Friday, April 24, 2009

Mom, Am I Five Now?

...asked Isaac yesterday morning, almost in a whisper. "Yes, you are," I answered. "Okay," he grinned.

We celebrated with Grandma, Uncle Danny and Uncle David a day early, as everyone's schedules allowed. Uncle Danny brought his puppy Abby, which provided all the entertainment one could want. We ate homemade burgers, potato salad, watermelon, strawberry Jell-o... and a fire engine cake to top it all off.

The cake really ought be a post in itself. Isaac helped me decorate it. Delightful child - he barely cared that the frosting turned out pink (did you know that you can add an infinite amount of red food coloring to frosting, and it will never turn red??) Or that the cab kept sliding off the front of the cake and eventually had to be held on by a paper plate. Or that one whole side of the cake imploded and consequently the fire truck looked like it had been totaled in a wreck.

He was just happy that he got to help. He made the ladder on top all by himself.

I found out later why the decorating process was so laborious and time-consuming. It turns out I was making one of those reversible cakes. My brother pointed out that the reverse side of the fire engine bore a remarkable resemblance to a hippopotamous.

Yesterday (his actual birthday,) Isaac waited impatiently for Daddy to get home from work so he could open his presents. We played several games of Uno and watched a movie to pass the time. He was literally counting down the minutes toward the end. "How many minutes now, Mom? many now?!"

After dinner of Isaac's choice - ravioli and French bread - we took all the children on a surprise outing to the local Rec Center for rock climbing and swimming. All had a marvelous time, and I think Isaac felt pretty special being the center of attention for a change.

Happy birthday, Boo!!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Little Light Reading

As you may remember, Isaac recently taught himself how to read. And now he will not stop. He reads every street sign we pass in the car. He reads nutrition labels on cereal boxes and yogurt containers. He reads the fine print at the bottom of TV commercials. Today he read me the instructions on a cake mix box as I made his birthday cake. Often it is difficult to get him to put a book down and come to dinner. Frankly, his skill level is starting to amaze us. He reads everything from Dr. Seuss to Arnold Lobel to the New Testament. He even reads my friends' blogs over my shoulder. The other day, I caught him curled up on the family room couch, engrossed in this:

The chapter he was reading details "How to Grill a Whole Lamb." And he was truly fascinated.

I think we're going to have to make more frequent trips to the library.

P.S. Yesterday I registered Isaac for kindergarten. One of the teachers took him aside to test him on a few basics, to make sure he is "qualified" for kindergarten. (I don't remember taking an entrance exam when I was 4. College prep starts so early these days.) I overheard the teacher ask him if he could name any of the letters of the alphabet that were written on a paper in front of him. He he. Yes, he could. And would she by chance like to know how to grill a whole lamb?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

We Lost Some Battles, But We Won the War

It all started about three months ago, when our Internet began taking occasional sick days and refused to come in to work. At first, these episodes were easily remedied by following standard computer fix-it protocol. Unplug it. Plug it back in. Problem solved.

I think the modem picked up on our strategy, because it retaliated by playing dead several times a day. So I called the helpful 24/7 Qwest customer service line. A computer answers. (That should have been a preliminary warning sign. Computer trouble? Call a computer. Does that sound suspicious to you?) "Hello! I see you're calling from (insert phone number, area code first). Is this the number you're calling about?" There was no prompt to press 1 or 2, so I hesitantly said "yes," feeling foolish for talking to a machine albeit a very polite one. "Okay, I see you have a couple of services on your account. Please state which one you're calling about: Telephone service... Internet service..." Internet service. (Still feeling foolish.)

Now the real problems begin. Have you ever tried to call one of these new-age help lines with young children in the room? These children assume I'm talking to a person, and therefore raise their noise level significantly out of habit. Not only can I no longer hear the computer/person ask me questions, it/he can't distinguish my responses from the children's. So when I say "internet service" and the children simultaneously say "he took my ball!!!" in a louder voice than mine, guess which one the computer picks up? That's right. "I'm sorry. I didn't catch that," comes the computer's monotone response. Repeat 9 times with various children's sentences like Mom, I'm hungry! He made me spill my popsicle! and Mom, can I play with Evan? "I'm sorry. I didn't catch that."

Finally, I banish the children from the house and make it to the next step: "Okay, I just need to check one more thing on your account...." At length I am connected to a live human being. After several troubleshooting steps, including "unplug it, plug it back again" (feeling intelligent, I tell him I already tried this one,) the human informs me that I need to reconfigure the modem. He walks me through the steps to accomplish this task, and tells me to call back in 3-5 days if the problem isn't solved.

Three to five days later, I am back on the phone. Having learned from the last experience, I lock the children in the backyard with popsicles before dialing. I make it through the screening process, and am awarded another live person. She reads through the notes from my last phone call (thank goodness they take notes!) and says, "Okay, it looks like we need to update the firmware." I'm familiar with hardware and software, but I've never heard of firmware. I'm told to type a series of numbers into the Internet Explorer address bar (good thing the modem has chosen this hour to work,) click this, type in that, click here and here, and restart the computer. Oh, and unplug it, plug it back in. {Smirk, roll eyes.}

The modem appears to have been cured! For an entire week, it is on time and reliable. Then the symptoms begin again, and within days it is all over. Completely and interminably. Yet another call to Qwest. I've memorized their prompts by now, so I give the answers before the computer asks the questions. Make it to a live person in record time. He tells me to connect to the Internet and type the now-familiar series of numbers in the address bar. The Internet doesn't work, I remind him. That's why I'm calling.

"It doesn't? Oh...." Silence while he tries to figure out what to do next.

After 15 minutes of diagnostic tests (check for blinking green lights, unplug, replug, rewire entire computer, check green lights again) during which the children are running circles around my chair and chanting in a foreign language, and this poor man is repeating every request twice because I can't understand his thick accent amid the background noise, he tells me the sure-fire solution to my modem problem. "I think your modem is broken. You will need to order a new one. I'll put you through to our business office. That will be 59.99 plus shipping. Thank you for calling Qwest and have a nice day."

The business office promises my new modem will arrive by 5:00 pm Friday via UPS. Four whole days without Internet access. One would think this would be a minor inconvience. After all, I made it through 18 years without Internet access. I remember the days of checking my email once every other week. But times have changed. Suddenly, I have to remember how to do all of the things I used to do without the Internet. Check my bank account, pay bills, plan preschool activities, renew library books, email Mom about Sunday dinner, check the TV guide to see if Numbers is a repeat.... I actually didn't make dinner one night because the recipe I wanted was online!

The modem arrived Friday afternoon at 3:50. It looks like something from Star Trek. Forty minutes of "easy setup" later, I was able to check my email. 38 new messages. Life as I know it is back.

Happily, I picked up the phone to arrange a sitter for Saturday night. There was no dial tone. So I called Qwest....