Friday, May 30, 2008

Learning to Fix a Dishwasher, take 2

In case you missed this story the first time it happened, at least 2 years ago, I'm telling it again. Not because I just like the story, but because it happened again.

I already mentioned that we worked our tails off and got the dishwasher installed, and then it didn't drain properly. I couldn't even feel or hear water trickling through the drain hose. It just wasn't working. So I poured, in several batches, a liter of vinegar in and then closed it up for the night and went to bed with prayers that the dishwasher would work.

I had concluded that the drainage system was full of mineral deposits that I had scraped off the walls and "whirlybird" (that's the official term, from the repairman instructions that came with it!) inside the dishwasher. I hoped the vinegar would soften and dissolve the deposits into the water that was sitting in the dishwasher.

What the vinegar fumes did was loosen the deposits all through the dishwasher.

But it still didn't drain.

I prayed that it would work, and be fixed miraculously, but it still didn't drain. So I tried everything I could, inclusing sticking a pipe cleaner down the drain. Nothing worked.

So I prayed again and pulled the thing out--not an easy task, especially since my wrench wouldn't fit and I had to use pliers to undo the compression nut on the copper tubing, while lying on my side and working through a six-inch opening with a one-year-old cheerfully sitting astride me pulling my hair and taking alternately the wrench and the pliers--whatever I put down--to try to help. I was terrified he would hit me, but all that happened was I lost a few handfuls of hair. To him, not to me tearing it out.

Finally we got the thing out and worked on two obvious problems--gave the power cord the extra inch it needed to plug right into the plug adapter, skipping the extension cord (which can be a fire hazard, especially under a sink), and tightened all the little bolts on the part that leaked. Then I rocked the thing back and forth and up and down and drained tons of water and soft semi-dissolved mineral putty out. Banged it out of the hose, too, and then turned the whole thing on its side and felt every hose. I was afraid to take everything off--I didn't want to break the turbidity sensor, or lose any of the springs. Even with the "exploded" diagrams, I was afraid to take it all apart because some of the parts were very complex--this is a much newer dishwasher than I'd ever fixed before. Plus some of the clamps were old enough that I knew if I took them off, they'd break (I've seen it happen before), and I didn't have new ones, and wouldn't have a car until tomorrow late because Tim is out of town rehearsing with moosebutter, so I couldn't buy more.

So, after I had done everything I thought was prudent, I turned the whole thing back upright, which drained the last of the water and gunk out, and did all the work of hooking it back up and shoving it back in (and pinched Ben's fingers!), and then I turned the power on and ...

It was like there was no change, except that the leaky part no longer leaked, and the cord was indeed long enough.

So, back to my knees, I explained my desperation to Heavenly Father that I had to have a dishwasher, and how I would go for a different one if that was the right answer but I was getting desperate to be able to feed my family.

Then back to the kitchen. I stared at the thing. Read the repairman's guide again. Stared at it more. Watched a bit of the kids' movie, played nintendo for minute, handed out bottles and checked on Dan while he threw up. Fed everyone burritos and popsicles for dinner. It seemed apparent that one of the pumps wasn't working, and I didn't want to deal with that.

And then, back in the kitchen, it occurred to me that time in the previous owner's garage, plus all the moving, might have loosened some of the many electrical plugs under the dishwasher. I dove down to tighten them and then thought better of it and unplugged the dishwasher first (it says on the repair panel that some of the inside parts are purposely not grounded and there is danger of shock). Then I lay down on my side again and tightened every plug I could reach.

Plugged the whole thing back in again, still didn't drain. BUT, when I turned it on and filled it and then cancelled the cycle so it would drain,the drain hose under the sink jumped. This meant that the pumps were now working.

Back to the instructions, the first thing it said to check was the air gap--that thing that sticks up by the faucet on the sink where you can hear gurgling when the dishwasher is running. I had checked it before, but this time I got out a screwdriver and started taking it apart. I stuck the screwdriver down the gap to release the catch, and there was instantly a splutter, and a cough, and then the gushing sound of water running. It was draining!

When it was done, I pulled the cap off and found it absolutely plugged with hard, dry mineral deposits that crumbled in my fingers. With that clean, I turned it on "drain" again, and had a gushing fountain all over the kitchen counter! I quickly opened the dishwasher, put everything back together, and then, delighted, listened to the whole thing drain.

Then we put it all back together and started a cycle with no soap to be sure it would work and to clean the inside. The Vingar that had been sitting in there for 24 hours had sufficiently loosened all the deposits inside that when we opened it, the water was all frothy as if we had put soap in.

And it worked!

Once again, Heavenly Father taught me how to fix the dishwasher. And once more, it was one step at a time, with no clue that it was merely a step and not the end. Each time the new idea hit my mind, I was sure it was the answer to all the problems. But had I been inspired to take apart the air gap first, I wouldn't have fixed the leak (it was so small, and so much work to get the whole thing out again) or the loose plugs (fire hazard, especially with a leak underneath!). So, once again, I am extremely grateful--and reminded that in the "bigger" things in life, when it doesn't work out, that Heavenly Father usually doesn't show us the end or the whole process, but merely the next step--and only then if we pray and work hard doing everything we know to do.

He knows what he's doing.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Religious Thoughts

I was holding Benji while I was disconnecting the old dishwasher I pulled out, and he was holding a screwdriver and trying to help the best a 1-year-old can, and I was letting him even though it slowed me down.

And I had this thought:

That's what we do to Heavenly Father. He's working on this great work that we can hardly comprehend, just like Benji could hardly grasp (and certainly couldn't understand) the work I was doing replacing the dishwasher. But if we want to help, Heavenly Father lets us crawl up into his lap and take a set of tools and do our very best with them--not because He can't do it faster and easier himself, but because part of the purpose of everything a parent does is to help his or her children learn and grow. So He's doing His grand work, and he lets us poke in our screwdriver randomly here and there as we do our best to "help" with our best skills and our hardest efforts at understanding what we're supposed to be doing--and I suspect He's grateful for the help.


I've just hit that point in pregnancy when I feel sick if my tummy is empty of food, or if I smell anything weird, or if I don't sleep enough. Plus I'm getting those weird cravings (mashed potatoes with chicken gravy at 4:00 am anyone? Hot dog wrapped in bread with no crust?).

And tired? I'm so tired! Plus grouchy. My poor kids.

Then again, how often do I get to spend the day growing fingers, hands, arms--and an extra brain?

(Once every two years, I guess.)

A week for fixing things

This is the kind of week its' been: I just turned around while 3 people were talking at me and I was trying to pour red juice without spilling, and I found the only silent person in the family--the baby--sitting in a small puddle of vomit that he had produced, and he was picking the chunks out and eating them. It's been THAT kind of a week.

Right before we moved, I bought a pair of computers for $40 off Craigslist hoping to use them as school computers and sincerely hoping one was strong enough to put our MagicJack on so that we could use it instead of Vonage, since I paid $50 for 5 years of service on the MagicJack and we were porting our Vonage number to Tim's cell phone (which finally happened after 6 weeks of waiting even though it was supposed to take 4 hours--turns out once they schedule it, even if they do it wrong, there's no changing it. Someone accidentally typed in May 26 instead of May 2-6, and that was it). Anyway, I was disappointed to find one computer was too slow using Windows XP to process the more complex school activities, so that one wouldn't work for the new phone system. And the other was fast, but it hung every time we turned it on.

My brother stopped by on his way to Disneyland, and he looked at it and said the memory was bad. So the next day, wishing I hadn't given away the computer that died (it's memory cards were fine--the motor went), I walked into the storage room and found a motherboard sitting there that the previous tenants had left. It was stripped of everything except 2 128mb memory cards! So I cracked open the computer and found it held 2 128 mb memory cards. It took me a few tries to get them in right (I didn't know the 2 slots were not interchangeable, so the first time I put them in backwards and they didn't work). Now the computer works great, and the phone system works fantastically (and we owe nothing on it until 2013!) The computer still won't load up from off if the peripherals are plugged in, but it also doesn't slow down or hang if we leave it on all night, so that's okay.

My next project was the dishwasher. The one in the house was rusting away inside, leaving a rust-colored, mineral-infused coating on all the dishes. Most of the holes were plugged, and it was just not good. The owner said, "Well, you have to pour vinegar in once a week." Maybe so--perhaps she should have told her sons that when they were living here for the past year? I didn't want to deal with it, especially since the tines on the racks were literally rusting off. So Tim went and got me a dishwasher we found on Craigslist that the owner swore worked fine, but he was selling it cheap ($25) because the faceplate was all scratched up. And it was.

So I spent all day yesterday yanking out the old dishwasher, most of the time with Benji on my lap trying to help. I did remember to turn off the water and unplug it first. I didn't remember to have towels ready when I pulled off the drain hose. that was a little messy, but easily remedied.

We had a break in the middle of the work to take the kids to a local pizza place that was doing a "Kids make it, we bake it" day where the kids got to make and eat their own pizza free if mom and Dad bought a meal. So we fed everyone for $20, and one of the other Toxic guys joined us with his wife and kids, so it was really fun.

Then back to the dishwashers. We put in and pulled back out the new dishwasher half a dozen times before everything was hooked up. It took 2 trips to WalMart for appliance extension cords (one for the cord, another for an outlet extender that made it possible to also plug in the disposal, since the appliance extension cord blocked the disposal outlet, which is wired specially to the disposal switch, so it couldn't be rearranged). Got it all in, plugged in the thing, turned on the water--and it leaked. So everything off again, I tightened the compression nuts on both ends of the copper tubing, and that stopped those leaks, but the place the copper tubing connects to the dishwasher also leaked--just a little, and only when the dishwasher is off--so I'm still trying to figure out what to do about that.

Unfortunately, the thing was coated with mineral deposits inside, which I wiped down with vinegar and scrubbed off.

They plugged the dishwasher drain.

So now I'm facing pulling the whole thing out again to clean all the inside components of mineral deposits.

What a pain!

Meanwhile the dishes are piling up.

Apparently you can keep the inside of the dishwasher clean in a hard water area by putting in a cup of vinegar with the dirty dishes once a week or so. Online "wisdom" also says you can put half a tub of Tang in, but the makers of the drink don't advise this. Other people say a packet of lemon Kool-Aid once a week where the soap goes (in an empty load) solves the problems. Any way you look at it, everyone agrees you have to throw in some acid every week or dishwashers here get really yucky.

I just want clean dishes. Is that too much to ask?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Moving part 2

So we should have been done, right? The truck unloaded, stuff in the new house.

But there was still stuff in the old house!

So my sister was driving through town on the way home from her vacation, and we called and asked if she and her husband might come help, just for a little while. She said, "You never ask for help, so you must really need it!" and they tracked down one other friend and met us at the old house.

That was the last call we could make from the new house--the internet stopped working suddenly and we couldn't fix it, and, since our phones run through the internet, we couldn't call them about it.

So, back at the old house, Beth and Ryan and their friend Kyle started dragging all the remaining big stuff--bunk beds and things--out to the truck. They also got the rest of the stuff out of the office and the garage, and were an immense help. But they had to leave at 7:00, and we still hadn't packed the kitchen or laundry or the miscellaneous stuff.

So I suddenly felt well enough to help, and I set to work. Through all of this, Tim still was sick and had no voice, so it was rather silent and unhappy in the house. We packed. And we packed. And we packed. And we packed. Finally, after midnight, we had the truck full and we headed over to the other house. We got there and dragged all the twin-sized mattresses into one room and made one big bed there. The kids quickly dropped off to sleep, and Tim and I started, all by ourselves in the middle of the night, unpacking the full 26-foot moving truck. By ourselves. It must have been well after midnight, because Tim said, "We have 3 hours before we have to get this truck back". So we worked and worked and worked and finally, as the sun was coming up, we were done. We swept the truck and then dragged our sleeping children into the van and drove the truck back, just 15 minutes shy of its due time at 7:00 am. Tim had been working for 24 hours straight on 4 hours of sleep, and I had for about 18 hours on about 2 interrupted hours of sleep, and both of us sick, by the time we dropped onto the one big bed with all our sleeping children and fell asleep.

Church was at 1:00 the next day. We didn't go. But the Elders' Quorum president stopped by to ask if we needed more help during the week, and he arranged it to have people come on Thursday.

Then we dropped Tim off at his show and went back to the house to pack and clean, which we did all day. Tim was still sick enough that he could barely sing the show.

Monday, Tim got the day off from the show because he still couldn't sing. So we went back to the old house and loaded the van full of boxes, and then the kids and I cleaned and cleaned and cleaned. Tim bought us a new vacuum, and we put it together, and cleaned more. THen he came back and we packed the kitchen. By now we were out of boxes, so we put everything into plastic grocery bags--and the laundry into garbage bags--and loaded the van full to the top again. Only one bagful of glass dishes broke in transit, as far as we know, and it broke to dust when it fell out of the van. Anyway, Tim dropped off that load, too, while the kids and I cleaned and cleaned and cleaned more. Then he came back and cleaned with us.

We finally loaded the kids out of the house--Benjamin was sleeping on a blanket on the porch, and Daniel and Anda had loaded themselves into their car seats and fallen asleep an hour before--when Tim mopped the last floor, locked the doors, and we were done. And good riddance, we both thought as we looked at that fancy stylish house that we hated. The sun came up as we dropped the key under the neighbor's mat, as instructed, and we drove away.

Tuesday, we noticed the office in the new house smelled REALLY BAD. So bad that we finally closed the door. Tim took all the desks and things out that he had planned to keep and added them to the DI pile that FILLED the driveway. Still smelled bad. Like cats. Like Cat Pee.

With everything out, we finally realized it was the carpets. So we emptied the master bedroom completely so the cleaning company could re-clean it of the cat hair. But the cat pee smell was in all three kids' room, plus the den, and it was BAD. The kitchen was too small to unpack into. We couldn't find anything, and now we had to empty the office, too, for fear that the smell would seep in.

Tim arranged for a carpet cleaning company to come on Thursday morning, and on Wednesday we spent the day completely emptying all the bedrooms so the carpets could be cleaned. Everything that had been in them had to go into closet shelves and into the living room, den, and school room, which still held half a dozen model airplanes and a closet full of tools that everyone kept promising to move so we could use the space.

We also went to the theater to try to call Cox Cable, so they could turn on our internet access again, which they weren't supposed to have turned off in the first place.

Oh, and did I mention that the owner had actually had the gas shut off, so we had no hot water through all of this? Wednesday, the gas company came and turned on the gas. Now, with all the calls and services we've used, I have to say that the lady who answered the phone for both me and Tim at the gas company was the nicest lady I've ever worked with. So Wednesday, we also go to shower finally.

Thursday morning, the carpet cleaners came. They, even, were appalled by the smell in the office. It was that bad. They had to replace the carpet pad and tack strips and enzyme clean the carpet in hopes that they could get the smell out. Cost us $600! The home owners planned to pay us back--sometime. Anyway, by the time the Elders' Quorum showed up to help us get moved in, the carpets were STILL WET, so we wearily had to to send them home.

Friday, the carpets still stank, so I went to Home Depot to price out new carpet pieces and also stick-on linoleum tiles because the kitchen floor was white with green flowers and uncleanable. There were little black splits in it everywhere with black circles around them inside the linoleum--mold, I assumed. The carpet guy at Home Depot said that they couldn't install carpet where there was a pet smell that strong--it's a HazMat situation.

So Friday night Tim sniffed all around all the carpets and identified the cat pee spots. Our bedroom had none, so we vacuumed with "Love my Carpet" deodorizer and put up our bed and then slept with the kids in the den once again.

Saturday, I was finally fed up. All by myself, while Tim was at work, I put together all the kids' beds, the crib, and dragged mattresses to them all, and made the rooms sleepable, avoiding the cat pee spots. Then we went to home depot and, at our own expense, bought kitchen tiles.

Sunday was mother's day. Tim insisted I eat the candybar the ward gave me without sharing it with the kids, which I did--but when nobody was looking so they wouldn't feel bad. The carpet company came and re-did the office, and we agreed to let it dry 24 hours. Then I spent the rest of the day doing the kitchen floor. This was so we could build cupboards so we could put the kitchen stuff away and start eating at home. The new floor looks fantastic. It was easy and looks great, and was well worth the $90 it cost--it makes the whole room feel better, and it doesn't show dirt as well. I also built one of the cupboards I bought from Wal-Mart.

Monday, we realized the room still stank. So we called the house manager and he sent the neighbor over to look at it. She agreed that it stank and said there's nothing you can do but rip out the carpets. But we had no money left for that (having already put $1000 into just the house part of the move, in addition to rent and deposit), and the owner and manager didn't either.

So Tim started working on emptying the tool closet, boxing it all up, because we desperately needed the storage room so we could start putting things away! He also pulled up all the stinky carpets and used the remnants of the new pad to replace all the old stinky pads.

Then, Tuesday or Wednesday, Tim found 40 square feet of carpet listed on Craigslist for free. So he went and got it. And when we unfolded it, the main body was just the size of the office, plus a bunch over in a rectangle here and there. Delighted, we ripped out the old carpet and threw it out the window. Then, we dug up a can of Kilz out of the tool closet and painted the floor under the new pad, and the kids loved that. Benji plunged both arms into the paint and smeared it around this his hands, and, with the kids working over his head, he looked like Jackson Pollock had been babysitting.

Since then (it's now Monday), we have been dragging boxes here and there, taking landlord stuff out to a pile in the yard, trying to dig up places to put the big stuff so we can unpack the boxes. I managed to be the first of 300 emails to get three big sets of shelves full of cubbyholes from a doctor's office that was moving--they're the shelves that used to hold their files, and all the cubbyholes are about 8" by 12"--perfect size to hold sheet music, mic parts, folded kids clothes, toys, etc.

Tim dragged a bedroom set outside that we are giving away, so then we could stumble across the rolled rugs from one side of the living room to the other. I dragged boxes and boxes and boxes out of the way until I could set up the kids' computers, and then my own (finally), which is now threatening to die (not a surprise since I got it used in 2001 and it was designed and built for Windows 95--it's that old!). And yesterday the relief society arranged to come help me get stuff in order on Thursday, so that's a huge relief.

We might actually get moved in here before we have to move out!

But the move is hardly done. I can't find my clothes or most of the kids, I can't find the spoons, although I had no trouble producing the level and stud finder. I built one cupboard but need to build at least one, maybe 2 more because the kitchen, as usual, is just too small.

And then there's all those boxes! Everything we own, including stuff that used to live in the garage, is in the house wanting to be dealt with. And the kids keep unpacking boxes onto the floor and scattering the contents, which doesn't help things in the least.

And, in the midst of all of this, we found out that we are expecting a baby! This is very exciting news that we are happy about. But it does complicate things immensely, since my body is now running on "doing something else, sorry!" mode and "don't make her mad, she stings!" mode. It's very much like when your computer starts an automatic download in the background and suddenly the sixteen windows you already had open become barely responsive--that's me.

And I thought Tim getting a job would solve all my problems. Silly me. Then I thought moving to this new house would solve all my problems. The long-prayed for blessings are certainly not without their own trials!


I keep waiting to post the moving story until it's done, but it still isn't done, and we supposedly moved May 1, so I'm going to at least send an update.

I suppose we really started moving December 12, when we found out Tim was in the show. So I've not had a home and a place to settle down and work happily for 5 months now.

Anyway, for the first time we had 30 days to move, so, with much "are you sure you'll be ready by may 1"-ing at the new landlords, and many reassurances, we planned our move carefully so the two houses crossed over 5 full days so we could get the one clean without too much stress. May 1 was a Thursday, Tim's day off, so we planned to move some things that day, just us, and then move more on Friday--a lot of stuff that day--and then get a truck and help on Saturday and move everything else on May 3. Then we could clean for 2 days--not quite so rushed--and be done at a reasonable time on May 5.

So the first thing that happened was Tim got sick--a nasty cold that stole his voice. Not great for a singer!

April 30 we got a call from the house manager saying the house wasn't ready and it wouldn't be clean for us, and they were upset about. With some back and forth, they let me hire a cleaning company to come in on Friday, May 2, to clean.

We packed and packed and packed and then May 1, we each chose a toy friend to take to the new house so we could look around, measure the rooms, and leave our friends to guard the house for us. When we arrived, we found the house full of stuff--dishes in the cupboards and dishwasher, furniture (some of which we had said we might want, but it was all coated with cat hair), rugs on the floors, videos and the ashes of the owners' husband in the cupboard (yes--I did just say that). Not to mention the room we were going to set up as our main living space--the school room, where all the computers, and my rocking chair, and all the toys go, and where the only storage room for the entire house was--was completely locked and we didn't have a key for it. We made a list of all the things left in the parts of the house that we could get to--a 4 page list--and went home and called the manager. OH, and the house was filthy.

Turns out they had entrusted the "moving out" to the owner's family, who had been living there, and they had no concept of what "empty" meant. The owner, mortified, rushed in from California, arriving at 2:00 am, and started emptying the house so that the cleaning company could even get to it on Friday at 2:00 pm.

We came to supervise the cleaning company, help a little, and tell them what things we actually wanted to keep--which ended up being very little because everything smelled so strongly of cats, we decided we just wanted it all out of the house. We also did a walk-through in which the owner of the house and I disagreed about how dirty the carpets were. I said they needed to be professionally cleaned. She said it was just the light--they were clean. She was actually mad that the cleaning company hadn't washed all the walls, which are still filthy and needing paint (because someone painted them with eggshell paint--the stuff that absorbs dirt and can't be washed). I hired the cleaning company because they guaranteed removing all pet hair and pet dander from the carpets--and I actually had to re-empty the master bedroom so they could do it again to get the cat hair off, but that comes later in the story.

By the time we got home, it was late and the truck and ward were arriving at 8:00 -9:00 am to help move on Saturday, so we packed all night to be ready for the truck.

At 4:00 am I climbed into bed--and was immediately hit with the worst case of diarrhea that I've ever had. I was literally up all night, running to the bathroom every 20 minutes. When 8:00 came, I was afraid to leave the house, so Tim found someone in the ward to help him get the truck, he gave me a blessing that I would function all day despite no sleep and that I would recover very quickly, and then off he went.

When he came back, I slept in the first emptied room with the kids for a couple of hours until the truck was full even though the house wasn't empty--and then off we went to the new house, where the new ward helped us empty the truck.

Have to go change a diaper, so more in a bit....

Personal Blog Policy

Just a note: I am not interested in promoting products I personally haven't tried. If you try to post a comment to my blog promoting your whatever product or webpage, I will most certainly look at it, but it is highly unlikely I will actually approve the comment for the blog. Just so you know.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Sorry for the Long Silence

We've been moving, and it's been a serious SAGA that isn't over yet--from the remains of the home's owner in the cupboard to the cat pee in the carpets, it has been one nightmare after another.

I'll write all the details out later.

One little interesting environmental note:

The first thing we noticed when we got here is that the birds sing as if it is dawn ALL NIGHT. When I went outside to see why they were singing at 1:00 am, I realized that it looks like the hour just before dawn here all night--the lights from the strip never let the sky get terribly dark, and they are to the East of us. I wonder what environmental impact that has on the ecosystem here. Birds weren't meant to stay awake all night, but they do, singing and waiting for dawn, every night for hours and hours.