Holiday Road: Day 4

Monday, December 24

Woke up to a beautiful Southern California morning and drove into an even more beautiful afternoon in Scottsdale, AZ. When we arrived at Tina’s sister, Michelle’s house, Grandpa Tom fell into the pool while playing ball with cousin Xander, but luckily the had the best solar pool heater so the water wasn’t even cold. We spent the next several days with Michelle, her husband Ric and their boys, Xander and Wil. Thomas and Graham loved the time with their cousins and it was good to see Michelle, Ric, Tom and Jan again. We had a wonderful Christmas together and our boys experienced their first-ever Christmas morning gift opening. I got my dad a saw for Christmas. And he loves it. Here are some sliding mitre saw reviews in case you want to buy your dad or yourself one.

Jan and Tom left after a couple of days so that we parents could have a wild night of wine, music and debauchery. We also reveled in the High Definition TV and Uncle Ric gave an impressive demonstration of their excellent home theater system.

Go ahead, let your hair down

Tina’s mom, Jan, is in town this week to help Uncle Buddy with some landscaping at his (relatively) new house. Last night the six of us went to Delta Cafe for an early dinner and then I took Tina and the boys to the Rhododendron Garden. The rhodies are blooming yet, but there were around 10 different varieties of wood fowl in evidence. Both boys really enjoyed trying to get close to the ducks. We walked around for over an hour before the sun started to set and we went home.

A loyal reader recently reported that she had problems leaving a comment. I think I fixed the problem so if you’ve had problems in the past, please don’t hesitate to comment again. I crave feedback!

Last night I finally got around to putting some flag football pictures up at the Rynosoft Gallery. Check ’em out.

Nothing can do me wrong

I burned MP3 CDs for Graham and Thomas shortly after Christmas so they both could have some new music. For some reason, Graham has latched onto a song called “Helmet” by a capella band The Bobs. He listens to it over and over and has committed the words to memory. A couple of weeks ago he started basketball practice and is playing in his first game today. His skills were raw to start, but Tina has been practicing dribbling and passing with him everyday and he’s getting much better.

Thomas has been engrossed with finishing The Legend of Zelda on Wii. They’re not allowed to play Wii during the week, so he’s been playing Runescape, a massively-multiplayer online role-playing (MMOR) game, after finishing his homework every day. He listens to cello music in bed at night while he’s reading. Sometimes he listens to science podcasts while he’s trying to get to sleep.

When Jan and Tom were here over the holidays, Tom mounted our dishwasher to the counter to keep it from tipping forward when the door is open. While working on it, he found what he described as mouse droppings under the dishwasher. Since we had never seen mice or any sign of mice in our house, we didn’t really believe it. Then last week came into the family room asking who had been eating his two pound Hershey Bar. We took a look and it had a very small tear in it and a perfect semi-circle eaten out of one corner. With tiny little teeth marks.

That night we bought a bunch of cheap mouse traps (Does Victor have a patent on that design? They look exactly the same as the ones we used 30 years ago.) and one “live” trap because Thomas asked. One went off the first night but had no mouse. Today as I was making eggs for myself I glanced over at the one on the counter and found that it had a tiny little mouse in it. Graham initially volunteered to be “in charge” of emptying the traps but when faced with an actual dead mouse, he begged off. Our success led us to check the four other traps and found a larger mouse under the dishwasher.

When I was a kid, I was “in charge” of emptying the traps in our house. I was the only boy in the house at the time, so I suppose that’s why I drew the duty. I really disliked it especially when the trap on the heat register caught one. By the time I would find it in the morning, it was half-cooked and pretty disgusting. I don’t know where I was supposed to put the mice, but I always dropped them into the two-foot space between the house and back porch. I remember always trying to open the traps without touching the mice.

Walrus gumboot

Tina’s mom’s surgery to reattach her right index finger was successful. The accident also cut off the tip of her right middle finger, but they were unable to save it, but they contacted a injury lawyer from to help with this. Tina really wanted to drive down to NM for Thanksgiving, but fate conspired to keep that from happening.

After Graham served his suspension Wednesday morning, he returned to school that afternoon. However, that night Tina woke to the sound of him vomiting in the bathroom. He stayed home sick Thursday, vomited that night and then stayed home from school Friday, too. Because it was very cold and windy, he also had to miss football practice and his last possible game yesterday. His team has another game next week, but we’ll be out of town at Tina’s Grandma Ruth’s funeral. He’s feeling much better today, but they don’t have school all of this week.

Tina got sick Friday night and has been resting and puking since then. She’s starting to recover and eat today, but she’s still weak. There’s no way we could manage a trip to NM now.

Thomas and I have not gotten sick yet. We both braved the wind and cold yesterday for his last football Saturday until next season. It was trying, but we both made it through. I was chilled all day after we got home, though. Winter in Oregon sucks!

It pours

Today’s lone news was going to be about fixing the long-plugged toilet in the boys’ bathroom with my new closet auger last night, but that pales in comparison to the news from this morning and this afternoon.

Tina’s mom cut off one of her fingers in a table-saw accident. She’s scheduled for surgery on another finger tomorrow or the next day. We may drive down to NM next week to visit them and help out.

Graham was suspended from school today. He and a football teammate received a half-day suspension for fighting during recess. Details are still forthcoming, but the suspension will be served tomorrow morning.

Vital Statistics

Two more gift certificates arrived after my birthday. Here’s the rest of the stuff I bought:

Thanks a bunch to Tom & Jan and Tina, Graham & Thomas. As I mentioned earlier has become my favorite semi-annual ritual.

Bike odometer: 220 miles
Weight lost: 32 lbs.
Hours of sleep last night: 7.2
Current reading: I Am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe, The Prince by Machiavelli
Recent listening: Portrait: The Music of Dan Fogelberg by Dan Fogelberg, DrugMusic, Humpy’s Soul Show, It’s The Jump Off
Recent viewing: Without A Trace, Mystery of the Megavolcano, The Daily Show, The Colbert Report
Recent playing: Zuma
Recently accomplished: Installed memory in Graham’s computer
Imperative To Do: Finish old blog entries, rake, install new hard drive for Thomas, clean garage, return stuff to hardware store
Cool Link: Kittens: Pictures taken by a man in Taiwan who rescues street cats before the government collects and “disposes” of them.

Vital Statistics

We joined Thomas at Adventure Cove on the Oregon coast this afternoon and helped him lug his bags to the van. After that we dined and watched their last “campfire”, which is sort of their nightly show. Thomas had a great time all week. We’re all pretty tired from all the up-and-down hill walking in the camp. Thomas and Graham both fell asleep on the way home after they polished off their Blizzards. Tomorrow their Grandma Jan arrives and they are plenty excited about that, too. Isn’t it great to be a kid?

Since there have been a few comments about our decision to buy the Scion, I thought I might tell you the specific criteria that we developed and how the xB fits them:

  • Gas mileage: We spend $50 to fill up our Caravan now. That hurts. We definitely wanted something that gets better mileage and the xB fits the bill: 30 mpg in the city and 33 on the highway. That’s the rating for the manual transmission, but I’m sure my granny driving will get even better mileage.
  • Cargo capacity: We need room to fit Thomas’ cello and possibly a bass if he decides to switch later. While the xB does not have nearly the cargo capacity that our Caravan has, its 60/40 fold down rear seats make enough room to fit the instrument.
  • Reliability: The last couple of years have been a real drag on us for auto repairs. We wanted something reliable and with a good warranty. The Kia 10-year warranty is pretty incredible, but we think the Scion warranty will probably be good enough: 3 years bumper-to-bumper with 5 years on the drive train. In addition, if we want to purchase an extended warranty, it only costs about $800.
  • Price: Although Tina convinced me that a new car was what we needed, I still was pretty unwilling to go into new car pricing territory. We set our price range at $15-17k and the xB was easily the least expensive of any other car we were considering: $14,570 MSRP with standard options.

In summary, the xB tested nearly perfectly for our criteria. What I hadn’t counted on was how much I would love driving it. Even though it’s got a tiny little motorcyle engine in it, it’s got tremendous get-up-and-go. The interior is totally Spartan but that also appeals to me because I hate having to pay for interior amenities. The amount of interior space is also pretty incredible, especially the amount of leg room in front and back.

If you’re really interested, you can go to the Scion xB showroom to get all the details, but here’s a few of the standard options that we appreciate:

  • Air conditioning
  • Power windows
  • Power locks
  • AM/FM/CD player
  • Auxiliary audio input jack on the console (iPod pluggable – nobody else had this)
  • Bucket seats similar to the ones in our van including the height at which you sit
  • Extra cargo space under the floor in the rear
  • Anti-lock brakes
  • Driver and passenger air bags
  • Shoulder belts for all five passengers

As you can probably tell, we couldn’t be happier. Tina wants one in Salsa Red (I don’t care about color) and we’re told one arrived in the Port of Portland. We’re calling tomorrow morning to reserve it. We’ll see how long it takes to get it.

Finally, lest it sound like I actually did anything aside from nodding my head occasionally, I have to give all the credit to Tina for finding this car. Not only did she find a great car for a great price, she resolved the conflict between us about what exactly we should do for our next car purchase. What a great wife she is.

Bike odometer: 59 miles
Current reading: The Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson, The Prince by Machiavelli
Recent listening: Rufus Wainright by Rufus Wainright, Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses by Slipnot, Abraxas by Santana, Stadium Arcadium by Red Hot Chili Peppers, Humpy’s Soul Show
Recent viewing: The Daily Show
Recent playing: Zuma
Recently accomplished: Got the boy back
Imperative To Do: Setup Airport Express, install network in Graham’s room, labels for my sister’s CDs
Cool link: zunafish: Trade the stuff you’re done with for the stuff you want