Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Car Trouble II

Quick update on the Altima...

Thanks to Google, I now know which part is the distributor

If there is any truth to the old saying that "bad things happen in three's", then our latest car debacles make perfect sense. Just my luck, on my first trip on the highway after the repairs I got hit with a rock dead smack in the middle of the windshield. Also, to complete the replairs from last time, we still needed a new distributor to remedy the problems that I talked about in the previous car entry. So one windshield repair and a distributor later, the total for 2007 is now $2634.77 (or $109.78 per car per month).


Much higher than previous years. We usually earmark $1000 per car for maintenance each year and typically have a couple hundred left to spare by Dec 31... But then I guess it's still not a bad price to keep both cars on the road for one more calendar year. Besides, things usually balance out in the end... so hopefully this means that all we'll need in 2008 is an oil change and a new air freshener. Who knows, if things are going really good next year then I might even be extravagant and spring for a car wash, too!

Stay tuned (no pun intended).

Sunday, November 25, 2007


Go to sleep grandma!!! It is 2 o'clock in the morning. There will be no new posts tonight or tomorrow.

How many times do you plan to check the website? Don't you know we have tracking software? We see you. You've seen and read everything already... LIKE THREE TIMES.

What is wrong with you?

I said Good night!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

Yesterday we went to Ina and Marcus' house to have dinner with our (pseudo) extended family. I think it was about 20 people there (including the little people), so it was definitely a festive family environment and we all had a really good time. Everybody got their fix: V got to eat and talk to people, I got a slice of Junior's Cheesecake (I also got hooked on Pokeno), and Justin was just too thrilled with trying to keep up with all the commotion going on around him.

Before we got there, V also whipped up some homemade sweet potato baby food so that Justin could share in the tradition of holiday grub. Needless to say, he devoured it like he does every other bowl of solid food: as if it was his last meal and he hadn't eaten in weeks. His only disappointment is that she didn't let him paint his face with it like daddy does.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Poked and Prodded

No sooner than when I just finished talking about being a needle punk, of course I had to go to the doctor and take a cold hard poke of thin steel to the vein in order to fill up (what always seems like) five 2-gallon containers of blood.

That's just.... Great.

Justin and I evidently have the same cold, including the same whooping cough that has been keeping us both up at night; me a lot more than him fortunately. At almost five months old, he doesn't have much a choice but to wait it out without medication. But after getting just 84 minutes of sleep last night, I finally decided to make my pilgrimage to the doctor to plead my case for antibiotics for myself. It's funny because when I was in college the docs and nurses always seem a little stingy with the antibiotics (until I found a hookup)... but ever since then every doctor I've had gives it out like it was leftover Halloween candy, handing over the prescription without batting an eye. Anyway, I got my fix. So lets hope that it works. As for Justin, I'll just have to keep smuggling him shots of Robitussin and Ricola cough drops in the middle of the night until his immune system knocks the cold out for good.

It's hard out there for a pip (see comments here to make sense of that one)... but he's definitely a trooper. Granted he's a little dramatic with his coughing episodes (he puts on a show like every cough might be his last dying breath) but that's classic Justin. I'm sure he'll whip this cold sooner than later. Ironically though, the coughing and congestion seem to bother us a lot more than him, as he has been about as happy as ever over the past few days. So much so that I haven't been able to put him down or stop playing with him lately. For some reason it seems as if he has stolen my heart all over again over the past few days.

Beyond Adorable.

In the meantime, here are my most recent photo favorites. He can't pull himself up to that position yet (thank God!) but yes, he is holding on by himself... and yes he can stay like that forever. He is just so thrilled with himself when he stands up unassisted. And his kung-fu grip is incredible. Two days ago in the supermarket as I was carrying him in one arm, I gave him a pack of hamburger buns to carry in his free hand while we stood in line to checkout (yes I exploit my child at every opportunity). For one, I was amazed that he never dropped it. I never realized how heavy a pack of buns could be. And so when it came time to ring up, first the cashier gave his buns a little delicate tug (the hamburger buns, that is). He wouldn't let go. A second tug. Nada. I just kept smiling as her facial expression quickly went from "he's adorable" to "gimme the bread, boy!" and she decided to tug a little harder. What probably took about 4 seconds seemed like a 5 minute duel as I laughed hysterically on the insides. In the end Justin was victorious as her final tug ripped the plastic wrapper in two, leaving him standing there with a little piece of plastic in his right hand and a little grin on his face... as if he had just won some unspoken game of tug-of-war with the check-out-girl.

Another notch on the diaper of the baby Kung-Fu Warrior.

Titi Monica & the crew during her visit to VA this past week

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Milestones, pt VII

At 4 months and 24 days, Justin Alexander...

• knows and responds to his name (although thanks to us he's not sure if his name is Justin, Punkin, or Doogie)
• has eaten pureed frozen peaches from a spoon (and the doctor said that the rash was *not* an allergic reaction... so daddy is off the hook for that one)
• has learned to paint his face and clothes while eating oatmeal from a spoon
• reaches for everything with his left hand
• chuckles a little when daddy throws him in the air (he won't laugh any other time... but he still grins wider than the interstate)
• holds his bottle with a little bit of help getting started
• stretches his arms out and reaches towards you to be picked up (heart wrenching)
• moves backwards in his walker (mostly accidentally, but hey we'll take it)
• is starting to grow his hair back on the sides (even though the Mohawk part is also getting longer... and longer... and...)
• still refuses to stay in the seated position
• takes needles better than his punk daddy who is scared of them
• stands while holding onto inanimate objects
• tries to pull himself up to his feet using pretty much anything he can grab a hold of
• still has no interest in crawling
• is usually put in the swing to fall asleep and then transferred to the crib... but as of today (per doctor's orders) he has officially graduated to putting himself to sleep in the crib instead.
• has fought through two colds to-date
• is happy that A-rod re-signed with the Yankees
• speaks french fluently (just making sure you were paying attention)
• and, last but not least, is taking donations to get his parents a new car.

His words, not mine.

According to Dr. Oliver, Justin's...

• parents were wrong about his teeth coming in early
• weight is 14 lbs 12 ozs
• height is 25.5 inches
• head will start reshaping once he gets more tummy time
• ability / desire to stand versus sit or lay, and penchant for taking steps is unusual for his age
• level of strength is also unusual for his age (maybe we should cut back on his taebo routines)
• weight, height and head circumference are in the 50th, 75th and 75th percentiles; respectively. Translation: he is strong and tall with a big head.

Rico Suave

These two pictures are being published solely to let everyone out there know that we DO brush the boy's hair from time to time. But seriously... what's the point? How long do you really think it's going to stay like that?

You can comb it, brush it, spit it down, or throw a hat on it... try as you may... but let it be known that the Mohawk will not be denied!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Car Trouble

Yesterday I joined a very elite club. It's called the "Go Around" club. To become a member you must allow your car to break down at the most inopportune moment, and certainly in the most inconvenient of places... forcing people to blare their horns at you while you holler and wave your arms in an effort to get them to (you guessed it) go around.

And being the overachiever that I am, of course I refused to join the club in an ordinary fashion... Nope. I chose to have my membership initiation (i.e., breakdown) in the left turning lane on Virginia Beach Boulevard at the start of the rush hour commute.

So where do I get my gold star?

But seriously speaking, our 1997 Nissan Altima really did give up on me yesterday to the tune of about $670. Which absolutely begs the question, when is it time to get a new car? What is "too much" when it comes to continually pouring money into that beat up car in the driveway? V and I have two cars, a 2000 Honda Civic with 170,000+ miles, and the Altima, which topped 150,000 miles sometime last week. Would we like new cars? Sure, who wouldn't?! ... A minivan is looking real sweet right now. Especially with Justin and the car seat in the back... Once the stroller is in the trunk (which takes about 20 minutes of maneuvering to squeeze into the Civic) don't even think about going shopping. There's just no room.

But the joy of not having car payments is something that you get used to Really Quickly, to the point where I don't know if there is any turning back. Right now the leap from no payment to payments again just seems unfathomable. But as the cars get older and repairs start to increase, it forces us to take a look at the financial pros and cons again. I think we go through this like every November or so. And the argument always goes the same way... something like this:

Car Repairs
In 2005, we spent $1726.58 in car maintenance for both cars combined. It sounds like a lot... actually... wait... it is a lot. And because it's rarely a planned event, it always feels like I'm being mugged when I have to dish out 7, 8 or 9 hundred dollars unexpectedly. But then the math kicks in (hold on tight my arithmetically challenged readers)... With two cars over 12 months, divide by 24 and that's equivalent to paying $71.94 per car per month. That beats a car payment every day of the week, and twice on Sundays. In 2006... we spent $1735.20 on car maintenance, which balances out to $72.30 per month per car. It's crazy how close those numbers are, ain't it? Well before yesterday's snafu, we had spent a total of $1728.21 for this year... which is about $72 even. How's that for consistency: 3 years of being within 30 cents of $72 a month for each car. Our streak would've been flawless, but the additional $670 from today pushes this year's average to $99 a month... Which is $39 more than riding the bus to work (yes I've done the math)... but then having a car is still far more convenient than having to ask Ray Ray (or Pookie) down the block for a ride when it's raining on a Sunday and the bus isn't running. So the score so far is

Old Cars: 1 New Cars: 0

Car Insurance
I have to admit that I haven't done the research, but my guess is that car insurance on anything new could easily double the rate we pay per month (about $80 for both cars combined). So there are advantages to having cars worth a combined $5000... but then that same number is also what makes it hard to justify continuing to pour cash in these old clunkers. When your car is only worth $1800, who wants to hear that they've spent $3000 over the past 3 years to keep it running and on the road? Yet and still, doubling our insurance premiums is not something we're exactly anxious to do... even though 15 minute could save... nevermind.

Old Cars: 2 New Cars: 0

Apples and Oranges
The last point is that new cars need love too! Not all of that repair money went into things like distributor cap assemblies and valve cover gaskets. There were also new sets of tires, oil changes, scheduled maintenance work, and new brakes to consider. And last I checked, the newer cars out there still require a little TLC that the warranty won't cover. New cars also don't dodge rocks any better than the older ones. So the cost of the two new windshields we got last year is probably a wash, too. Truth is, while I'd like to believe that a new car would keep all of that repair money in our pockets, comparing apples to apples I think we'd be surprise at how much of that money we'd be spending either way. But of course it would feel better spending it with a new car since those new cars just smell sooooo nice [insert sarcastic grin]. So the score is:

Old Cars: 3 New Cars: 0

So what's the conclusion? The conclusion is the same conclusion that I come up with every year (much to V's chagrin)... we'll be riding our cars until the wheels fall off. Hey, if braking with your feet was good enough for a hard working family like the Flintstones, then it's surely good enough for us. And now that we have Justin that just means we've got one more pair of feet to use and even more braking power to look forward to.

So if you're in our car and notice the scotch tape on the fuse box, or mis-matched hubcaps, or that the driver-side rear door doesn't lock anymore... or that the top left vent on the Altima doesn't quite blow air like it used to... Don't talk about us. We're just trying to hold it together until we can slap down cash for our next car. Because every time I go through this exercise and figure the prospect of finding an additional $500 a month for a car payment (and double that if we replace them both)... the more I realize it ain't gonna happen.

Unless, of course, you guys (our devoted and dedicated readers) would like to take up a collection for us.


Where'd everybody go?

Friday, November 9, 2007

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Almost Famous

It's official. Justin Alexander is now a superstar. First he signed a contract to be the exclusive spokesperson for the new Pampers "JAE, Unlimited" diaper line. Then he landed the cover of next month's issue of People Magazine. His mohawk is now the official logo for the Pampers brand of diapers. In fact, there will now be a picture of him and his trademark hair tuft on the center of every diaper. Check out the magazine cover to see for yourself.

His mom and I thought that his pose on the cover was a little risque for our taste... but hey, I guess that's what sells these days. As always we're just happy that he's happy and we will continue to do what we can to support his acting and modeling career.