Monday, April 30, 2007

I've Been Afflicted By the Morel Madness... Again

In case you went to visit someone in Iowa this past weekend and didn't notice, we weren't home. Instead, thousands of abandoned vehicles, ATV's and bicycles were abandoned along roads, bridges, brushy draws and ditches. Their drivers weren't slumped at the wheel but slouched and walking through the woods with plastic bags clutched in their hands. They weren't blood-sucking zombies but have been taken over by the morel madness.

After the Sunday church service in which I possibly issued a prayer plea for a bumper crop of those little yellow and gray delicacies, we drove down to the farm and gathered our strength over a lunch of pasta and an early birthday cake for Little Abbey. Then we hopped into the Polaris Ranger ATV and headed off with plastic sacks in hand.

Our first stop at the Cooley farm has been a regular stop of ours since we quit finding mushrooms at the Wellen farm. Mushrooms tend to grow underneath dead elm trees, a.k.a. mushroom machines, and after the Dutch Elm Trees wiped all of them out on the Wellen farm, we had to move elsewhere. At the Cooley farm we have discovered something different. There, the mushrooms tend to cluster near silver maple trees and are scattered along the banks of a small creek that flows through a draw. The ones along the creek don't seem to concentrate under any particular type of tree so they make up for it by just growing to enormous sizes that makes them easier to spot.

Within half an hour, all three of us had our bags completely full and had to head back to the ATV. Searching through it, we found a larger plastic bag among the dash debris and decided to head off to another mushroom spot on the Order farm. There we found a few morels but not as many. It is an early season place and with the cold spring weather the previous couple weeks, mushroom season had been compressed to just one week. This Sunday was probably the tail end of the season. While climbing out of a draw by a huge old black cherry tree that I have used for years to pull myself up a particularly steep section while mushrooming and which the wind had recently blown over, we saw that the inside had been hollowed out. Nestled inside and seeming very crowded were at least three baby raccoons waiting for their mother to return. Since it was three o'clock in the afternoon and raccoons being nocturnal animals, I have no idea where she was.

Back home with around five pounds of fresh morel mushrooms, we were in heaven. Since my parents had that many already soaking in their refrigerator at home, my wife and I took the latest haul back home with us and after an hour of cleaning them, I had three large tubs of them in our refrigerator. Last night we grilled some ribeye steaks that I ate with a morel mushroom and coconut milk gravy that my wife made and had some breaded morels to eat with it on the side. I'm having leftovers of that for lunch today and tonight, I will fry up a bunch more for supper. Perhaps tomorrow, I will pack a morel sandwich to take to work and I'm sure we will be having sautéed morels in scrambled eggs or omelets pretty soon. I'm not crazy. I just have the morel madness.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

My Bad Experience With Homemaker's Furniture

For reasons unknown to me, I was born unlucky. I’ve entered thousands of raffles and the one time that I actually had my name drawn, I won a pair of sequined socks. My wife gets her name drawn every time and wins everything from an overnight package deal to see the Rams play the Redskins to money to $50 gift certificates to nice restaurants. My bad luck doesn’t end there. For some reason, three out of four times I pay with my credit card at the pump, the receipt is jammed, out of paper or just not working meaning I have to go inside to stand in line and get my receipt, defeating the purpose of paying at the pump. At the grocery store, the line I pick is always the one where they have to run a price check on some item that the person in front of me bought, or is the one where the clerks change out or everyone pays with checks and laboriously writes them out in full before handing them to the clerk who could have electronically filled them out within seconds.

My bad luck just doesn’t extend to outside of the home but runs deep on the inside too. It wasn’t too long ago that I had a drawn out bit of bad luck with my dishwasher not once, but twice! I can’t remember if I blogged about this but I also had another long drawn out ordeal with a computer many years ago which may explain why I am leery of buying another computer. Without further ado, here is another one of my bad luck stories for the record books.

For this past Christmas, my wife and I decided to forego giving each other gifts and instead go furniture shopping for a new kitchen table and chairs in the post holiday sales glut. Our formica and chrome table and chair set has aged gracefully through two generations and it was time to update ourselves. So on December 30th, we set out for the long drive to our state capital and Homemaker’s Furniture, one of the largest furniture stores in the Midwest.

I had been to a class for work a couple months ago just a half mile from the store and had scoped it out over the lunch break and knew that they literally had thousands of tables to choose from at much cheaper prices than our local stores offered. Plus their shipping was just as cheap. We wandered around for a couple hours and finally selected our dream table. The salesman said that they were currently out of stock on the item but said that at the latest, they would have another one in four to five weeks. We had our hearts set on a table within a week or two but it was our dream table so we decided to wait for it. We paid for our purchase in full and arranged for delivery schedule for the last week in January.

By the time mid-February rolled around, I couldn’t contain my frustrations any longer and called Homemaker’s Furniture to ask about where my order was. They said it had been back ordered and would come in by the end of February. I politely expressed my displeasure of not having been notified of this fact and ended the call. March arrives with still no word so I call again. It has been back ordered to the end of March. April arrives with still no word so I call yet again. It has been back ordered to the end of April.

By this time, my Job-like patience had run out and I decided the time for action had arrived. I wrote them an email stating that I wanted immediate service as I had no service what so ever in almost four months. I gave them 24 hours to remedy the situation or I would write a letter to the Better Business Bureau of Iowa. Forty-eight hours later with still no word from them, I fired off my letter to the BBB. The next day, the BBB sent me a response and had contacted Homemaker’s Furniture about the problem and within hours, Homemaker’s Furniture called me for the first time some 16 weeks after I had placed my order to tell me that my order was still back ordered.

Homemaker’s Furniture then wrote back a response to the BBB stating that I had been notified of the backorder, backorders were common and that they had no record of my ever having called them. So I responded to the BBB stating that it really doesn’t make since that someone would wait for 11 weeks after the scheduled delivery date before writing the BBB that they have a problem. I said yes that backorders were to be expected but also having someone call me once in awhile to inform me of the said backorders were also expected and this Homemaker’s Furniture had failed to do. I said that they had my money for 16 weeks and I had no table nor had I been compensated for troubles of dealing with this issue.

Less than a day after I sent my last response, Homemaker’s called me to say that my table had come in “early” and that it would be delivered yesterday, 18 weeks after I bought the thing. In the three days between that call and the delivery, they called twice more just to update me on the delivery date. I think I struck a nerve.

Much to my chagrin, they gave me one of those, “we will deliver it between 7 and 12” things meaning I had to take off half a day of work to wait for my aged table to arrive. No they would not call my work number fifteen minutes before they arrived and no they couldn’t give me a more precise time of arrival. It was all I could do to refrain from telling them where they could put their table.

So the moral of the story is that I have bad luck and to avoid Homemaker’s Furniture like your life depended on it. They obviously don’t have anybody in customer service. Fortunately they now have another black mark on the BBB of Iowa’s website and I have sent a letter to the editor of the state rag but by now, they probably aren’t going to publish it because I haven’t heard back. My next step is to visit a shaman and put a curse on their store.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Little Abbey Update

I think it is high time for a full-fledged Little Abbey update as always, in no particular order.

1. Feeding her has in ways become easier. Whenever possible, we just let her have what we are eating and also whenever possible, we let her feed herself with her own two hands. This is great because she doesn't whine with impatience if she isn't feeding herself fast enough and it also means that my wife and I can eat together and at a rather leisurely pace. She really likes pasta and has learned to slurp her noodles into her mouth. Macaroni and cheese is a big favorite. When what we are eating can't be prepared via a blender or cutting up into pieces that she can handle and there aren't any leftovers that she can eat, we go back to the standby of mixing cooked rice with the pureed fruit or vegetable of the day and serving her that. If we are feeding her by spoon, she eats until she has enough and then shakes her head side to side when she is full. She also does this with her milk that she only drinks about four times a day at 5.5 oz at a time.

2. Thankfully she still sleeps well throughout the night. On rare occasions she has a bad dream and we need to go in and pacify her so that she can go back to sleep but that is only happening about once every two or three weeks.

3. Her crawling ability is progressing rapidly. She can really move fast if she wants and follows us around the house. She can even get up on her hands and feet (instead of her knees) but doesn't walk this way, probably because she is afraid I would call her monkey girl or something similar. Although she has pulled herself up to a standing position over a half dozen times, she hasn't done it for a couple weeks. I think it is because she can't get sat back down and stands until she falls over from being tired. If we hold her hands, she will pull herself up and walk from one end of the house until the other and at times, tries to let go of our hands and walk on her own. She gets upset it we hang on and upset if we set her down so right now, we are in a no win situation until she walks on her own. She is starting to learn how to shuffle sideways when standing and holding onto something like the couch so I suppose it won't be long before she is furniture cruising.

4. Unfortunately, she has learned about gravity and likes to test it out by dropping things off of her high chair. Fortunately, she values food too much to do this but tosses spoons, sippee cups, empty containers, etc onto the floor. When sitting on the floor, she likes to pick up objects and throw them, watching carefully how they bounce or roll. It's funny but she never can see the action of actual falling because she winces as soon as she lets go anticipating the loud noise of the object hitting the floor. Oddly enough when she is banging two objects together, another favorite activity, she doesn't wince at all.

5. Her stranger anxiety seems to have abated a bit and she seems to only get upset when my parents come over. I think since my dad has a beard and nobody else that we know does, this is the reason. I also think that she is learned to associate faces in a more complex manner. Once with my face covered in drywall dust, she still recognized me. Stocking cap and sunglasses, no problem. Beards however, anxiety problem.

6. Although her favorite toy varies from day to day, I have found that she likes to examine them closer now, spinning them this way and that, putting them on or in another object, and of course, throwing them before retrieving them. I found a simple golf ball with her sitting on the low point of the floor can entertain her for at least a half hour since the ball always comes back. She is even to the point where if the ball rolls under the edge of the couch, she will get down on her stomach and look for it. A not so good development in the toy department is that she become upset if you remove a toy that she is partial too even if it is a lint ball, piece of dirt, etc. It's hers and she lets us know that she is a little bit miffed that we are taking it from her. She will also share toys for a brief few seconds before she grabs them back and toys that she doesn't want she has learned to push or kick them aside. Every so often, I weed out her toy box of the toys that she frequently pushed aside so that I have fewer toys to pick up after she is off to bed.

7. Verbally she is probably a little behind where the pediatricians would like her. She can say mama and dada but she still can't say them discriminately. She babbles quite a bit, especially when well fed and rested but still doesn't try to mimic words. I guess I shouldn't be discouraged because at least she hasn't learned to talk back to me. She does understand some words such as her name and has a general understanding of no or at least the tone of voice that comes with it.

8. My mom taught her a few weeks ago when she had RSV how to wave bye-bye but she still doesn't do that very often. You have to catch her in the right mood.

9. She seems to only take one nap at daycare and one nap in the early evening at home during the weekdays. On weekends, she will take 3 to 4 naps a day. Since we don't have trouble getting to nap on the weekends, I wonder why she doesn't nap more at daycare. I assume it is the distractions but Mrs. Z says otherwise. But as long as she seems well rested and sleeps through the night, I guess I won't be too choosy on this subject.

10. Her weight is probably about 21 pounds and her strength is ten times what it was just a few months ago. It doesn't sound like much but trying to hold her for an hour at church while sitting, standing and kneeling is a full body workout. She really knows how to throw her weight around to her advantage, including moving her high chair backwards from the table. This really makes us earn our keep trying to get her dressed anymore. Ever try to dress a pissed off crocodile? That would be much easier than trying to put on a diaper and jammies on a baby that obviously has other places to be.

11. She has learned about doorknobs and occasionally accidentally opens a cupboard door but still hasn't grasped that she could play with the objects inside. I need to buy one of those locks for the under the sink items because soon she will be able to stand up to reach that handle.

12. She has learned about the values of tools. I've seen her more than once reach out with one toy to press the "30 seconds of music" key on her piano when it has been just out of reach. I'm with her on this one. Who wants to crawl on a hard wooden floor every thirty seconds to get the music to play when a wooden spoon or green rubber ducky will work just as well.