but that's stood out as a banner improvement in my life.  I no longer had the restricted lenses code on my driver's license.  I no longer worried about keeping my contact-covered eyeballs squeezed shut in the pool and the shower... And I could rub my eyes when they were tired or sore and not worry about sending a plastic disc up into my brain.

Life was good.

The last year or two, however, I have noticed my vision slipping a bit.  It has not been a huge problem.  I am bothered most by trying to read the hymn numbers posted at the front of church, or trying to decipher road signs when driving at night.  But after having 20/20 or better vision, this troubled me.  I went in for a couple annual eye exams and was told my vision was "fine" and "OK to drive" at 20/25.  The doctor advised prescription eye drops, saying making sure my eyes were not dry might improve my vision.

I was still whining when I was in for a follow-up last week.  The doctor suggested three options:
1. Get fitted for contact lenses, or, more accurately, one contact lens to try to retrain my brain to make up the difference, and practice mono-vision, ramping up for my inevitable need for reading glasses once I get into my 40s.
2. Have an enhancement surgery.  This would be more involved than my first procedure, utilizing a different method that operates on one eye at a time, and so it would have a significant recovery time.
3. Do nothing.  "You really do see fine."

I asked, "Can't you just write me a prescription for a pair of eyeglasses? Let me at least try that first-- I will only need to wear them when I drive at night or when I'm at the movies. That's the only time it bugs  me."  The doctor shrugged and handed over a prescription.

I took Todd with me to the vision center to get his opinion on frames.  He said he didn't know, and thought I should just pick whatever I liked, but I pressed him, saying, "You are probably going to be the only person who sees me in these, and I care about what you think."  Plus, it is so evident that I have no sense of style or knowledge of what looks good.  I thought about bringing a kid or two with me, and letting them choose, but, their ages put them right on the cusp of helpfulness.  One might pick out an amazing pair of frames... Or I might end up with bejeweled Hello Kittys.  After trying on nearly every pair in the place, my husbandista and I settled on these:


(Yeah, it's obvious, I took this photo of myself, because, for reasons I cannot articulate, it somehow seemed less lame than asking my husband to take the photo of me... Furthermore, I recognized asking one of the children to take the photo would not have guaranteed the glasses would be in it.)

I've had my glasses for exactly half a day, and, I can tell you: This is never going to work.

I love the glasses because I can see better when I wear them; and I hate the glasses because, when I take them off, it is clear a switch has been flipped in my brain and I feel like I can't see at all anymore.  Plus, eyeglasses come with all that fun stuff I'd forgotten, like smudges and limited peripheral vision.  Also, if I wear them while driving, I have no sun protection.  My eyes are very light-sensitive and I rely heavily on sunglasses.  However, when I was ordering my glasses, I did not even seriously consider those Transitions lenses, because I was not planning to wear the glasses much, and not during the day.

Yet, I am grateful for 13 years of surgically corrected vision.  Modern science truly is amazing, and I have loved being able to see perfectly, whether in the delivery room, at the school Christmas program, or on the beach in Cabo.  I feel spoiled and fortunate.  Aaaand, I want that luxury back.

I don't mind the "naughty librarian" (Todd's words, not mine) look for now... But I'm pretty sure I'll be signing up for that surgery again shortly.  Grandparents, clear your schedules-- I'm gonna need seeing-eye help.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Toothless Wonder


I don't know that I've ever seen a child quite so excited to lose a first tooth!  It hung on like a thread for days, and Benjamin was very protective of the wiggly one.  He desperately wanted it to come out at school, so he could visit his beloved school nurse and get one of those cool tooth boxes on a strong around his neck.  Ben got his wish!

And, with this boy's awful teeth, they're sure to be falling out like piano keys, just as they did in old cartoons.  It will be an anxious night on the tooth fairy trail, for sure!

Oh, and kudos to the grandmas, for noticing the change in our boy almost immediately, and with only the subtlest of seven-year-old hints.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Serial Eaters

A few months ago, while it was still summer and all the kids were home all the time, I announced, to their shock and horror, that I was no longer going to purchase dry breakfast cereal.  Of any kind.  Any more.  Ever.  Except possibly for the occasional baking recipe, but it would only be used for that.  Well, maybe I would still buy GrapeNuts, but Mom appears to be the only person in Krinkeland who likes GrapeNuts.  

I told the kids we would not go "cold turkey," but, rather, would ease into this change by consuming the rest of the cereal in the pantry...  However, when it was gone, it was gone.  Between monthly Costco pilgrimages and Coborn's Penny Pincher deals, we had quite the stockpile.  So, this was no an imminent threat.  Yet, all the children really adore cold breakfast cereal-- and it's oh-so-easy for a sleep-deprived (and lazy) mother-cook.  It would definitely be a change.

I did this in an effort to cut some of the SUGAR out of my kids' diets.  It is well-documented that I am NO health nut... But even I can be reasonable.  The documentation is even better on the massive amounts of sugar, preservatives and other ookies in breakfast cereals, even the "healthy" ones.  Oh, and I hardly ever bought the healthy ones, and, when I did, they never got eaten.

Little by little, my kids plowed through the stockpile of Corn Pops, Honey Bunches of Oats, and Fruity Pebbles.  My, my, they loooved the Fruity Pebbles.  Then, one day, the cereal was gone.  Over time, except for the occasional grumble, they adapted and found other, probably only slightly healthier, easy breakfast options.

Then, over the weekend, the oldest stuck it to me: "Mom, how long are you going to keep hiding that box of cereal in the pantry?  And, since I found it can we open it and eat it?"  I had no idea there was still a box of cereal hiding in the pantry.  Who would?  I must have just shoved the bags of high-fiber protein bars and boxes of steel-cut oatmeal in front if it.  I am not crafty enough to hide Frosted Flakes.  I also am not inspired enough to clean out my pantry.

Happy Monday, Krinkeland kids!  Christmas came early.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Today in Numbers

12 cents found on the ground
3 coupon text messages from big-box retailers
4 beings whose poop I discussed
7 people who complimented my husband on his "beard"
145 photo Christmas cards ordered
1 so-so family photo to appear on card
26 pairs of shoes tried on before middle schooler and father agreed on one
30 minutes I lasted in Chuck E. Cheese's before twitching commenced
times I put the four-year-old back to bed so far
0 cold lunches need to be packed in the morning-- Hooray for chicken nuggets!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Masked Message

We went to see the local high school production of "Phantom of the Opera."  It was quite the production.  There had been a lot of discussion about the show, as we like to support our friends made through community theater as well as Saints on Stage alumni. We feel fortunate to live in a town that is so supportive of the arts and to be surrounded by such talent.

Amanda accompanied us to the show.  This had also been a hot topic of discussion, as I consulted one of the directors who described "Phantom" as dark, long, and "really more PG-13."  Todd and I knew the "Phantom" story-- Todd actually proposed after we took in a regional production of the original (non-Andrew-Lloyd-Webber) musical.  The older girls had really been lobbying to see it, mostly to show support for their older theater friends, but, in the end, when I consented, only Amanda elected to go.  She did well. She spent much of the show with her fingers in her ears, saying alternately that the high, operatic notes hurt her ears and that she was afraid of being surprised if the chandelier was to come crashing down.

Talented kids or not (they were,) "Phantom" is not one of my favorite shows.  I still feel that way.  When I was over, I asked Amanda what she thought and she said she thought it was very good.  I asked her if she learned anything, or had any lessons to take away from the show.  

"What do you mean, Mom?" she asked.

I put my arm around her as we left the theater and explained, "This is a story of unrequited love.  'Phantom' teaches you that nothing good can come out of pursuing love from someone who does not love you in return.  You will be miserable.  You will make others miserable.  People might even die... So, only open your heart to someone who is capable of and interested in loving you back."

Wise-beyond-her-years Amanda laughed, "Mom, the boys in my class spend most of their time making comparisons between love and poop, like: 'True love is like diarrhea: it just goes on and on.'"

Run, Amanda, run.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Warning: Bragging Rights Exercised

It feels good to go to parent-teacher conferences and have teachers say positive things about my children (whoa-- auto-correct just changed my typo to "chicken.")  Of course, we would not love our children any less if they struggled more academically... And they all have their individual strengths and weaknesses.  Still, the preschool teacher was hard-pressed to come up with a concern about the four-year-old:


The biggest criticism the first grade teacher had of our seven-year-old was, "I don't understand why he is so hard on himself:


The fourth grade teacher got a little choked up describing how "special" our 10-year-old is, and we were interested to read what she wrote about herself:


And the 11-year-old... Well, when a mother stands in line at the table for each subject area and is greeted with a radiating grin from each teacher, well, then, well:







Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Don't Be A ________

Another day... More things to think (stew) about... Comment on...

One such item is "pinkwashing" which has mommy bloggers all a-twitter...


(Very profanity-laced) against it: http://www.chicagonow.com/moms-who-drink-and-swear/2013/11/why-i-think-pinkwashing-is-bullsht/

Probably no surprise where I fall on the issue, but I guess it all comes down to this: http://youtu.be/0la5DBtOVNI.

 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Outwitted

Gymnastics Coach: "Madeline, how old are you?"
M: (holds up 4 fingers)
GC: "Four?  Do you suck your thumb at FOUR?!"
M: "No, I suck my fumb at NIGHT!"

A: "Ben, what are you doing?!"
B: "Making banana ice cream."
A:"Chopping up bananas, mashing them together and putting them in the freezer does not make banana ice cream."
B: "Yes, it does."
A: "No, it doesn't."
M: "Amanda, save your breath. It's not worth it.  If you think you can successfully argue with a six-year-old, then you're not as smart as I thought you were."
B: "Mom, I'm seven."
M: "See what I mean?"

Mom: "Madeline, do not spit."
M: (sprays again)
Mom: "I mean it-- if I catch you spitting again, I will make you suck on a bar of soap."
M: "Huh, what's that?"

All in an Exciting Day's News

I thought I had some previous experience with drama, melodrama and hysterics with the first three children, all of whom are annoyingly but entertainingly expressive, but this fourth one takes the cake.  Here are some of her exclamations and proclamations from just this morning:

"Can we puhleeeze see Teddy and Lucia today?  We haven't seen them for week-es and week-es."
(She pronounces all plurals with that separate syllable: book-es, milkshake-es.)

"Now Jack (the Elf on a Shelf) will never come back-- never, never, NEVER!"

"Sorry, I took so long in the bathroom; first one door wouldn't lock and then the udder door wouldn't lock. And then I had to flush. And then I had to wash my hands.  But I have some good news: I got to put the first paper towel in the garbage can!  Can you believe it?"
(Yep, totally-completely-drawn-out-but-uninteresting explanation=believable.)

"I have some exciting news: I fink I am going to get Pancake (the stuffed class mascot) after Ida!" 
(She pronounces "Ida" like "Aida," which adds to the effect.  Also, she has no concrete reason to think it is her turn next.  She makes this statement at least once a week.)

"Daddy is taking me to the carnival tonight!" 
(Totally not happening-- never was.)

"I just can't believe Ariel is on Disney Junior-- can you believe it?!"
(Of course, I can. It's not as though she has some sharky agent who could get her a better deal with Nickelodeon.)





Monday, November 11, 2013

For the Vets

I typically don't post in reference to Veterans Day.  It is not a slight or a disservice... It's just that I don't really have much personal or familial experience with war, and that fact gives me peace.  But it would be impossible for me to be pro-life and to not honor the men and women who put their lives on the line-- and even lost them-- for my freedom.


Tonight I pray for those veterans in my life-- I honor them in my heart so as not to embarrass them without permission-- and thank them for their selfless service to the United States of America.

God bless America!

Key to My Kingdom

For a number of reasons, it can be frustrating to be married to my husband. (And, yes, undoubtedly, there are as many-- or more-- reasons it must be frustrating to be married to ME!)  But this is a not a post to vent or cause problems... Just one to scratch my head, and laugh.

My husband knows many, many things.  I do not know as many things.  This is by choice.  It is not that I am incapable of learning all these things; I consider myself quite intelligent.  It is, rather, that I already know other people who know such things, so, I figure, why bother learning when I could just ask them?  Sometimes, though, with Todd, it can be very difficult to discern whether:
(a) he doesn't know,
(b) he knows but doesn't want to do anything about it, or
(c) he's just messing with me.

Case in point: the non-functioning car remote.

A: "The remote doesn't work for my car.  It won't unlock the doors, opening the sliding doors, or run the lift gate. Do you think it needs a new battery?"
T: "I doubt it. Your car isn't very old.  Besides, sometimes those key buttons don't even run on batteries.  My old car's didn't have a battery; when it quit working, I had to order a new one."
A: "So, what should I do?  It's getting really annoying that I can't open the doors."
T: "Call the dealership-- the service guy will help you."

A: "Hi, I need some help with the key remote for my 2012 Odyssey.  It doesn't work."
SG: "You mean the buttons on the key itself, like the one that unlocks the doors?"
A: "Yes."
SG: "Probably a dead battery."
A: "Yes, I thought that might be the case, but I know sometimes these things don't have batteries..."
SG: "There's a quick way to know for sure-- Hold down any button and see if a tiny, red light shows up on the top of the remote."
A: "I'm pressing the lock button, but there's no light."
SG: "Just as I thought, dead battery."
A: "OK, is that something I can replace myself?"
SG: (long pause) "Sure... Just be really careful removing the screw, because it's easy to strip, or bring it here and we can do it for you."
A: "How can I tell which size battery I will need? Is it listed in the manual?"
SG: "Probably.  Otherwise, you could take out the old battery first and take it with you to the store."
A: "OK, thanks. I'll do that. I'm sorry to bother you... I just wasn't sure if the remote was even battery-operated."
SG: "How else would it work?"

Later, I googled "How is a car remote powered?" and I found the most fascinating thread.  It is really long, so you can stop reading when it stops being interesting, but, suffice it to say, I am not alone... And, I am amused:

View Full Version : What powers remote car keys?


Jeff Root
2011-Nov-21, 02:40 PM
Magic? Suspension of physical law? Piezoelectricity?

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis
PraedSt
2011-Nov-21, 02:52 PM
A small battery.
jlhredshift
2011-Nov-21, 02:55 PM
WOW, how shocking that is!
Ivan Viehoff
2011-Nov-21, 03:06 PM
There are two ways they can work, at least.

One mode of operation is that the key transmits, based upon an internal power source, a battery. Because they consume tiny amounts of power to create this very weak field only when you press the button, a small battery can last a very long time, over a decade. Because of this, usually there is no facility to change the battery, but on older keys you used to be able to change the battery.

Another mode of operation requires no internal power source, rather it works like a contactless smart card or RFID device. That is, it interacts with a field emitted by the car (powered by the car battery), and induces just enough internal power from that field to transmit back to the car (like a crystal radio of old - power was only required for amplification). It means, of course, that the car has to be perpetually emitting little fields to be ready whenever you turn up with the key, but I think that the amount of power to do this is so low that it can do it for weeks and weeks without making much impact on the battery's charge level.

I think that you can probably even have a key with a button on it that actually works in the latter way - pressing the button selects the doors to open, for example, but the power to do that is induced entirely from the field emitted by the car.
Jeff Root
2011-Nov-21, 03:45 PM
I've had a fair number of batteries, and I've never known one
to last more than 11 years, even when left unused in the original
package. These car remote keys have been in use for more
than 11 years.

Since they sometimes work from 30 feet away from the car or
more, I can't believe the car is putting out a signal strong enough
to get a return from the remote, unless maybe the entire frame
of the car is acting as the receiving antenna.

Neither the Wikipedia page on car remotes nor a How It Works
page on the subject say anything about how they are powered.
Can anyone provide a link which explains it, preferably with a
photo of either a battery or a receiving antenna in a remote?

Has anyone here ever had a battery for more than ten years
that still worked? What type of battery could last that long?
I would expect that a small battery would have a shorter shelf
life than a large battery, because of the larger surface area-
to-volume ratio.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis
Swift
2011-Nov-21, 03:56 PM
How to change the battery in your car's keyless remote (http://autorepair.about.com/od/quicktips/ss/remote_battery.htm) (from autorepair.com, complete with pictures), for those remotes that have replaceable batteries.

On my Ford my remote stopped working a few months ago (after six years) and I had to buy a new remote - the battery was not replaceable.
schlaugh
2011-Nov-21, 04:20 PM
My Infiniti I-30 (a.k.a. Nissan Maxima) celebrates its 12th birthday next year and the remote still works, although I need to be somewhat closer to the car than when it was new. Geriatric-induced deafness?
NEOWatcher
2011-Nov-21, 04:21 PM
Has anyone here ever had a battery for more than ten years
that still worked? 
8 1/2 Years and counting on one of my vehicles.

One of the remotes for it died, but the battery in it was still good. It seems to have lost it's programming instead (or some other circuit issue).
To replace it, I would need to have both replaced, and the car reprogrammed to match the remotes.


How to change the battery in your car's keyless remote (http://autorepair.about.com/od/quicktips/ss/remote_battery.htm) (from autorepair.com, complete with pictures), for those remotes that have replaceable batteries.
That link only addresses two types of remotes. One that I haven't seen in a car remote, the other for a car very few people have.
The former is one of those "duh" ones because a lot of things with a button battery seems to have the same kind of "use a coin to open" type of cover.
The latter looks like a useful explaination. Even though the button to open is there, I can understand someone not being able to find it.

Mine was a matter of popping the two press-fit halves apart.

I don't know how my newer car can be done with any of those methods.
Jeff Root
2011-Nov-21, 04:24 PM
No sign of any opening on these remotes.

They are for a Buick Century, 2000, I think.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis
ShinAce
2011-Nov-21, 04:25 PM
My watch battery is going on 13 years old and still works perfectly as far as i can tell. It is a rechargable titanium ion battery for a citizen ecodrive watch. I imagine a basic lithium battery could have enough shelf life for a remote starter. How many people drive a car for 10 years without losing the key once?
Fazor
2011-Nov-21, 04:39 PM
I have two remotes for my car's locks. Batteries for both have long died. One about two years ago, and the other last year. My solution? I took them off my keyring. :-P I don't really *need* them. Only time it's inconvenient is if I'm trying to get into my locked car from the passenger side, which doesn't have a keylock. That just means I have to walk a few steps around to the driver's side to unlock the doors. 

Mine can be replaced fairly easily, but the stupid things run like $20/ea. I simply don't care that much.
Fazor
2011-Nov-21, 04:42 PM
How many people drive a car for 10 years without losing the key once?
I have both my original keys and remotes (even though the later sit in a drawer unused, see prior post.) My car is 12 years old. So there!
Ivan Viehoff
2011-Nov-21, 05:31 PM
Since they sometimes work from 30 feet away from the car or
more, I can't believe the car is putting out a signal strong enough
to get a return from the remote, unless maybe the entire frame
of the car is acting as the receiving antenna.
RFID can certainly work from 10m away, but I agree with you that at that distance likely the key is powered. Keys may be dual mode.
toolazytotypemyname
2011-Nov-21, 06:12 PM
Has anyone here ever had a battery for more than ten years
that still worked? 


I have a TI-68 calculator that was a required purchase for Circuit Analysis class during the fall semester of my sophomore year of college. So I would have bought it in September of 1990. It still works, not that I ever use it anymore.

So that's 21+ years. What do I win?
NEOWatcher
2011-Nov-21, 07:13 PM
No sign of any opening on these remotes.

They are for a Buick Century, 2000, I think.
You think? Is this someone elses key that you're trying to figure out, or don't you know what kind of car you have? :eek:

Are you having a specific problem with one? 

Here's a picture of a 2000 Century key fob (http://www.ehow.com/how_7323217_fix-fob-buick-century-2000.html) in an article about how to reprogram it. (They left out the part about rubbing your stomach and patting your head while turning yourself around three times)

But, it doesn't look too much different than my 2003 chevy fob. 
I was nervous as all get-up when I popped it open since I wasn't sure I was going to break it. I finally told myself, It aint working anyway, so I'd either need a replacement, or a dealer to deal with it anyway.

If it ain't workin, it could be the battery, the reciever in the car, or the fob transmitter itself. 
In my case I ruled out the car (since I had one working fob), and ruled out the battery since I tried swapping them, and tried a new battery.
Swift
2011-Nov-21, 07:17 PM
Magic? 
It is magic. First, roll a D20... ;)
PraedSt
2011-Nov-21, 07:34 PM
Neither the Wikipedia page on car remotes nor a How It Works
page on the subject say anything about how they are powered.
Can anyone provide a link which explains it, preferably with a
photo of either a battery or a receiving antenna in a remote?

Has anyone here ever had a battery for more than ten years
that still worked? What type of battery could last that long?
I would expect that a small battery would have a shorter shelf
life than a large battery, because of the larger surface area-
to-volume ratio.

-- Jeff, in MinneapolisGoogle Images turns up a lot of pics. Button batteries tend to last long in my experience. My last set of brokerage security tokens lasted 5 years, and they ran continuously. Don't know why- they might use a different electrolyte than AAs.
Jeff Root
2011-Nov-21, 08:05 PM
NEOWatcher,

That photo doesn't look like the fobs. The car must be a 2001.
It was bought early in the model year. So it was bought in 2000.
That's the year I was remembering. Still over 11 years ago.
You prompted me to find a photo of what the fobs do look like:
http://www.facebook.com/notes/CheapHomeProducts22/Buy-Now-20012005-Buick-Century-Keyless-Entry-Remote-Fob-Clicker-With-Free-DoItYourself-Programming-Free-eKeylessRemotes/295847537100652

I've wondered about how they were powered for a long time.
Recently the trunk has sometimes not been opening, and that
problem reminded me to finally ask. (I'm generally only near
the fobs or near a computer, not both, so when I get to the
computer I've forgotten about the fobs.) If there is a battery
in the fobs, the other functions may fail soon, too.

I can afford to buy new fobs.

I couldn't possibly afford a car, though, or gas, or insurance,
or whatever else may be involved. Fobs. I can deal with
fobs as long as they aren't powered by magic. Oh, Henry!

Lazy,

You win a lifetime of very long-lifetime... batteries.
Not free batteries, mind you, just long-lifetime batteries.
I, apparently, only get half a lifetime of long-lifetime
batteries (the second half).

Swift,

Is that Dungeons and Dragons?

I was with some friends once, and finally asked them to let
me know when they were ready to start playing the game.
They replied that we'd been playing for the last 90 minutes.
It looked to me like they were just setting it up all that time.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis
NEOWatcher
2011-Nov-21, 08:25 PM
NEOWatcher,
You prompted me to find a photo of what the fobs do look like:
http://www.facebook.com/notes/CheapHomeProducts22/Buy-Now-20012005-Buick-Century-Keyless-Entry-Remote-Fob-Clicker-With-Free-DoItYourself-Programming-Free-eKeylessRemotes/295847537100652
That looks even more like mine than the picture I asked you about.


I've wondered about how they were powered for a long time.
Recently the trunk has sometimes not been opening, and that
problem reminded me to finally ask.
Sounds like it could be a battery problem.


I can afford to buy new fobs.
So; if you mess up one of your current ones, then what's to lose? You'd be buying one and having to reprogram it anyway.

Next time you have one in hand, take a look at the seam between the two halves. On mine, it's less than 1mm wide. But; for about 1cm length it gets to be about 2mm wide and gets a bit deeper. Just enough to get a penny into up to Lincolns hair.
If you have something like that, then it's definitely made to be pried apart.
Swift
2011-Nov-21, 08:43 PM
Swift,

Is that Dungeons and Dragons?

Yes, the joke was a D&D reference.
HenrikOlsen
2011-Nov-21, 10:20 PM
You think? Is this someone elses key that you're trying to figure out, or don't you know what kind of car you have? :eek:
Isn't knowing the year just something car fetishists are into? Or is it a general USian thing that you guys think it's important?
HenrikOlsen
2011-Nov-21, 10:22 PM
NEOWatcher,

That photo doesn't look like the fobs. The car must be a 2001.
It was bought early in the model year. So it was bought in 2000.
That's the year I was remembering. Still over 11 years ago.
You prompted me to find a photo of what the fobs do look like:
http://www.facebook.com/notes/CheapHomeProducts22/Buy-Now-20012005-Buick-Century-Keyless-Entry-Remote-Fob-Clicker-With-Free-DoItYourself-Programming-Free-eKeylessRemotes/295847537100652

I've wondered about how they were powered for a long time.
<snip>
I'll just draw your attention to this quote from your link:

Every remote is tested prior to being shipped and Batteries are always included.
Van Rijn
2011-Nov-21, 10:33 PM
No, the year and other details of your car are important for maintenance, and it affects insurance and registration fees. I know the details about my cars. Other people's, not so much.
Laguna
2011-Nov-21, 11:00 PM
Has anyone here ever had a battery for more than ten years
that still worked? What type of battery could last that long?
I would expect that a small battery would have a shorter shelf
life than a large battery, because of the larger surface area-
to-volume ratio.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

Yes, the battery of my spare key for my old Renault did last longer than ten years. Eleven to be precise. I never used it until I sold the car.

In contrast, the battery of my four year old Mazda needs replacement in the immediate future. Its getting harder and harder to open the car...
Jeff Root
2011-Nov-21, 11:13 PM
I hadn't noticed the comment about batteries being included,
but I suspect that that paragraph is constructed from a generic
version with the car's make and model pasted in. The battery
comment might be there whether the remote has batteries
or not.

Any idea where in the car the antenna(s) is (are) located?
Especially for the trunk, since that is what has been working
sporadically.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis
novaderrik
2011-Nov-22, 06:30 AM
Isn't knowing the year just something car fetishists are into? Or is it a general USian thing that you guys think it's important?

is that a Demnarkish thing, or do you no know that it's spelled "A-M-E-R-I-C-A-N"? 

and why would you not want to know what year your car is? it's kind of important info to have when getting it serviced or adding varying accessories to it..
cjameshuff
2011-Nov-22, 07:38 AM
It shouldn't be that surprising that the battery lasts a long time...the vast majority of the time, no power at all is needed. Just a few seconds of low-power radio transmission a day under regular usage. Self discharge is probably the main limiting factor, and even the cheap lithium batteries are often rated for a shelf life of 7-10 years, and should often be good for such a low-demand application for a bit longer than that.
Jeff Root
2011-Nov-22, 08:31 AM
I guess it's ironic if it is (or even if it just could be) the battery.
Only a couple of months ago my mom called the cable TV
company for help, and went through a bunch of suggestions
without success. So an installer came and worked for over
an hour to locate the problem, without success. Finally he
suggested that she get new batteries for the remote. That
fixed it. Same thing with the car key remote, apparently.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis
NEOWatcher
2011-Nov-22, 04:24 PM
Finally he
suggested that she get new batteries for the remote. That
fixed it. Same thing with the car key remote, apparently.

I don't know what kinds of trouble she had; but, I would think that most battery issues would be either obvious or the first place to go.
But; there are others.

I have a garage remote that started to work intermittently. I tried a new battery to no avail.
It had one of those buttons that press some kind of foil bubble. It seems to only work when I jiggle the button while I press it.

And; I had trouble with a TV remote that seemed like a battery issue but new batteries didn't help. I took it apart and cleaned all the contacts. Problem solved.
NEOWatcher
2011-Nov-22, 04:27 PM
Isn't knowing the year just something car fetishists are into? Or is it a general USian thing that you guys think it's important?
No; it's from ignoring the commas, and thinking you were referring to the entire description of the car.

But; yes. As others have mentioned, year is important for this very purpose. I know the years of my vehicles, but it does rarely come up. (a lot of my service is done at the dealer, and I rarely buy accesseries)
Radom
2011-Nov-23, 06:56 AM
Bottom right 'corner' area is the usual place to start opening the keyless entry transmitter for your Buick. They had stopped using the visually obvious, coin width opening slot by that time. You'll need to use something finer, like a pocket screwdriver. Push your pocket screwdriver tip between the transmitter case halves about an eighth inch & twist to start separating them. Move futher around & twist again until you get the case halves apart. If the battery & retaining clip fall out, it's broken. I've successfully soldered the clips back onto the circuit boards many times. Other times, the transmitters still don't work & have to be replaced. If it ain't broken, push on one of the buttons to remove the circuit board w/battery from the top case half. Wipe clean the contact surfaces of the buttons & circuit board. I've seen some truly nasty goop growing inside of these things. Depending, I suppose, on the average goop in the pocket of the feller carrying it the past decade. (eww! ;) ) Be careful to gently slide the battery out of the retaining clip as it is easy to break the clip off, if you pull up on it. Reassemble with new battery. If it doesn't work immediately, press & hold both the lock & unlock buttons for around 15 seconds to resync the transmitter & receiver. If it still doesn't work properly, you'll have to try a new transmitter to know for sure if the problem is with the transmitter or the receiver. Off the top of my head, I'm not sure if your Buick has a stand alone receiver, or if it is built into the body control module. Either way, the antenna (only one) is built into the module. If there was a problem with the receiver/module, it is highly likely you would have no keyless entry functionality at all. One of my favorite things (not) is the official GM transmitter tester. It beeps at you if it detects a signal when a transmitter button is pressed. However, just because a signal is detected doesn't mean it is the correct signal. So, transmitters can, and do, test 'good' when they are not good. Good luck and welcome to my life. :)
Jeff Root
2011-Dec-07, 09:28 PM
The little slot at the bottom right of the remote was obvious
once I looked for it. The edge of the physical key fit perfectly.
The owner's manual has a photo of the remote opened up,
and its battery is visible and large. I bought two replacements
at Radio Shack. They were a bit more expensive than I hoped,
but nothing like the cost of new remotes. Right after buying
them I found that the problem seems to be in the trunk opening
mechanism, not the remote. The trunk button inside the glove
compartment has stopped working, too. When the trunk button
on the remote is pressed, I hear a click near the glove box.
So the signal must be received by the car OK.

Amazing and astonishing to me that the technology has reached
the point where a battery can still work after eleven years of use.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

Friday, November 8, 2013

Memory Toss

You will never see me on Pinterest.  I am so NOT crafty or creative, words like "thrifting" and "repurposing" make my head hurt.  I cannot even operate a stapler, much less a hot glue gun.  You will find no pipe cleaners, crackle spray paint or Mod Podge in my house.  Ever.
 
And, I like it that way.
 
I can sew, but only out of the necessity to reattach a button (and I'd be more likely to just select different pants.)  As a kid, my perfectionist father never even let me paint the back side of the storage shed, so I never learned, and, therefore, never have to paint.  (Yep, my dad still does it-- perfectly.)  Thankfully, I have many crafty, creative friends, along with a mother and an MIL who are both adept at trimming, appliqueing, faux-finishing and imagining-- all skills necessary for handmade, one-of-a-kind works.
 
So, I got this idea...
 
It had to do with all the keepsake t-shirts that pile up around Krinkeland.  You know, those souvenirs picked up at the airport... jerseys issued by some Community Ed. coach in too-tight shorts... walking billboards for shows performed and camps attended.  We have so many of them, but they only get worn a few times, and then it's on to the next.  It seems a shame to throw them out or turn them into rags.  But donating them would also be weird, because who wants to walk around wearing our memories?
 
I've heard of people making quilts from the t-shirts, which I think is a fabulous idea, but also a laundry-load of work.  Plus, none of the people mentioned above actually knows how to quilt.  Someone recently told me she hangs up the shirts on a clothesline strung around her child's room, as decoration.  But, nah.  Instead, I started to think about what else was piling up around this house as fast as screen-printed shirts-- throw pillows.
 
Throw pillows are expensive, so I never toss them out unless they are completely destroyed.  We buy new pillows every time we get a new piece of furniture or new bedding.  Then, the old ones go in a closet.  My mom gives me throw pillows, because I think she, too, would feel badly about putting them in the garbage.  I am also too cheap to buy new pillow covers (because they cost almost as much as new pillows.)  However, I do really like throw pillows, not for throwing... but just for pillows.
 
Anyway, that's a big lead-in to an idea that I am sure is not even mine, but that I am claiming for the moment:
 
 
Yes, these are all the new throw pillows for the kids' beds.  AREN'T THEY FABULOUS?!
 
A month ago or so, I packed up a bunch of shirts and pillows in the back of the ol' bus and deposited them at my mother's house.  I told her I had a "project" that "we" could do "together" sometime when things were not "too busy" with the "kids."  I kind of explained my idea, and she kind of looked at me sideways and shook her head.  Then, I left.
 
Truly, I had always intended to be a partner in the t-shirt pillow-covering project.  And, by partner, I mean, I would bring my mom fountain sodas and sit and watch her work, commenting, "Yeah, that looks great."  Also, I could gush over her egg salad when she took a break to make me lunch.  Plus, I needed to consider myself a partner, because it was never in the budget to commission the work.  Mom wouldn't mind working for free if it meant some quality time with her oldest daughter, riiight?
 
Well, I am going to guess she got sick of looking at the squarish stuffing piles that completely consumed her sewing room.  Or, maybe the devil whispered in her ear, "Your daughter ees no good.  She weeel never help you."  (Satan sounds like SkippyJon Jones in my world.)
 
Today, when I returned from my trip to school-gym-school-Costco, there were two gigantic garbage bags stuffed with pillows sitting in my entry way.  THESE!
 
My mom said it was really no big deal once she got started, and she just kept going.  My dad said my mom worked her fingers to the bone, going without food and water, unable to sleep until the demanding, outrageous pillow project was complete, and but by the grace of God my mother may have perished under the immense weight of the task.  You decide.
 
Either way, the kids and I are just tickled pink.  And that is not an expression I commonly use.
 
Don't I come up with the best ideas?
 
Oh, and don't I have the best mom?