Wednesday, May 18, 2011

I smell a rat...

So we have been enjoying our fabulous toyota van for two years. We are mini van lovers, and we're not afraid to admit it. We love everything about this van- the way it drives (like a car), the seating (8 seats, always room for everyone), the cargo space, the roominess inside, the automatic power sliding doors (best invention EVER, after the wheel), and I could go on and on.

We bought it brand new in May of 2009 and brand new cars come with great warranties. We have never bought a car brand new so we were excited and kind of put at ease that pretty much anything that could happen to the van would be covered financially under the warranty. Well, we found out pretty quickly that with our luck, anything that was NOT covered by warranty would happen to our brand new van. Within the first 4 months of having it we got a dent in door (thanks to a neighbor girl's bike), a rock hit the windshield and left a chip, and one of our front tires almost burst/blew out due to hitting something that we weren't aware of. We had to replace 3 month old tires with 2 new brand new tires. All of this incidents above were not covered under warranty.

So about a month ago (April 15th, to be exact), the kids and I piled into the car to take Chloe to the bus stop. As I was pulling out of the driveway, the "Check Engine" light came on, along with 2 other indicator lights. I am no car expert, but I do know that the "check engine" light is one of the worst indicator lights to have flashing. And I could tell just in the few short blocks that we drove that the van was definitely not running like it usually does.

There is never a convenient time for your car to break down, but I really felt like this month of all months was particularly bad. Ben was doing some testing at work and was working 7 days a week, 12+ hour days, so he was never home, and it was very hard to get ahold of him due to being unreachable because no cell phones are allowed on the airplanes during testing. He is very handy with cars and I didn't want to do anything without talking to him first. Luckily, he was able to call me back that day before the dealership closed and even luckier, he was able to get off work early to meet us in at the dealership to drop the van off to get looked at.

Even though I knew whatever was wrong was going to potentially be really bad, I was comforted knowing the van was still under warranty. Wahoo! Upon arriving at the dealership, the sales attendants didn't pay us much attention until we told them that our less than 2 year old van had the "check engine" light on. Upon hearing that, we became their first priority and they said they would look at the car first thing in the morning and let us know what was going on. We were sent home with a compact rental car and the comforting thought of "covered under warranty" dancing through our heads.

The next day, Saturday, Ben was at work and I got a call from the dealership by 8:30 a.m. The first thing the man told me (I could almost hear the relief in his voice) was: "The damages are definitely not covered under the warranty. (My heart sank). There appears to be rodent damage underneath the hood. We found a rodent nest inside the engine and wires have been chewed up in the main engine wire harness." (I felt physically sick). The first thing I blurted out was "You are kidding me!" I was totally shocked. What are the odds? In the 6 years that we have lived in this house, we have NEVER seen a rodent in our house or garage. A few years ago we found a dead rat in the middle of our cul-de-sac, but that's it.

Still in shock and feeling ill, the man at the dealership told me that they couldn't give an estimate on repairs because they hadn't taken much apart yet, but they just recently repaired a car with similar damages and it was thousands of dollars. They knew what caused the damages and had a good idea on what needed to be repaired and replaced, but wouldn't know the extent of the damages until they got in there. They didn't want to tear everything apart until I had a chance to contact my car insurance. He informed me, with the first good news of the conversation, that he was pretty sure our car insurance would cover the damages.

I spent the rest of the morning trying to reach my car insurance, which, with my luck, was closed for the weekend. I did talk with someone from their "weekend crew" that gave me a little information but with no firm answer on whether it would be covered or not.

Since the damages were not covered under Toyota's warranty, we would need to return the rental car they gave us later in the day. I spent the next part of the morning finding a car to rent, and rushing out to pick it up before the car rental company closed (which is noon on Saturdays). Lucky for us, Ben was able to come home from work and help us with all of this. After picking up a rental van, we headed to the dealership to talk with the mechanic. Toyota has to wait to start working on the van until our car insurance can come out and do an appraisal and take pictures and file paper work. And I can't even get ahold of them until Monday, so I was guessing that Toyota wouldn't even start working on the van until at least Wednesday or Thursday of next week. (And every day it's in the shop is another day we have to pay for a rental...)

While at the dealership, we got to look under the hood of our van.

Here is the engine cover, which is covered in rodent urine and feces. Yuck.

Underneath the cover, they found the rodent's nest (the fluffy stuff) which had rodent poop all over in it.

You can't really tell from this far away picture, but there was chewed up wires all over the place.

The back side of the engine cover showed bite marks all over it, too.

I kept telling the mechanic that I "couldn't believe it" and "what are the odds?" He told us that it is actually quite common and that we wouldn't believe how many cars he's fixed this year alone with rodent damage. No, I couldn't believe it... I've always known that I disliked rodents, but I've never had any personal encounters or real grievances with them... until now. Now I officially hate rodents.

The next Monday, I finally got ahold of my car insurance company who gave us good news- the damage would be covered (hallelujiah!) and that we would just need to meet our deductible. They would also cover our rental van up to a certain amount each day (we had to cover the difference).

After that came the SLOW process of getting everything done. The insurance company hires out to a local appraisal company who finally came out and took pictures and assessed the damage. It wasn't until almost a full week after we took the van in that the mechanics could finally get to work. And by that point it was almost the weekend again and the parts they needed to replace everything wouldn't get in until the next Tuesday, a good 10 days into the whole process. And trying to communicate with the dealership and the insurance company turned out to be quite the annoying process. Lots of miscommunication and confusion about who had spoken to who and when and what was said and blah, blah, blah. What a headache.

Finally, after 13 days in the shop, we got a call from Toyota saying that they had replaced the engine wire harness but when they went to check that everything was ok, they found more damage. (Of COURSE!) The engine computer had shorted and needed to be replaced too. They couldn't get ahold of the insurance company before the weekend to get permission to replace this as well, so everything, once again, was put on hold. It wasn't until Monday that they could order the new part and not until Tuesday that they could get the part and begin working on it.

FINALLY, FINALLY, FINALLY after almost 3 full weeks in the shop, we got the call we had been very desperately waiting for- our van was finished and ready to be picked up. We headed in on Wednesday morning to pick up our van.

Here is our rental van that we drove for almost 3 weeks. It was nice, but we missed our van very much.

The kids, on the other hand LOVED the rental van because it had a built in DVD system with 2 screens. Mitchell was obsessed with it and would ask, even if we weren't in the van, if he could watch a movie in the car. After the first 2 days, that quickly got old. I always thought it would be really fun (and convienent) to have a built in DVD player, but have now decided I can definitely continue to live without one. Mitchell LOVES watching TV, especially movies, and was constantly thinking about that darn DVD player in the car. He wanted to watch a movie every time we got in the van, even if it was to go 2 blocks. He definitely watches enough movies at home and didn't need any more opportunities to watch more, especially around town. (Long car trips are another story). The kids also loved to flip the screens up and down all the time. I was so worried they were going to break and that we'd be adding more expenses to our expensive month. Plus, when the screens are down, it is very hard to see out the rear view mirror. I can't imagine being on a busy freeway at night with those screens flipped down and in my way.

We dropped the rental off, then headed over to Toyota and picked our blue baby back up. It was so good to see her. But the story doesn't end there...

We got home with just enough time to feed Chloe a quick lunch, then hop back in the van to take her to school. After dropping her off and getting back home, I was walking into the house. I turned around to admire my van that I haven't seen in almost 3 weeks and I immediately noticed 2 very noticeable dents and a big scratch on the passenger side doors. Ummm... what?? Those were definitely not there when we dropped the van off to be fixed. Again the thought ran through my head, "What are the odds?" The frustration and sickness in my stomach came back, and I headed up to start making phone calls, de ja vu of 2 weekends ago. Much to my surprise (no, SHOCK), the dealership was very kind and apologized for this happening and the inconvenience to us and said they would be more than happy to fix the dents and scratch at no charge to us. I really thought they would fight us on this and refuse to pay and argue that there was no real proof it happened while it was at the shop. Luckily for us, our insurance had taken pictures of the outside of the van too during the initial appraisal and the pictures showed that these dents were not there. I was so thankful that this did not turn into an ugly battle and we feel very blessed that they were so kind and willing to fix it all without any questions.

Here are 2 of the dents/scratches. A sickening sight to see after all we'd been through.

Can you see it, below the handle?

So back into the dealership that same night to have them assess the NEW damages and make an appointment for the following Wednesday to get the work done. It took just one day, but on May 11, we got our van back- all fixed- rodent damage, dents, scratches and all. Almost a month from when it all started, it was finally all done. The final costs: over $4,000 to fix the rodent damage under the hood and over $800 for the rental van. Having a pesky rodent problem in your van? Priceless.

I really wished the story ended there, but it doesn't. The night after getting it back after the the rodent damage had been fixed (waiting to get the body work done), we looked under the hood and what did we find? Yep, more rodent urine and feces. We were totally shocked and sick, again. I was in tears. Luckily, they hadn't done any damage, but they were back with the possibility of doing the same damage, or more, over again. The mechanic had told us to put dryer sheets in the engine compartment because rodents don't like the smell of those. We put some in that night (we had meant to do it the night before but had forgotten). Ben checked under the hood the very next morning and there was more urine and poop. The dryer sheets didn't work... We spent the next day researching online how to keep these darn rodents out of our engine. Our best option was to move, but since that wasn't a real option, we decided to try some deer repellent spray. We sprayed that all over the engine and on the tires and boy did it smell AWFUL. We were definitely repelled if nothing else.

Thankfully, the deer repellent seemed to work. We check under the hood several times a day. It worked until we got the van back from the dealership after the body damage was finished, but the next morning we found more traces of rodents. We figured (hoped desperately) that the dealership had washed the van for us and the washing had washed away the deer repellant from the engine. After spraying more repellant on, we haven't seen any more evidence of rodents. But we still check often and are very weary. And we have a big can of deer repellent very handy.

We love our fixed van, but despise rodents. What a month!

Monday, May 16, 2011

New Glasses

Chloe got new glasses! For the first time since she started wearing glasses (2 years and 4 months ago), she got new frames and lenses. She has had the same exact style of frames all along, but with 3 younger siblings, we have gone through 3 sets of frames. We just went in and replaced it each time with the exact same one. Her lenses were the same for the whole 2 years, but were quite scratched up. Due to another sibling error (boy do those babies love to pull on her glasses, as did Mitchell, who was a baby when Chloe first got them), Chloe's glasses broke again 2 weeks ago. Our insurance will cover a new pair of glasses every two years, so we decided to get something totally new and different this go around (and the store didn't carry her old frames anymore, so it wasn't even an option to get the same exact ones).

After much debate, here is what we chose.

Sure is different than her old ones... makes her look more grown up. Here is Chloe the day she got her glasses for the first time- January 2009, just barely 4 years old.

It was hard for me to let her get some more grown up glasses this go around- it was hard enough letting my cute little 4 year old get glasses at all in the first place!

But she looks adorable in them. I guess it's ok to let her start growing up- she is 6, after all... going on 16 (it seems).

While we were picking out new frames, I had to be thankful for all the cute choices of glasses these days. I remember the horrible huge, round frames that were available when I had glasses in elementary/middle school and they were hideous (Harry Potter style). I never felt as cute as Chloe looks.

Eye update: We saw the ophthalmologist last week who said that her vision in her weak eye is improving (thanks to the eye patching that she does 3 hours a day) so we will continue patching for the time being and hoping that everything continues to improve. The human eye is not done developing until around age 8, so things may stay the same for her (patching, same prescription, glasses) until then or longer.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Easter and a Birthday

We had a great Easter weekend. The Saturday before Easter we had the most beautiful day of the year- it was seriously the first fully sunny, warm day of 2011. Everything is more fun with sun. That is pretty much our family moto.

Saturday morning we headed off to our community Easter Egg hunt. Our homeowner's association puts on a great hunt, divided into age groups.

This was the twins' first year participating and they looked so sweet with their little baskets, but they had no idea what was going on. Not a clue.

They could sense the excitement around them.

When it started, Chloe walked around with Leah and Ben walked with Lexi. They had no clue what to do and without their "helpers" I don't think they would have gotten more than one egg.

They were sure excited to see candy inside those eggs.
Then it was Mitchell's turn... Oh, Mitch, Mitch Mitch. He doesn't have a hurry bone in his body. I am a very competitive person and while it's not all about winning, Easter Egg Hunts ARE about candy and I knew he'd be sad if he didn't get much candy (and I knew I'd be sad if I couldn't have some of it too. Our community puts in the best candy- all name brand chocolate- twix, snickers, milky ways, hershey kisses, reeses peanut butter cups, etc).

Ben and I gave him a few pep talks before the race, going something like this: "Ok Mitch- when they lady says go, you run as fast as you can and pick up as many eggs as you can. Don't open the eggs to see what is inside (that is what happened last year), just drop it in your basket and run to another egg. Don't stop getting eggs until you hear us call you to stop."

Well, I can't say that he got the most eggs (not even close) and I can't say that he was aggressive (not at all), and I don't think his "run" qualified as hustling, but he had fun and got a few pieces of candy. Lucky for us, the eggs are double stuffed.

Bless his heart for getting one egg and being totally satisfied with that (until he heard his mom yell "Go get more! You're not done!")

Chloe's race was next and while she is not overly aggressive, she sure hustles.

She had many more eggs than Mitchell for sure.

My favorite part was getting everyone in a picture with the Easter Bunny.

The babies found out that the Easter Bunny gives out treats- he's not so scary!

As soon as I woke up Sunday morning, even before seeing what the Easter Bunny brought, the kids did an Easter Egg hunt for me for my birthday. Inside each egg was a number, and the number corresponded to a gift. It was very cute and I got very spoiled.

Here was the card that Chloe wrote me for my birthday. She is getting very good at sounding words out all on her own. In case you can't understand it, it reads: "Dear Mommy, Happy Birthday. I hope you get some good presents from your family. Me and Daddy have some good presents for you. So does your family. I love you. Your Daughter,

What a special holiday to share a birthday with. I was curious to know if my birthday had ever fallen on Easter before (I couldn't remember) and so I did a little research. The date of Easter can vary between March 22nd and April 25th (a big gap!) The last time Easter was on April 24 was in 1859, so I have never had an Easter birthday. It has only fallen on that date 5 times total, ever. The next time Easter will fall on my birthday will be in 2095. I think it is safe to say I will never have an Easter birthday again. Not impossible, but I would be 111 years old. Fun experience to have for my birthday, and even more special that I got to share it on a holiday where we remember our Savior and the resurrection and Atonement.

After my gift opening, the kids were very anxious to see what the Easter Bunny had brought them.

Chloe has been wanting a Pillow Pet for a long time and was thrilled that the Easter Bunny brought her one.

Mitch loved his too.

The babies got new toothbrushes and toddler safe toothpaste, but their favorite gift was their own spill proof bubbles.

Alexis caught on very quickly on how to blow her own bubbles. I was quite amazed at how good she was. Leah... not so much.

When bubbles would come out of her
wand she'd yell "BUBBLES!"

Of course everyone loved the candy- Mitch and Chloe devoured theirs in record time and the babies loved opening new eggs to see what new treats were inside. Unfortunately, my cream couches and cream carpets were rainbow colored after that.

Chloe and Mitch put their Pillow Pets to the test after the candy was gone. I'm not much of a stuffed animal fan at all and I was back and forth about them having them since these are SO BIG, but since they are technically a pillow and have a double use, I was ok with it.

A little Easter love from my two sweetest little bunnies.

Easter Family Picture

The birthday Mom with all her babies

Everyone got new Easter clothes- and these two 18 month old babies went to their first official nursery day on Easter (talk about a Happy Birthday gift to me!) It would have been the Sunday after General Conference, but we had sick kids 2 weeks in a row.

After a delicious Easter ham dinner, we finished up the birthday celebration with the most amazing Carrot cake from Costco (to die for, really). The kids didn't like it much, which meant more for me and Ben.