Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Another Little Abbey Update

I haven't done a Little Abbey update in awhile so here it is in no particular order:

1. She has really begun to develop the gift of gab and entertains herself with her talking. If I leave her temporarily in another room to take drying contacts out of my eyes or to change into more comfortable clothes, I can hear her squeals and coos. Last night after feeding her a bottle at 3:30, (she hasn't quite adapted to the time change) she talked to herself for about 15 minutes before falling asleep again. Makes going to sleep myself a little more difficult when I have a baby monitor right next to my bed.

2. She is permanently a client of Mrs. Z. If you recall, Mrs. Z just took her on a temporary basis until her promised baby client is born and the mother's maternity leave was over. That would be Monday of next week. Mrs. Z said that Little Abbey is such a good and easy baby to take care of, she wants to keep looking after her. I don't know how she does it but she does a good job and we couldn't be happier to hear the news.

3. We've been supplementing Little Abbey's diet with solid foods for a month now and everything is going great. She loves her rice the best and gets impatient when you don't feed it to her fast enough which means I really have to shovel it in. I surprised mom by grinding up carrots and feeding her once only to learn that you should really cook the carrots first. I found all the carrots later in the diaper. Once I gave her some cooked carrots, she liked them all right but not like the rice. Next we fed her bananas, which is where I learn that if you blend up bananas, the next day they will resemble a black sludge. Always use fresh bananas. The following week was peas, which were again greeted with luke warm enthusiasm. Last night I gave her a piece of a pancit noodle that she liked because I had to stop eating and feed her some rice before resuming my meal.

4. We tried supplementing Little Abbey's milk with soymilk since we determined earlier that she might be lactose intolerant. She seemed to not mind those and so a few weeks ago, we gave her a bottle of pure soymilk while out at a restaurant 60 miles from home. Later when we got home and she had another bottle of breast milk, she threw up all over me while I was holding her. I took a shower while my wife gave Little Abbey a bath. My wife then attempted to feed her some more breast milk only to have Little Abbey throw up all over her so she took a shower while I cleaned up Little Abbey, floor and couch. (Thank god for leather furniture and hardwood floors!) We marked it off as a product of having a cold, which Little Abbey did at the time. This past Sunday however, we fed her another bottle of pure soymilk before going to church. I took Little Abbey down to the basement before the service started to change a diaper and ended up holding a puking baby who wasn't in the best of moods. It wasn't pleasant. After the service, my very worried wife came down to rescue me so I could get cleaned up before we went back upstairs and headed home. Needless to say, soymilk is now off the menu for Little Abbey. Instead, we raided the frozen breast milk reserves for the first time.

5. Little Abbey has officially entered into the toy playing stage. She deliberately reaches for toys, plays with them and occasionally can swap them from hand to hand. She will stick every toy as far into her mouth as possible. I brought out the bouncer with overhead toy bar that Little Abbey initially thought was a torture device for her as late as a month ago and now she loves it. She will actually play with her toys until she falls asleep in it. She will play with the blue rattling pig with one hand and stuff the stuffed elephant foot into her mouth with her right hand. If she isn't careful and goes to far, she gags herself. So between her crib that has always been a favorite, the bouncer and a blanket on the floor with a few of her toys, she can be entertained fairly easily.

6. Although she hasn't quite rolled over on her own yet, she is getting real close to getting up on her side. This is in part to her realization that if she hears something, she can turn her head and find the sound. Before, if it was out of direct sight, it was out of mind. So in order to get a better view of something, she will crane her head and push off the floor with her feet, rotating her body until she is very close to being on her side. Part of me wants her to not learn to roll so that she can still remain unattended while on high places like changing tables and beds but another part realizes that if she doesn't learn soon, she is going to retain a flat spot on the back of her still developing skull. We try to give her as much tummy time as possible but she seems to have regressed in this area. Where as before she could go twenty minutes or longer, now that she loves so many toys that are easier grasped when laying on her back, she only goes at most ten minutes on her stomach before getting growly.

7. Little Abbey has developed her identification skills quite a bit in this last month. She knows a pacifier (binky) is for her mouth and when she sees one, she opens her mouth to receive it. She also knows that a bottle of milk deserves the same response. When we are carrying her from one part of the house to another, she is always craning her head to see where we are going. If she hears my voice while her mom is holding her, she is craning her head around to find me. She doesn't do that for my wife much to her chagrin. Daddy's girl I guess. She also loves her turtle that makes noises and helix shaped rattle and will go for one of those first before any other toy.

8. She falls asleep much much easier these days and actually fell asleep while sitting on my wife's lap on evening. Before, she fought sleep thinking that her heavy eyes hurt for another reason causing her to thrash her head and hands around for fifteen or twenty minutes before falling asleep. Now, she just closes her eyes and drifts off. Again, this is huge in the amount of non-baby work I can get done around the house in the evenings.

9. Little Abbey seems to be going through another growth spurt and for the last week and a half, has been waking up once during the night. I usually get the midnight shift since my wife gets up earlier than me to pump her breasts for milk. Little Abbey will suck her bottle down in about five to ten minutes and goes right back to bed so it isn't too bad for me. But is still nice when she sleeps the whole night and I can't wait for that to come back again. She is growing like a weed and is getting really heavy and long. Some of our friends have a son that turned three that is only perhaps six inches taller than Little Abbey.

10. Little Abbey will officially be five months on Wednesday. Because the mother-in-law requires photographic proof that we celebrate the Filipino tradition of monthly birthdays until they are a year old, we celebrated on Sunday and took pictures that we will promptly forward to her on Wednesday. Our evenings as a family are just too short on weekdays to throw the required party to satisfy MIL. Even though Little Abbey is a squealer, I have a feeling that our secret will still be safe.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Honey War: Part Three

The problem of the Iowa/Missouri boundary in Van Buren County remained on the back burner until Iowa became a state in 1846 when it was again thrust into the forefront. In a surprising move, the Supreme Court in Missouri vs. Iowa 7 How. 660 (1849) sided with Iowa following Sullivan's line stating it was held that governments are bound by the practical line that has been established as their boundary, although not precisely a true one; and that as the United States before either of the States had been admitted into the Union and after Missouri had been admitted but while Iowa still remained a Territory, had recognized and adopted the line of a certain survey as the 'Indian boundary line' and was committed to that line as the boundary of Missouri, Iowa when admitted was bound by the recognition and adoption of that line by the United States, her predecessor, and could not be heard to disavow it as the boundary.

This didn't end it and in Missouri vs. Iowa 10 How. 1 (1851) a line was physically marked again with more permanent markers and again in Missouri vs. Iowa 160 U.S. 688 (1896) reaffirmed the boundary. The last squabble was in 1937 over the Half-Breed Tract, which was settled by Congress. Iowa's southern boundary thus remains to this day 4-1/2 degrees off from true east west due to Sullivan's declination error and had he not made the mistake, the part of my parents farm now on the border would be a full two miles into Iowa away from the Missouri border.

In researching this blog series on the Honey War, I happened across an old song (sang to the tune of Yankee Doodle Dandee) written by John L. Campbell and obviously sung by the whiskey filled Missouri militia.

Ye freemen of this happy land,
Which flows with milk and honey,
Arise! To arms! Your ponies mount!
Regard not blood or money.

Old Governor Lucas, tiger-like,
Is prowling round our borders,
But Governor Boggs is wide awake-
Just to listen to his orders:

Three bee trees stand about the line
Between our state and Lucas.
Be ready all these trees to fall
And bring things to a focus.

We'll show old Lucas how to brag,
And seize our precious honey!
He also claims, I understand,
Of us three bits in money.

Conventions, boys, now let us hold
Our honey trade demands it!
Likewise the three-bits, all in gold,
We all misunderstand it!

Why shed our brother's blood in haste,
Because "big men" require it.
Be not in haste our blood to waste,
No prudent men desire it.

Now, if the Governors want to fight,
Just let them meet in person.
And when noble Boggs old Lucas flogs,
T'will teach the scamp a lesson.

Then let the victor cut the trees,
And have three-bits in money.
And wear a crown from town to town,
Anointed with pure honey.

And then no widows will be made,
No orphans unprotected.
Old Lucas will be nicely flogged,
And from our line ejected.

Our honey trade will then be laid
Upon a solid basis,
And Governor Boggs, where 'er he jogs,
Will meet with smiling faces.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Honey War: Part Two

Wild honeybees abounded in southeast Iowa in the largely forested areas. The plentiful hardwood trees provided plenty of hollowed trunks for bees to settle into and do what they do best, produce honey. In the 1800's before cultivating bees was more widely accepted, farmers would chop down these honey filled trees to harvest the honey for personal consumption and perhaps a little extra income. As time progressed, people learn how to cultivate bees so that they produced more honey and it required a lot less work to access. As a bonus, the bees stayed put year after year as long as their food needs were met instead of migrating from a chopped down tree to another standing hollowed out tree.

In the early 1980's, my father decided that he wanted to harvest some honey from the hive of bees that my grandfather had on his farmstead but had neglected for the last decade or so. My parents soon turned this interest into a small hobby and quickly expanded it into a full-blown business. Within a few years of purchasing established colonies and trapping the plentiful swarms of bees, they had almost 150 colonies and were selling honey by the 55-gallon drum full. As the 80's progressed, the farming industry radically changed and farmers either got big or got out. My parents got big and couldn't sustain the honey business that had a busy season that coincided with fall harvest. In the late 80's they sold the business and as it turned out, not a moment too soon. The following year, mites that killed off about 90% of the native honeybees invaded our part of Iowa.


So with Brown having determined the location of the "official" northern boundary of Missouri, the Governor of Missouri named Boggs decided that it was high time that "their" land contributed to the tax base and sent out agents from Kahoka. The residents of this area considered themselves Iowans and didn't take too kindly when Missouri tax collectors showed up at their door and chased away the revenuers with pitchforks and clubs. Not wanting to go home empty handed, the collectors chopped down three bee trees, which were plentiful in this thickly forested disputed land and extracted the honey, worth at that time $0.37 per gallon, as partial payment for the taxes.

Governor Boggs didn't give up and next sent in the sheriff of Clark County Missouri, Uriah (Sandy) Gregory to collect taxes on, among other things, bee trees. He was met by a group of 1200 angry "Iowans" who gave him a choice, go home or else. Sheriff Gregory prudently went back south where he stopped to compose a letter to Boggs stating, "I am at a loss what to do the Citizens of that territory two-thirds of which is hostile to the officer and declare if I pretend to use any authority which I am invested by the State of Missouri, they will take me by fourse and put me in confinement." Governor Boggs ignored the letter ordering Boggs back in to collect those taxes and the Iowans proved good on their threat and arrested the Sheriff. He was confined in Burlington but was allowed to roam around town as long as he didn't leave to go back home. He later said he was treated well and enjoyed his enforced vacation that relieved him of having to solve the problem.

While Sheriff Gregory was "locked" up in Burlington in December of 1839, an angered Missouri Governor Boggs ordered up the state militia and sent them north to the border. Iowa Territorial Governor Robert Lucas responded in kind by calling up his state militia (the first use of the Iowa National Guard) and ordered them to the border. Both sides began to arm for battle with what available weapons were had including everything from rifles to pitchforks and in one reported case on the Missouri side, a sausage stuffer. (Perhaps an early torture device?) On both sides, plenty of whiskey was passed out and it is said that a Missouri supply convoy of six wagons contained five filled completely with booze. Both sides spent two nights camped out in the cold and snow, drinking their booze and waiting for the order to attack. It never came.

Fortunately, Governor Lucas wisely contacted Governor Boggs and while the two militias stood (or staggered) on each side of the border eyeing each other up, the two men agreed to allow the U.S. Congress resolve the dispute. Sheriff Gregory was released and Missouri tax officials were instructed to refrain from collecting taxes or chopping down any more bee trees until an official resolution was found. An arbitrary line was drawn between the two disputed lines extending southwest until it reached the same latitude as the old Sullivan line past the disputes "honey land" region and then went straight west to the Missouri River. Both governors ordered back their militias. The militias weren't happy at this news and wanted something to shoot. So they shot a deer, split it in half and labeled one half Governor Lucas and the other half Governor Boggs. The promptly shot both halves full of holes, held a mock funeral, and beat a rowdy retreat.

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Honey War: Part One

Much of my parent's farm is on the present day Iowa-Missouri border. In fact, tucked away in a fencerow of Bois D'arc trees, is a buried concrete pillar with a bronze emblem embedded in the top delineating the Iowa-Missouri border. These concrete markers were sunk in our border every ten miles and are quite rare these days due to "collectors" who have pillaged them. But the reason these markers existed was due to a long ago war that was "fought" on my parent's and other neighboring farms in what has come to be called "The Honey War."

In 1834, Van Buren County Iowa was part of the Michigan Territory, which had a southern boundary that was designated as "Missouri's northern boundary." Missouri which had become a state in 1820 had stated in it's constitution that the state boundaries were as follows, "Beginning in the middle of the Mississippi River, on the parallel of thirty-six degrees of north latitude; thence west, along that parallel of latitude, to the St. Francis River; thence up and following the course of that river, in the middle of the main channel thereof, to the parallel of latitude thirty-six degrees and thirty minutes; thence west along the same to a point where the said parallel is intersected by a meridian line passing through the middle of the mouth of the Kansas River, where the same empties into the Missouri River; thence from the point aforesaid, north, along the said meridian line, to the intersection of the parallel of latitude which passes through the rapids of the river Des Moines (emphasis mine), making the said line to correspond with the Indian boundary line; thence east from the point of intersection last aforesaid, along the said parallel of latitude, to the middle of the channel of the main fork of the said river Des Moines; thence down and along the middle of the main channel of the said river Des Moines, to the mouth of the same, where it empties into the Mississippi River; thence due east to the middle of the main channel of the Mississippi River; thence down and following the course of the Mississippi River, in the middle of the main channel thereof, to the place of beginning."

Then in 1836, this part of Iowa became part of Wisconsin Territory and then in 1838, the southwestern part west of the Mississippi River became known as Iowa Territory. So as Iowa inched closer to becoming a state, new focus was put on finding a more exact description of the border. Previously, a man by the name of J.C. Sullivan in 1816 had set out to delineate the space between the Osage Indians and the then Missouri Territory. He started on the western boundary and worked in an easterly direction but made a crucial mistake. He forgot or was unaware of magnetic declination, which in our area is approximately 4-1/2 degrees from true north and his "straight" line ended up about three miles north of where he should have been by the time he reached eastern Iowa.

Because Sullivan marked his "line" with mounds of dirt and slashing trees, these had all but disappeared by the late 30's when the border was being disputed. So in 1837, Missouri commissioned Joseph Brown to re-survey the land. Unknowingly, Brown also committed a big mistake when he started in the east. The Des Moines rapids referred to in the Missouri constitution actually refers to a rapid on the Mississippi river just above where the Des Moines River empties into it as was referred to by people who plied the Mississippi River in boats and by locals living nearby. Brown was neither a boatsman or a local and thus didn't know this before he began a journey up the Des Moines River to locate the rapids, going all the way to the present location of the county seat of Van Buren County, Keosauqua where a small riffle exists in low water. The new Brown line was conveniently 13 miles north of the Sullivan line, which added another 2600 square miles of land to Missouri. In 1838, the Missouri legislature declared that their northern boundary was the Brown line and ordered its officers to perform official duties in the strip of land between the two lines, which as we will later see included collecting taxes.

As a side note of interest, the southern boundary of Iowa isn't a straight line and a portion of Iowa east of the Des Moines River and west of the Mississippi River juts into present day Missouri. This portion of land was never in contention and the Brown and Sullivan lines only went from the western border to the Des Moines River. The reason is that this triangle of land between Sullivan's line and the two rivers was called the Half-Breed Tract and was set-aside for those of mixed race in 1824. That lasted for a decade before speculators rushed in and scooped up the land and nine years later after everything was sorted out, there was none left for any half-breeds. The Sullivan line is still used today to divide Lee County land administration between the two county seats at Keokuk and Fort Madison.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Harvest Moon

The harvest moon, one day past full, hangs heavily in the eastern sky as I left the confines of the soft yellow light spilling from the kitchen windows of the farmhouse and walked down the gravel driveway to the shop. The air, though cooler, was not yet the crisp fall air that would arrive in another week but it was still refreshing. The smell of cornstalks stripped of their bounty, still filled the air with their earthy aroma. The dryer fan cooling down a batch of corn in the grain bins on the northwest corner of the farmstead kicks in as heated gas is added to the mix. The collection of deer antlers lodged in the lower branches of the Chinese elm tree seemingly glow a ghostly white.

When I got to the shop, I quietly stepped into the darkness through the side door and made my way to the center of the large sliding doors. I've been away from the farm fifteen years and I still know exactly how many steps it takes me to reach that spot and slip the catch chain off the rod. I couldn't tell you an actual number but I know when I get there. I grab the handle and push the south door open, again instinctively pushing harder the last three feet where the door opens harder. Moonlight fills half of the shop bay so I don't have to rely on instinct to find the north door and slide it open. Before I head back towards the farmhouse, I walk over to the side door and reluctantly flip on the overhead lights so that my father can see to pull the combine inside for the evening. It's a little tighter fit than myself so he can't rely on instinct alone.

Halfway back to the house I pause, caught in a world of darkness between two lighted ones. The large doors of the shop cast their light out towards me but fell short, the farmhouse kitchen lights also reached out invitingly but were a long way from reaching me. Only the moon with its soft blue light made it to where I stood but unlike the other too lights with siren's song-like properties, the light of the moon seemed to tell a story. It was the story of the ongoing harvest, one that I know all to well.

The weather in this part of Iowa had been favorable for crops and post pollination estimates looked bountiful. But farmers know that you can't count your eggs before they are hatched and you can't count the grain until it is safely stored in bins and cooled down for long term storage. So when a windstorm arrived a month before harvest and blew a half mile wide swath through that part of the county laying down 400 acres of my parents corn on the ground and leaving another 400 acres at a rakish angle, they knew they were going to have to work a little harder before they could count their eggs.

Farmers are a tough breed of folks and don't complain much. Complaining never brought the crops in. Instead, they do what they have too. Harvest is now almost a month old and last week, my parents finally got through the 400 worst acres of corn averaging about 20 acres a day, a day being about sixteen hours long. Normally they could get through 100 acres a day but then normally the corn was standing upright in long orderly rows. It shows on their faces and in their postures and I wish I could shoulder some of the burden but my life has taken me down a different road. Instead, I just do what I can when I can to lighten that burden even if just for an hour once a week.

The gas kicks out on the dryer fan and I take one last look at the worn harvest moon, the same moon shining over a combine five miles away in a blown down field of corn trying to pull the stalks up enough to strip them of their ears of corn. I surrender to the glow of the kitchen lights and go inside the farmhouse to start supper, still probably an hour from being eaten by the time the combine and tractors are fueled and parked for the night and already later than most bedtimes.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Lucky Little Abbey and 13 Things To Update You On

Are you sure your daughter isn't of Amazonian origin the doctor asked in my mind when he told us that are daughter at 26 inches in length, was off their height charts for her age. Since their charts only go up to the 95th percentile, he wrote her down at 95th plus percentile. Her weight at 14 pounds 2 ounces is only in the 70th percentile so I guess as an Amazonian, she is skinny.

We have successfully made it through our four month vaccinations and checkup and I felt it time for another update to my general reading audience. The vaccinations occurred on Tuesday and as of my writing this on Thursday, she is still suffering from a low-grade fever and general malaise. It always sucks to take a perfectly happy baby into the county health office and end up with a baby you don't recognize for two to three days afterwards. In between doses of Tylenol when it is working, she is herself, but then the pain kicks in and it is hard to console her. I get by telling myself that it is temporary and it seems like after the shots have worked their course, a large transformation takes place and what emerges was even more beautiful than the one before.

We schedule her checkup the day after her shots so that should a reaction occur, we already have an appointment. Fortunately she has had no adverse reaction other than the fever either time. The checkup went well although Little Abbey cried the entire time she wasn't in our arms. She was declared a healthy baby other than the cold she has been suffering through for the last week and we were given a whole laundry list of things to do in the next couple months starting immediately. They are:

1. Start feeding her pureed vegetables and fruits along with her rice cereal via spoon. No bottle mixes of milk and cereal are allowed. We should also use a sippee cup of water during her solid food intake.
2. Keep reading to her especially books with bright colorful pictures as her eyesight is remarkably better now.
3. Remove her from the exer-saucer until she is able to crawl and sit on her own. The doctor said that a baby who spends time in an exer-saucer gets used to sitting up all the time and won't lie down as well for naps. I don't know if we will go cold turkey but we may limit her time in the exer-saucer to fifteen minutes or less a day.
4. At this stage of her development, we should be at her maximum for amount of milk needed to grow. She will require increasing amounts of nutrients but those should come from increasing amounts of solid foods while her milk consumption stays the same.

Most of the rest of the things we talked about were things that we already do or she has already done. Some of those are:

5. Little Abbey is a babbler and talks a lot, even to herself while in the crib or up in the bedroom after a nap. I'll walk in and she will be babbling away. At this stage she has already discovered that by moving her mouth and tongue she can make different sounds and according to the doctor she will soon be in the mimic stage where she watches our mouth movements and sounds and tries to copy them. I'm not someone who curses so watching what I say shouldn't be too big of an issue.
6. Soon she should be able to roll from her front to her back. Little Abbey has shown little inclination to do this but she is fairly close to rolling from her back to her side. She gets her feet underneath her and can lift her entire but in the air causing her to scoot backwards a little bit. She even twists her hips but her upper torso has yet learned to twist with the hips to roll over. I have a feeling it won't be too much longer.
7. She is doing well with her tummy time as long as a good television program is on that keeps her attention. Her neck muscles are really strengthening now and it is becoming hard to feed her or wipe her face because of the moving target thing.
8. She has gotten to where she prefers to be sitting propped up or laying down by herself over being held. This allows us more time to get other things done but already I miss the days of holding her in my arms while she slept for hours. Now if I get the chance to hold her while she sleeps, I need to prop my arms up on something less after fifteen minutes they disconnect from my shoulders due to her weight.
9. She loves her rice porridge. We tried thinning it down with breast milk at first like the books says but she didn't like it that way. If we leave it thick like an applesauce, she just loves it and cries out if we are too slow in feeding her more. She will eat about a half cup of rice porridge once a day and seems to look forward to it.
10. Already since we started the porridge, she had developed a new fascination with watching us eat. With her in a high chair at home or in her car seat when out in a restaurant, we now have about a half hour of relaxation before she will get bored. Much better than a couple months ago when I would shovel my food in as fast as possible so that I could take over entertaining Little Abbey while my wife ate.
11. Although some of her motions are still reflex, she has good enough control now to grab objects and insert them into her mouth. She sucks on everything in site from her own clothes, to whatever toy that might be lying nearby. When I put her in the crib with all her various toys arranged, I'll wind up the mobile and five minutes later when it runs down, the crib will be completely rearranged.
12. Since starting solid foods, you no longer have to feel the outside of the diaper to tell when she might have a poopy diaper. Smell is quite enough if you are within a ten-foot radius of her, sometimes more.
13. And since it is Friday the 13th, I thought it appropriate to add one final thought. I feel like I am the luckiest father in the world to have brought forth a child into this world like Little Abbey. I wouldn't trade her for the world.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Them Low Down Dirty Dishwasher Dealers Part Two

I had really thought that the last post was the last post on that subject. But time has proven me wrong. One of the reasons we bought our dishwasher right away was because of the Sears Price Guarantee which states that if you appliance of greater than $300 goes on sale within the next three days for cheaper than you paid for it either at their store or any competitor's store, they will refund the difference plus ten percent of the difference.

The told us this as we were discussing whether the current sale that offered free shipping was going to be for a while. They told us that the particular sale ended today and then gave us the Price Guarantee spiel. They repeated the spiel as I was paying with my MasterCard at the register. But knowing that the sale was ending in a couple hours, I didn't expect that the Price Guarantee was going to apply to me. So imagine my surprise when I opened up the Sears ad three days later for the exact same store where we made the purchase that had our dishwasher on sale again for $15 less than what we paid for it. By my calculations, we had $16.50 coming to us and I was thinking, a free meal out on the town this weekend.

Because of the item number on our receipt was the wrong washer and also not on sale and the store hadn't issued me a new receipt after they had corrected their mistake posted about in the previous blog, I decided that we needed to collect on this money sooner rather than later so that memories would still be fresh. So three days after they delivered the correct machine, I walked into the store. The lady that sold me the machine spotted me and I told her what I was after. She agreed, took my ad, receipt and walked up to the register. A minute later, she confirmed what I had suspected, that they hadn't corrected the last mistake and they still had the wrong model number listed in the transaction, which she added was the reason their part count had been off over the weekend. She corrected that and gave me a new receipt with the correct number on it. That was when things broke down.

During the correcting of the receipt, she again realized that because of their mistake, I had gotten a dishwasher for $100 less than what it was supposed to sell for, $50 more than what I had believed in my last blog post. Now I was trying to hit her up for another $16.50 and I could see her starting to think of ways out of the situation. To me, it was their mistake and even though I got the dishwasher for $100 cheaper, they were still currently selling it for $15 cheaper than what I had paid for it so they had to be still making some profit on it. She just looked at it as more money out of her pocket.

And so came the excused. She initially told me that because I had already gotten $100 off on the machine, they couldn't give me the Price Guarantee. I told her that it wasn't my fault she had made a mistake and now she was penalizing me for it. She then said that I had paid with a MasterCard and that the Price Guarantee was for the Sears card only. I told her that it doesn't say anything about how the purchase was paid for in the Guarantee. By then, both her associates had joined her and all three were now working me over with excuses. The final excuse was because I had gotten free shipping on the purchased dishwasher, they couldn't stack offers because it was illegal. They could refund me the $16.50 but then I would have to pay $65 for the two deliveries, not mentioned that one of the deliveries was correcting their mistake.

Twenty minutes later, I had gotten nowhere and I knew that my time would be spent better elsewhere. I gave up, took my corrected receipt but forgot my sale ad and went home where I wrote a Dale Carnegie type letter to Sear's corporate office. If that doesn't pan out, letters to my editor are next. This is war!

Post Addendum: Sears corporate office sent me a generic letter with a case number saying they would call me soon about the Price Guarantee for my TIRES. They called later the following day and after about five minutes on the phone, they are sending me a $20 gift certificate in the mail, because they can only do amounts in $20 increments. They are also contacting my local Sears branch and are going to "correct" them in the proper procedures for issuing Price Guarantees. How I would love to be a fly on their wall when that happens.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Them Low Down Dirty Dishwasher Dealers

After four days of doing dishes by hand (gasp), I was more than ready for my new dishwasher to arrive on Tuesday. The deliverymen were waiting for me when I arrived home with daughter in tow and evidently had been waiting for better part of an hour. I checked my watch and it was exactly at the earliest time in the range that they said they would deliver it. Since they hadn't bothered to call me at my work number, which they had, I ignored their griping as they carried the new machine into the kitchen.

I wanted to dig into the project of installing it right away but with an infant to look after, I had to bide my time. Finally, Little Abbey drifted off to sleep and I cut the box off of the washing machine and proudly looked at it. I slid it back into place and began connecting it up. For some reason, it crossed my mind that there might be some safety devices that need to be removed before starting it up so I opened up the door to get the instruction book. Sure enough it was there nestled between the times of the top rack slid back into the white plastic interior.

Wait just a second! We had ordered a stainless steel interior. I checked my receipt, the box, and the washing machine tag and all had the exact same number on them, 11742. I immediately figured that the dealer had simply typed in the wrong model number when ordering the machine on Saturday. It happens when you have to transcribe the number off the demo model sign and type it into your computer system to order it. But I was disappointed since I knew that I wasn't going to get a dishwasher installed today.

I repacked the dishwasher and called up the dealer to tell them that they had ordered the wrong machine. He asked me for the number on my receipt and the number on the box both of which I immediately gave him. He did some typing and then said that it was the right number. I told him that it wasn't the right machine because the machine I ordered has stainless steel on the inside and this one had plastic. He asked if I was sure and I told him that I work with stainless steel and plastic on a daily basis and I am pretty sure I can accurately tell the difference between them. He hemmed and hawed a little bit and then said that he would call me back in five minutes.

While waiting, I went online to the dealer's site and typed in the model number that I had been given, 11742. Sure enough the exact dishwasher I had sitting in the kitchen with plastic interior popped up on the screen. A couple clicks later and I saw that the demo model in the store with stainless steel interior had a model number of 11752. A simple wrong click of one key and I received a wrong dishwasher. After twenty minutes of waiting and five minutes before closing time, I was determined not to let this go another day and called them back.

The dealer told me that I had gotten the wrong dishwasher in the correct box and that he would order another 11742 to be delivered in a couple weeks. I told him that the online site said he should have ordered an 11752 and not an 11742. He said that the online site was wrong because the one in the store definitely said 11742. I answered back saying that the online site shows the very same model that I have with the same number that is on the dishwasher and the dishwasher box. How can all three be wrong? He didn't know. We went back and forth for five minutes because I didn't want to wait two weeks only to have the same problem happen again and both of us were getting frustrated when it hit me. Since the large red price tag also contained the model number, I asked it that was the number he was reading off the demo model. He said yes. I asked him if it was possible that he had put the wrong sign in front of the wrong machine. Had it been nighttime, I would have heard crickets chirping outside through the long pause. Just a second he answered.

Evidently someone else then joined into the fray and I could hear the dealer in the background repeating what I just said. The other person did some clicking on the keyboard and after a few moments said that I was right. It was an 11752. The dealer knowing that he had just sold me a more expensive machine for the price of a lesser one asked how much more the cost was? I couldn't hear the answer but from the online site, I knew that it was $50 different. Not as much as I would have guessed but still a 'bank error in my favor.'

As he came on the line, I was bracing myself for an attempt on his part to recoup this loss but he simple said that I had been right but that they didn't have any more in inventory and it might be several weeks before they can get another one. He said that he would box up the demo model that we had looked at and deliver it that very evening. Not really wanting a demo model but not wanting to wait an entire month, I agreed and soon the correct dishwasher was delivered. I laid Little Abbey on a blanket in the middle of the kitchen floor and while she contentedly watched me work, I got busy installing it. Soon, my stainless steel clad interior was getting drummed with two spray bars, an upper spray disk and four turbo spray nozzles in the back. I couldn't be happier.

Thursday, October 5, 2006

Little Abbey Update: Part Two

One of the biggest improvements to my getting something done around the house in the evenings is that Little Abbey has finally figured out that some of the time she doesn't have to be held to fall asleep. In fact, a couple of times I have been washing dishes when I realized that she was being awfully quiet in her crib only to find her sound asleep. Before, she would have to be held and jiggled in order to fall asleep during the daytime so in order to do something else, you first had to lay her down somewhere. About fifty percent of the time, she would wake up as soon as you did this and the notion of doing something else would be gone. Since she was only a few weeks old, she has fallen asleep by herself at night but until recently, has never figured out how to do it during the day.

We finally gave up on her swaddler at night because she was escaping from it regularly. I was afraid that the Velcro fastened loop of cloth would pose a danger to her so we stopped using it. Instead, we now dress her in a sleep sack and just cover her with a blanket and tuck in the edges. Her startle reflex is now gone meaning she doesn't jerk her arms and wake herself up anymore. This has been going on for a month now but I still wake up every morning very thankful for this fact. In the last month, she has only woken up in the middle of the night perhaps three or four times. This allows my wife and I to get up, get dressed and eat something before waking her up (on the weekdays) for daycare. Gradually my life is returning to a pale shade of color of what it used to be.

One of the most gratifying changes has been in her character development. Little Abbey now recognizes me immediately and smiles, even from across a room full of other people. Whenever I'm at home, my wife gets frustrated at times when Little Abbey ignores her to look at me and smile. I know that this will eventually change so I'm soaking it up now while I can. But Little Abbey does recognize her mom too and gives her a smile that melts her heart and sends her into a streak of cooing at the baby. The colic has all but disappeared now and she no longer has a 'fussy time' anymore. Occasionally when the house gets a little warm, she will get cranky but at least we know the reason where as before, she seemed to cry for hours without reason. Little Abbey is generally content and only whimpers now when she needs milk, changing, or attention. Each of these has a distinct whimper and I have become quite adept at interpreting them. Just in general, she seems to be smiling a lot these days. It seems like so long ago already that she was mostly emotionless except for spats of crying.

Mom is still able to keep up with the pumping so we can keep Little Abbey on breast milk with out any supplementation. But we have experimented ahead of time to find out she can't handle the milk formulas from the store. Instead, she seems to like the soy based formulas. This wasn't surprising to us since Mom is still partially intolerant to milk and I was as a child but grew out of it. We do feed her scraps occasionally from whatever we happen to be eating, now that Little Abbey is sitting in a highchair right beside the table. It still takes about five to ten tongue thrusts to work whatever scrap we give from the tip of her tongue to her throat but she seems to enjoy the new tastes. We have given her rice mash mixed with breast milk on occasion but only this week have we started to be more diligent in giving it to her on a regular basis, six or so baby spoons full at a sitting. We haven't rushed things since we are only at the very beginning of the time in which you are supposed to feed babies and she still seems pretty content with her milk.

Little Abbey has developed a fascination with her image in the mirror. I hope this doesn't mean she is going to be vain later in life! She will stare at herself, smile and then smiling bury her face into my chest. We also have a little Elmo mirror in her crib that I catch her looking into quite often. I still think that she is just curious as to who the other baby is and hasn't realized it is herself so there is hope that it isn't vanity.

Finally, I have called Little Abbey 'squirmy' almost from the day we brought her home. Back then, it was because she always seemed to be kicking her legs and flailing her arms like a windmill non-stop. These days, she has grown into her name quite well. She now has more control over her arms and legs, which she uses to her advantage. However, with her newly gained neck muscles, she can really arch her back and whip her head from side to side. This can sometimes make feedings and changings more challenging especially if there is something better to watch in the room. When my wife is feeding her and Little Abbey hears me enter the room, she'll arch her back and crane her head in an attempt to look at me, forgetting all about the task at hand much to my wife's chagrin. I have to either leave the room or sneak in out of eyesight.

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Little Abbey Update: Part One

It seems like last week that I did my last Little Abbey update and it probably was but things seem to be happening so quickly now that I just had to write them down lest they slip into obscurity inside my mind. So here goes part one. Part two will be tomorrow.

Although it won't be official until next week, I measure little Abbey a couple days ago and was astounded to see that she was 25 inches long now! I knew she was growing but six inches since birth and four of those in the last two months seems very fast! There is no doubt among our family whom she got her height genes from. We don't have an accurate way of measuring her weight so we will have to wait until next Wednesday when she gets her checkup. All I know is that she is noticeable heavier or I'm growing weaker. My wife has started calling her a 'little sack of rice.' I still prefer 'squirmy.'

Her favorite toys are some plastic links that you clip together to form a chain. I have them attached to the mobile on her crib with the loose end hanging down. She loves to grab onto the chain and occasionally nibble on the links. She isn't teething but right now, anything that she can suck on seems to give her contentment and as long as it isn't her thumb, I'm happy.

Speaking of thumbs, she hasn't figured out how to suck on it yet. She has figured out how to cram four of her fingers into her mouth and noisily suck on them sometimes to the point that she gags herself. As soon as she has the gagging in check, back in the fingers go, so she obviously isn't too traumatized. We still give her a pacifier at times especially after feeding when the urge to suck something is the strongest. She is going longer periods of time with the pacifier hanging at the end of its string clipped to her outfit.

Little Abbey's ability to focus on something is much much greater these days. We used to never be able to eat meals together but a few weeks ago I set up the highchair and now she contentedly sits in it and watches us eat. No more having to eat with one hand while rocking her in a bouncer or trying to keep a pacifier in place. Whenever I bring her home from the daycare in the afternoons, she just sits in her car seat and watches me as I unpack all her gear. In fact, as long as I am within sight, she is content to just sit there and follow me with her eyes. However, when the time comes for me to extract her from the seat, she starts squirming just as soon as I begin to unbuckle her until I finally get her out where she can arch her back and stretch.

Although Mrs. Z gives her tummy time during the day, I always give her plenty of time on her tummy when we get home. Just a few weeks ago, she was able to hold her head up at a 90-degree angle for perhaps a minute or two before getting tired. Now our tummy time sessions with her head up last fifteen minutes and then maybe another fifteen minutes with her head at a 45-degree angle. I have found that for the longest times, I need to make sure she is facing the television and something is on with constantly changing screens. When I get home, Millionaire is on but the screen doesn't change often enough and she is bored. Jeopardy is on next, which is a little better since they do a lot of cutting to the board and back to the contestants. But the evening news seems to be the best.

When Little Abbey is on her stomach on a non-slippery surface, she has started to get her legs underneath her stomach. Once there she hasn't figured out what to do other than kick which sends her back to the floor. When she is lying on her back, she definitely has figured out how to lift her butt in the air using her legs and then kicks which sends her scooting backwards an inch or two. One more challenge when it comes to changing diapers. I have learned to counteract this by making sure her head is against the top part of the changing table. I have a feeling that she will figure out how to turn over by the end of this month, something I am not looking forward too. I still like being able to lay her down on the bed or couch and walk away for a half hour while she naps. When she turns over, this will have to end.