Monday, August 24, 2015

New School Year

Wow! A high schooler, a middle schooler and two fourth graders. How is it possible? 

It was strange to have the littles at the elementary school without the bigs. And, it was strange to have the bigs in the van together to drop off and pick up. In some ways it felt like going back in time, to when the littles weren't in "real" school, and in other ways was completely new and foreign. 

Ruby and Eliza Claire had a much calmer first day than the older two. Yes, it's a new year and new teachers, but it's the same school and mostly the same classmates. I think they like the idea of being on their own without their older siblings. 

Rehm was not a happy camper this morning. He put off his summer reading project to the very last minute and underestimated the time it would require. He went into panic mode last night around 10:00. He finished reading the book around 11:30 but did not start the writing part of the assignment until this morning. At one point, he looked at me and asked, "why didn't you make me do this earlier?" I laughed and explained that he was in high school and I had given him several reminders throughout the summer but that ultimately it was his responsibility to get his stuff done not mine. 

He left for school with the assignment at best half done. He was sure he would fail the assignment and/or class and the teacher would hate him.  Otherwise, he was not nervous about his first day of high school at all. 

Charlotte was nervous but determined not to show it. She did a great job. She was stressed about not getting to school on time to meet her friend Ellie but otherwise seemed cool and confident. 

It was fun to hear how everyone's day actually went. 

Eliza Claire had a great day except for the ten minutes her class was evacuated so that a very large spider could be removed. I would have thought she was exaggerating the size until she told us they had to leave until it was dealt with.

Rub had a rather uneventful first day. But she is missing her friend Jolie who is going to a different school this year. 

Rehm came home with homework. He did not have to turn in the Summer reading assignment today.  He has until Wednesday to get it finished. He liked two of his classes and did not like the other two. One he already sees as a complete waste of his time. It will be interesting to see how it goes. He's hoping to like more of his classes tomorrow. 

Charlotte had a good day. Her only complaints were that she got lost a couple of times and ended up in a "forbidden" hallway and was told she couldn't be there; and, she fell and messed up her glasses (they are fixed now). 

One moment that stood out today. When I picked Rehm up, he asked if we were picking up Charlotte. I told him we were. He got in the back seat instead of the front. When I commented on it, he said, "it's her first day at big school, she deserves it."

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Odyssey for a new Odyessey

Our faithful steed, Homer, was nearing his last legs after 10 years of carting us all over Texas, to North Carolina, to Chicago and countless trips around Cedar Park.  After a cursory look at Toyota's mini-van, we had decided that we would be getting another Honda Odyssey.

Jennifer checked them out locally and I went one Saturday afternoon to literally just sit in one and make sure they hadn't changed something that made it too torturous to fold myself into it.  Then the hunt for our Odyssey began.

I'd been reading some posts on Clark Howard's website about buying new cars from both Clark and James Bragg.  A note here- Clark and other smart people like Dave Ramsay recommend buying a used car so you're not paying as much depreciation.  Smart advice, but when you look at the resale market for Odyssey's, the ones with low mileage are priced pretty near the cost of a new one.  This is because Odysseys last so long they depreciate pretty slowly.  Plus, with a minivan, I like to know the mess is from my kids!  James Bragg's articles, like this one, were interesting enough that I was willing to spend $40 on his pricing information and advice on how to purchase a new car from his website.

The approach is pretty simple- do your homework, line up your own financing, then call the dealerships you're willing to drive to and get quotes from their internet sales manager.  I started with 14 dealerships- the 3 in Austin, Cleo Bay in Killeen and Gillman in San Antonio (because they both had good reputations on price), and 9 more from Dallas, Houston and San Antonio that looked to have quite a few Odyssey's in stock in the version we were looking for.  The internet is very handy in seeing what they have in stock, plus, the Honda corporate site lists contact phone numbers for the internet sales manager in each dealership.

Bragg's process has you make calls twice- once to get an initial price, then a second call to give dealers one chance to counter the best price from round one.  The difference between the highest quote and the lowest in round 1 was $4,600!  Certainly, worth the couple hours of time to make some calls!  The second round saw about half the dealerships decline to counter.  The winning bid came in about $450 less than the round 1 best offer, plus it was in a color we preferred (though we would have taken other colors) and had some dealer add-ons (none of which were on our must-have list, but the 2nd best deal was pretty much as-is off the truck from Honda).

We drove to Spring Branch, had lunch with my brother and sister-in-law and picked up the new van.  Overall, worth the time and drive to Houston.  So far, we're very happy with the new addition which has been named Reveille.

Some summary tips:
  • You get better prices from dealerships that don't advertise "no haggle" pricing
  • You get better prices calling than from just getting a quote over the web
  • Just calling and asking for a quote is nowhere near the hassle that being on the premises and playing all the dealer games is
  • James Bragg's service at Fighting Chance was well worth the $40.  Maps out the whole process, why it works, when in the month is the best time to call and more.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Country Music and Family Time

On the way home from celebrating Rehm's birthday at Chuy's (how is it possible that he is 14 today?), the song You Never Even Called Me by My Name by David Allen Coe came on the radio. Of course, Michael and I proceeded to sing along quite loudly.

When we got about one line into the last verse, you know, "I was drunk the day my mom got out of prison," Eliza Claire exclaimed, "Oh, dear!" which had us all laughing and Michael and I singing even louder.

After the song was over I told the kids they better come get me from prison before "I got ran over by the danged ole train." Rehm quips, "Mom, I believe the lyrics are, and I quote 'Damned ole train.'" I took this opportunity to let him know I was quite aware of what the lyrics were and he needed to get over himself, etc, etc, etc, and that he wasn't being cute or funny by cussing by quoting song lyrics. At this point, Eliza Claire pipes up with, "cuss, cuss, cuss, cuss, cuss, cuss, cuss!" Her timing and delivery could not have been more perfect and once again we all dissolved into laughter. It appears that the new "four letter word" at our house is literally "cuss!"

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