Drip drip drip

Drip

Meet Mr. Toilet Shut-Off Valve. Cute lil thing, isn’t it? If you look really closely, you’ll see that it’s dripping. That’s because we have really hard water, and the build-up causes problems in stuff. We’ve been promised a city-wide water softener, but I don’t know if that’s happened yet.

Anyway, what prompted this problem was the use of the valve. The toilet runs on its own occasionally, so, due to the previous problem, we shut the toilet off when the basement drain’s overflowing. Turning it back on caused a small drip to become quite a busy drip, so hubs decided to see if there was maybe something he could do. He visited his good friend, Youtube, to see how to replace the valve, because we had pretty good success watching how-to videos to replace the wax seal on the bottom of the toilet. However, the videos on Youtube didn’t really cover a valve like ours. Apparently it’s been sweated on or something, and we need a pipe wrench and all kinds of gnarly tools and skills. So we threw up our hands, shut off the valve, and instructed everyone to use another toilet.

In preparation for playing with the shut-off valve, we shut off the main water line to the house, as any rational person would do. When the main was turned back on, it started dripping. Profusely. ARGH! So now we have two problems, a drippy toilet valve and a drippy main. So I called the plumber that we had over on New Years Eve on the aforementioned post, and he told me that he only does drains, but he has a guy that does other plumbing tasks. He took my info, sent it on to the other plumber, who called me back. He offered to come out the same day, but due to crazy schedules, I asked if he could come out at 8am the next day, because I had to be at work at 10, and I figured that two hours should be enough time to fix it.

Ha.

I got a phone call at 8:45am to confirm the address and the appointment. I told him that I don’t know that there was enough time now for him to fix it, and I needed to call my boss to see if she would be in, but she was much too busy praying (ya, rly) to answer the phone. Because I call her maybe once every 2-3 months, and if it’s a before-work call, it’s usually going to be something that needs to be addressed before the store opens. I’m not one to just call many people up for a chat, especially my employer. So I called the boss man, who said he’ll pass along the message. While waiting on a confirmation from him, I get another call from the plumber. I told him that I didn’t know what the deal was, but he was going to go ahead and come over, because he needed to see what parts were needed. Boss man texted back a while later, confirming that I can come in late.

Plumber finally showed up, he wandered through, with me showing him what needed to be done. He took note of the parts needed, then told me he’d be back in 20 minutes or so, because the plumbing supply place is pretty close by. So I sat down to wait, and I received a knock a few minutes later. “Do you know where your outside water main is, so I can shut it off?” Nope, sure didn’t. So he went away, and I sat back down. Five minutes later, he was knocking on my door again, telling me that he needed to call a location service to find the outside shut-off. Apparently these things are flush to the ground, and if they haven’t been used in a while, they get covered up with grass growing over them and such. So I said fine, and he went away.

And he never came back.

An hour later, I called him to ask where he was. Apparently he decided that he wasn’t going to come back until the outside shut-off was located, which makes sense to get it all done at once. However, he failed to mention that to me, making me late for work. So uh… I guess I’m going to be finding a new plumber. Because that dude really irritated me.

TL;DR: Plumbing sucks.

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Crappy New Year!

I don’t know why it is, but for some reason water in the house inspires me to blog, such as here and here. At any rate, one of the downfalls of our house is that it has old clay pipes in the yard, as does just about every house in the neighborhood. The problem with clay pipes is that they degrade over time, and roots can grow into them from trees. So our recurring problem in the house is to have to run a sewer snake down our drain every few months, as our floor drain will back up. The first time we called a plumber, because it was something outside of our realm of expertise. He ran it through the floor drain, where the backup was, so we assumed that’s where we should run ours. Because, you know, we’re paying this guy $125 to clear out the drain, and it’s his job and stuff.

So anyway, yesterday afternoon, I took a shower in anticipation of going out to First Night for a New Year’s celebration with my family, which we do every year. The snow falling worried me, but it wasn’t bad at the time. After my shower, I glanced into the laundry room, as I tend to do when I walk past after a shower, and noticed a puddle around the drain. Again?! I thought to myself. We just snaked the drain last month! So I went about getting dressed, saw that the water had gone down, and figured it was a drain hiccup, because it does back up just a little sometimes, and surely it was too soon for a major drain blockage. So I threw in a load of laundry and went about my day. Big mistake. The laundry water backed up all over the floor. So I went into “fix the drain” mode, calling up my boss, because his father-in-law, who lived nearby, had a sewer snake that we had borrowed previously. It was huge and heavy and the belt was iffy, but it worked. Well, father-in-law was out of town, but he’d call back when he’s in town. In the meantime, I called the local hardware store for a rental. Apparently Home Depot isn’t open after 5pm on New Years Eve, so I was stuck.

Hoping for a call back from the boss man and worried about the snow, we hung around the house, skipping out on First Night. We didn’t do much at home to celebrate, just watched the New York NYE party on NBC, which was very crappy. All the live performances, and they play Olympics recaps AND a pre-recorded performance of Call Me Maybe over Psy’s live performance?
Grumpy cat disagrees Grumpy cat didn’t like it much, either. And instead of televising the ball dropping, the camera just cut to a bunch of people making out. Pah. So we stayed up for another hour, little dude dozing off until a couple of minutes before midnight when I woke him up, we wished each other a happy new year, and he went to bed, us shortly after.

So the new year dawned early and bright, and everyone had to go pee, and I’m not too keen on having pee backup into my basement, so we packed up and went to the store to do our morning duties. After getting home and lazing around for a while, because that’s what we do on days off, we decided to go pick up a sewer snake from the Home Depot, which was indeed open. And when I say “pick up,” I mean it literally. As in, pick it up and put it in the trunk. Our favorite model, the 100 footer, weighs 210 lbs, and is $70 (after assorted taxes and fees) for four hours. So it was wrestled into the trunk, out of the trunk, down the stairs, and into the utility room. Thankfully, this one had auto forward and reverse THAT WORKED, which is the first time ever that we’ve had that luck. After the snaking, we ran lots of water, flushed toilets, everything was running a-ok, so I started a load of laundry and we took it back to Home Depot. You know, after lugging a 210 lb piece of equipment up the stairs, hefting it into the trunk of the car, then wrestling it out of the trunk.

On our way home, I got a rather disheartening call: My older son reported to us that the washer backed up again. All over the place. Back to square one. After we got home, the floor drain suddenly unclogged, and the water went down the drain, so we figured that maybe the drain cleaning had knocked something loose, it clogged again, then the water pressure shoved it on through, but I wasn’t convinced. That’s when I decided to call a plumber with a drain camera. I tried calling around to people I knew that would know plumbers, but no one had any recommendations, so I searched Craigslist. I found a company that had a camera and made you a DVD of your drain for $125, when the going rate is usually $250, so I called them. The fellow that answered said he was out and about, and within half an hour of me, and would come out this evening for no extra charge, so I took him up on his offer.

The fellow showed up in 20 minutes, got his camera out (which was on a reel and had a display), and almost immediately, he ran into this thing:
Bow to me, for I am root What is that, you ask? It’s Cthulhu a gnarly root. All up in my pipe. Apparently the rooting that we had done through the floor drain was wrong; we were unable to run the cutter blade through the floor drain, and were only using a little arrowhead tip to go through. It had been punching a hole through the mess of roots, but not clearing it. So the dude pulled out his super fabulous drain cleaner and got that mess right out! He ran his camera back down, showing a couple of little root masses called “flappers,” so named because they move out of the way of rooting devices, as well as water. He recommended a product called RootX (NOT RIDX), and suggested that I buy it on Ebay. He did warn me that it can cause pipe damage, so they do not carry it, but it would get rid of those roots.

So anyway, the fellow gave me the DVD (because drain exploration is exciting stuff), and he only charged $200 for the drain clearing plus the video! So, I’ve gotta give a little shout out to his company, Drain Medics, because the service was excellent, he was here quickly, and he was very nice.

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Adios, Facebook!

I have spent a LOT of time on Facebook. Lots and lots and lots and lots. And finally, I’ve decided that I’m done.

Facebook is a great way to connect with people, both known and unknown. I’ve seen people get married, have babies, get divorced, mourn lost loved ones, and so much more. It’s great for people watching… Until that’s all you do. I was on Facebook most of the time. So I decided that enough was enough, and I pulled the plug. I disabled my account. Why didn’t I delete it? Well… Because I like my vanity URL, and I don’t want anyone else to have it. How selfish of me! ;)

Something odd has happened to me in the week since I ditched Facebook. I’ve been more interested in doing other stuff. I know exactly what you’re thinking…
But it’s true! I’ve decided to stop nosing into other folks’ lives and mind my own. Heh.

I was on a secondary account today… And today has gone right down the toilet. So yeah. I’m done.

So anyway, if you need me for anything, I’m hanging out on Twitter nowadays, and a couple of other avenues of social interaction, which I won’t share here… You either know me there or you don’t.

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My card number got stolen. Ugh.

This morning, my husband messaged me and asked me if we had any money in the bank account, because his card was rejected at the gas station this morning. I told him that we should have over a hundred dollars in the account, and checked our account online to confirm. Yep, everything was legit, the amount I expected was in there. So I told him to call the bank to find out why his card was rejected. Apparently, someone in Lancaster, Pennsylvania tried to use a card (they couldn’t tell if it was his card or mine, being tied to the same account) to purchase fuel. So, as much as I dislike having my habits tracked, I am thankful that the bank’s little processing minions noticed that I don’t hang out in Amish territory too often, thus rejecting the card and shutting the card down.

I can only speculate as to where the card got nabbed. We have card numbers stored on several online accounts, much to my dismay… But a necessary evil, especially with recurring payments. Perhaps it was skimmed in a card swipe. I do know that a hair place in town had stored and lost a bunch of customer data, but that was a while back and I don’t know that we were active customers then.

I think from here on out it’s going to be cash-only. I think I’ll reactivate my Walmart money card and keep money in there only for recurring online payments. This could have seriously messed us up financially had it occurred locally and had been allowed, versus in another state and rejected.

I did find this recent article, which is very interesting… Three men were charged with purchasing $35,000 in diesel fuel with gift cards that were reprogrammed with stolen credit card data… Just two days ago. I’d like to find out where they got their card data from. More here. Oh yeah, if you’re not too up to date on your Pennsylvania geography… Loganville, the town in the article, is only 30 miles away from Lancaster, where our cards were used. Coincidence?

Yeah. Happy birthday to me.

Update

I went to my bank and got a new card, everything is just fine with my account. I also got a printout of the transactions, and here’s how it went down (all times EST):

Yesterday at 4:26pm: $1 charged, then returned from Turkey Hill #0263 1561 Millport Rd, Lancaster, PA 17602
This transaction is a red flag to the bank. It’s the thief swiping a card at a gas pump, seeing if it gets approved (meaning it’s an active number), then canceling the transaction.

Yesterday at 5:00pm: $422.94 at Wal Mart #2334 2034 Lincoln Hwy E, Lancaster, PA 17602
Shoppin’ spree at Wal Mart, y’all! They traveled 1.6 miles. This transaction was declined, due to the previous red flag, plus the fact that there was only $110 in the account.

Yesterday at 5:01pm: $422.92 at Wal Mart #2334
Transaction declined again when they tried to swipe a second time. I’m sure some Wal Mart associate was pissed that they had to put $423 worth of stuff back, unless it was a TV or something. Or perhaps they tried another stolen card.

Yesterday at 5:35: $13.96 McDonald’s #3637 2090 Lincoln Highway E, Lancaster, PA, 16702
Dejected, they decide to grab a couple of meals (I will assume by the price) at the McDonald’s next door half an hour later (I wonder what they did in the interim? Did they get another stolen card to run then put the stuff in their car?) and decide their next course of action, which was also declined. I can’t afford fast food for myself, so no fast food for them, either!

Today at 9:23am: Hubs tried to get gas at the pump, card declined. He went inside to try to pre-pay, where he got the message to contact customer service. That’s when we were alerted.

Today at 1:17pm: (While I was on my way to the bank to pick up my new card and get the transactions history) $1 at Turkey Hill #305 301 Linden St, Columbia, PA 17512 (it’s still in Lancaster county) declined with “contact customer service.”

I don’t know if there have been any more transactions since then, nor do I care. I did have a long talk with my bank’s security folks, and directed them to the post regarding the $35,000 fuel bust that was nearby. They were very interested in the article, especially with the idea of them reprogramming gift card magnetic strips. Apparently during our conversation, a couple of puzzle pieces clicked together in the lady’s mind, because she became REALLY interested and said that this article may answer a few questions they’ve had. I asked if they were going to check out cameras, because all of that info is saved to the card transactions; I’m sure that deeper data would reveal the register number, and they could look at the cameras. However, they look at it as basically “no harm, no foul,” which made me angry. If they had my card number, they could have anyone else’s, too! But I suppose the bank just looks after their own interests, rather than pursuing anything. I’m not the first, nor will I be the last. Oh well.

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Greasing the cat

Shortly after coming home after a long day of work and a meeting, my son informed me that the cat had flypaper stuck on him. Disturbed, I tracked the cat down, and sure enough he had a strip of flypaper stuck to him, and he was going crazy. I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced the wonders of fly paper, but it’s super messy. It leaves a sticky residue on anything it touches, so the cat was covered in sticky goo.

After carefully pulling the flypaper off, I turned to my friend, the internet. The best suggestions I could find for removing were alcohol hand cleaner, peanut butter, vegetable oil, and mineral oil. So I tried first with hand sanitizer. It made him not quite as sticky, but it wasn’t working. I didn’t think that slathering the cat in peanut butter would bode well, so I greased him up in vegetable oil. He didn’t like it much, but he allowed it. I let him sit for half an hour for it to break down the stickiness, then the fun part! He got a bath. Have you ever bathed a cat? It’s a pretty big ordeal, and a two person job. One of us would wrangle the cat, the other would douse him with water. He’d fly out of the tub and yowl, which got the other cat to meowing in sympathy right outside the bathroom door.

After doing the deed, I pulled him out and dried him the best that I could with a towel, then left him to his own devices. I was hoping for a fluffy, lavender-scented kitty. Instead, the result was a greasy, lavender-scented kitty. Guess who gets another bath tomorrow? *sigh*

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Plumbing frustrations

With being a homeowner, suddenly you don’t have anyone to call when stuff goes wrong except for the repairman. So I can’t tell you the delight that I felt when I saw that my water main was leaking. Joy of joys. Thankfully my seller Realtor rocks and got a plumber for us. He simply tightened the pipe, told us that our water is very hard, and that it would need to be replaced in the near’ish future. And it still leaks.

Next, we have no hot water. Our water heater keeps throwing a circuit, and the plumber that was here said “Sorry, I’m not an electrician.”

Yeah. So we get cold showers. The kids have been bathing by swimming at the pool. *snicker*

And, oh glorious day, our washing machine pukes up water out of the floor drain of the utility room. It’s really pleasant to have nasty black water and what I’ll hope is merely wads of lint (no, it’s not poo folks) regurgitated onto the floor.

I don’t know who set this next little mess up, but it’s probably the dumbest thing I have seen: The dryer exhaust blows out a tube, just like any other house, but someone decided to tie in the bathroom fan’s exhaust into the same pipe, so now the dryer vents into the bathroom, so I have to run the bathroom fan while the dryer runs to avoid moisture build-up in it. I need to get a pipe cap to cap it off. Whoever did it was really pro: They tied the flexible hoses on with cable ties and duct tape. *eye roll*

Oh yeah, and our dishwasher doesn’t work, and I’ll assume that it’s new, because there was a manual in the cabinet above it. So we’re scrubbin’ by hand until we can afford to have someone out to give it a look.

Who chops the telephone off at the line into the house and drywalls over it? The previous owners, that’s who. So we had to have AT&T come out and install a whole new line from the box (which is actually better for our DSL) then tie it in to our existing wiring.

Aside from these complaints, the house has been absolutely fabulous. The boys are enjoying their own bedrooms, we’re enjoying the added privacy of a master bath (even with the cold showers), and the extra space is really good for everyone. Did I mention it’s 3000 square feet? Yeah, it’s pretty nice. Not looking forward to the electric bill, though.

There are also several kids in the neighborhood that are near my kids’ ages, ranging in ages from five to 15. It has been a godsend to have the kids out of my hair while I try to get stuff done, and the neighborhood kids are enjoying having the additions to their group. We live on a dead-end street, so there’s no through traffic to worry about; the traffic consists of the neighbors, and they know to expect the kids around in the streets. Of course the kids know to get out of the street when a car comes, but it’s still nice to know that there’s a low possibility of dorks racing down the road running the kids over. The neighbor adults are all really nice, and we have two police officers: one across the street from me, one just around the corner. The one around the corner works in our city, and he will occasionally sit outside his house while on duty and cruises the neighborhood a lot.

Overall I am more than thrilled with our new house, and I can’t wait until it’s all set up! :)

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T-minus two days

I just have to talk about how excited I am about buying our first house. Sorry to gush, but it’s one of those huge life things, yanno? And guess what? It’s my blog, and I can post what I want. So there. :P I am currently at my mother’s house to borrow her truck, then we’re loading the truck tomorrow to donate some things to Goodwill, then loading it up with stuff to move. Then Friday is closing, we start hauling stuff over, and the adventure begins! It’s going to be 100 degrees, it’s going to be miserable work (have you ever moved a piano??), but it’s going to be all good in the end! I just gotta say…. WOOHOO! :) I’m watching the clock like a kid waiting to get out of school on the last day.

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Buying a house

So, like a lot of people, we’ve wanted to own a house for quite a while. We’ve been looking at several houses in the Eureka area, but none fit our needs. But finally, our dream is coming to fruition! This is the house that we have signed a contract on, and if all goes as planned (you know, financial stuff, etc), we will be closing on July 22nd. Hooray! Allow me to give you a virtual tour… Just please don’t tell MARIS that I borrowed their photos.

Living room

The kitchen

The kitchen

Dining room

Partially finished basement

Basement door

Basement bedroom (to the right)

Back deck

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My kiddo likes chores?!

Who likes chores? I mean really. Cleaning and stuff is really boring, especially when you’re little. However, I have found one thing that makes him interested in doing chores, and is now actually asking me for more! No, it’s not some book I bought… It’s a website. Chore Wars makes doing chores  into an RPG (role playing game). There are some built-in tasks to give you an idea of how to make them, and you can add your own. You can even use it for the workplace.

Each task is a quest, of sorts, and you earn experience points based on the chore. Laundry is 40 points, taking out the trash is 10 points. Of course, you can modify these as you wish, and you can even give partial points for doing partial tasks… My son got 10 points on laundry for flipping it from the washer to the dryer. You can also leave notes on the task, of why it was partial, or anything else. You can also create quests, which are one-shot tasks that aren’t normally done, such as unloading the camping gear from the car trunk.

Along with experience points, you also earn gold and loot. Laundry earns 1-40 gold pieces, you have a 25% chance of finding loot, such as a lost sock or a bubbly potion, and you have a 50% chance of encountering a soap elemental or a water elemental. You must defeat this monster, if you encounter it, before getting your loot, but you always get the gold.

As you gain points, you level up. Based on the ability of the task, such as dexterity for chores that require precision work, such as dusting, washing dishes, etc, or strength for chores that require lifting or otherwise heavy work, your person will level up in that particular category. Rangers require dexterity, as they use bow and arrows, but warriors require strength to swing a sword.

So what’s the point of getting gold and points? You can trade in your gold or loot for privileges, trade in loot for prizes, etc. For cleaning the bedroom, a task I created, there is a 50% chance of earning the Trophy of clean bedrooms. This could be traded for, say, an hour on a video game. Within the game you have the ability to “spend” or “use” and make notes. Is can be also be used in the workplace, by making tasks such as filing, copying, or whatever, then whoever levels up or gets gold or what have you will receive something special, such as a free lunch.

Sure, it’s a hokey way to get tasks done, but they do get done. And if it’s fun, with tangible rewards, they are more likely to do the boring work. :)

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A Facebook update from a friend:

My roof is leaking, my electricity and gas is scheduled to be cut off on Tuesday, my phone is due at about the same time, and still outta work at [a restaurant]. Crap.

As I read all of the replies of well-wishes and sympathizers from others as broke as her, I consider all that we’ve heard. The recession was supposed to be over, so Uncle Sam says, last year. I do believe that we are beyond recession, and are in a depression, which is generally defined as a recession that lasts over a year. I see friends’ updates of worries about mergers, their companies’ losing contracts, businesses closing, and downsizing. People with legitimate disabilities are denied any kind of insurance or financial help. People are stuck in low-paying, dead-end jobs, because they are grateful at this point to even have one. Even my mother, who makes pretty decent money, is having financial worries about her house payments, and has lost a lot in stocks and such.

It’s all pretty depressing, isn’t it? What really gets me though is seeing people who complain bitterly about money in one breath, and talk about their shiny new thing in the next. Really? You can’t afford to pay bills, but you can afford to dine out and buy new stuff? I guess I am guilty as charged, to an extent. We do go out to eat once or twice a month, and generally the destination is Taco Bell or Del Taco, because they have vegan burritos (their beans contain no lard). Yet I see others spending much more than that. How? Priorities, I suppose. A new thing is much more important than electricity. Am I talking about you? I don’t know, if the shoe fits… I’m not talking about any one person in particular, just to make you feel a bit better. But I digress.

The silver lining: We are learning to do more with less. We are learning to downsize and conserve. We are learning new ways of being self-sufficient, such as the upsurge in home made (and often upcycled) things. We garden. We are learning to prioritize. I have blogged about this before, but it tends to be a recurring theme in not only my life, but many friends’ lives as well.

I’m done ranting now. As you were.

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