April 6, 2012

A dilemma!  I will ask the internets!

When both my girls hit 6th grade, I bought them a laptop.  David and I are laptop people, and we don’t have a central place in the house for a desk top.  It seemed like the right option, and theoretically, I haven’t really regretted that choice.

But being a Mac family, it was no small investment.

Lemon has now had hers since 2007, and Mouse since 2009.

Lemon’s shows some wear.  It’s clunky, it keeps running out of space.  It’s not that much newer than mine, which I just replaced this year.

Mouse’s, however, still seems so new.  It’s a white one, but the smaller, sleeker shape.  It always seemed faster, lighter, smoother.

A couple of months ago, Mouse had some friends over.  They were in her room, hanging out – every now and then you’d hear uproarious laughter – as per usual – no big deal.

But after they went home and she dug into her homework, she called me in — “Moooooommmmmm?  Something’s wrong with my computer.”

In the top right corner of her screen, there was a big smear, and a couple of lines coming out of it, running down to the bottom of the screen.  My first thought – “Did you spill nail polish remover on it??” (she’s addicted to doing her nails)  “No!!!”  I looked again, and couldn’t tell it wasn’t a surface issue, it was something else.  “Did you step on it?”  No.  “Did you drop it?”  No.

“Well, I guess your screen is messed up.  You’ll live.”

Yes, I am a very sympathetic soul.

But over the next few weeks, the computer revealed a few other problems.  The trackpad wasn’t working so well — hers is the kind where the whole trackpad is smooth, and you’re supposed to be able to click anywhere on it.  But she couldn’t.  There was only one spot where she could click that it would work.

Then, it seemed like the screen casing had come apart (on the opposite side of the smear on the screen).  The screen would go white, unless you pinched the screen at a certain spot.

Then, nothing would work unless you pinched the screen – not the trackpad, not the keyboard – nothing.

Then, the trackpad wouldn’t click at all.  This development happened during my first week of the new job, and it was the first time that the computer seemed to have been rendered useless.  My solution at the time, so that the computer was not useless while she was working on a large school project, was to go to the Apple Store and buy a mouse.  We then used the mouse to navigate to the settings, where we made the touchpad tap sensitive, rather than needing to click down on it.  Then we didn’t need the mouse anymore.

My intention was to return the mouse within 14 days for a no-questions-asked refund.  However, it is sitting on the shelf in my living room, laughing at me.  (Through the box.)

Well, this week, the screen-pinching became ineffective.  The computer was again rendered useless.

Throughout these months of the decline of the computer, David and I have been pretty unsympathetic to Mouse’s plight.  We KNOW she dropped or stepped on the computer.  She can swear up and down as much as she wants that she did NOT!  It was safe, she took care of it!  But we don’t believe her.  We’ve had too many computers over too many years to believe that a computer was sitting happily and protectedly on its desk and all of a sudden – BAM!! – a giant BLOT appeared on the screen, and all of the internal parts seemed to stop working AT THE SAME TIME.  No.  The computer was dropped or stepped on.

Her room is a mess.  She has clean and dirty clothes all over her floor.  Even though she has a desk and a beanbag chair, she does everything on her bed.  Her nails, her homework, her internet surfing, and despite the rules, snacking.  So she finishes her homework or her surfing, and she shoves her computer aside.  Her friends come over, they sit with her on the bed, they chatter and do their nails on her bed, and someone shifts to the right, and BOOM – the computer’s on the floor, on the corner, creating a blot.

OR — she puts her computer on the floor, and then takes off a shirt.  She throws the shirt.  It lands on the computer.  She cannot see the computer.  She steps on the shirt — “what’s that cracking noise???”

These behaviors are things that we work all the time to curb.  It’s like talking to a concrete post.  Seriously.  She has to spend at least 30 minutes a day cleaning her room, and I go check on her room, and it looks fine, and then 30 minutes later — the place exploded again.  David likens her room to the Charlie Brown character PigPen.  It’s like a dirt magnet.

Anyway.  David took the computer to the Apple Store.  They took one look at the blot on the screen and said, “Oh, that’s an impact point.  This has been dropped.”

An aside:  They also thought the trackpad issue was related to consistent overheating of the computer, causing “bulging” that pressed against the trackpad and kept it from working.  That annoyed me.  David said, “we need to make sure she doesn’t watch videos on the computer, because it’s overheating it.”  Look, she shouldn’t be watching videos on her computer. It’s not why she has a computer, and when they watch t.v. on their computers, I get VERY ANGRY, because we have t.v. rules in this house, and you don’t just get around them by watching whatever you want whenever you want on your computer.  HOWEVER – she should not avoid watching videos because otherwise her computer will overheat and bulge.  Isn’t that Apple’s problem?  Isn’t that — wrong?  I mean, everybody buys computers these days assuming they can watch videos – whether t.v. shows, movies or youtube videos – on their computers.  What the hell?

Okay – enough of that aside – let’s get back to blaming Jules.

Total estimate?  $530.


Before David went in, we decided that we would fix the computer if it came in between $300 and $500.  To me, $530 fits into that range.  Which is weird, right?  Why make the range if you’re going to just say “well, close enough.”  But it was how I felt.

But one of the items on the list was to replace her keyboard.  Because she’s picked a few keys off.  I said NO WAY.  We aren’t paying for that.  She PICKED THE KEYS OFF.  She can keep them off.

So, great.  $440 is the new estimate.  (At least now we’re really within our range.)

We left the computer behind, and hope to see it again soon.

But now what do we do?

The child is 13.  She does not have a job.  She does not babysit.  She gets an allowance – when I remember – of $40/month.  She doesn’t spend it well, and never has enough money.  We’ve been working with her on the fact that she wastes her money on candy at CVS (amazing that the child is as ridiculously thin as she is), and then wants to go to the movies with her friends and comes to us with her hand out.  Or they’re all going out to lunch, and she doesn’t have money.  I am a sap.  I will hand over the 4 $1 bills in my wallet.  David is not a sap, and will not.  I am (pre computer) increasingly less of a sap, especially with Ye Olde Pay Cut.  (Goddammit.)  I’ve been a bit more intentional about the allowance situation.

So what do we do about the $440?  If we make her pay it from her allowance, she won’t get allowance again until April of next year.  That isn’t going to work.  If we keep half of her allowance, all of the above issues are just exacerbated.

Do I make her do chores?

What we already did was to set some stricter rules with the computer.  It stays on her desk at all times.  No more using it in the bed.  Desk, plugged in, at all times.  David thinks we should also say her friends can’t touch it, but I disagree.  That’s just an annoying rule with annoying policing requirements put on both her and us.  I think keeping it on the desk will be sufficient.

A friend thinks we should just let this be a wake up call.  Let her know this is her one-time fix, and next time, she’ll need to work something else out.

I find myself wishing we didn’t fix it.  I wish that I took my old macbook from 2006 that was about to explode when I bought my new PowerBook with my severance money, and brought it back to factory settings, and made her use that until the imminent explosion takes place.  But I guess I can hold onto that option in case she breaks it again.

This is what I am thinking about doing:  Telling her that part of why it happened was because of the chaos in her room.  Make her give up this weekend to SERIOUSLY taking care of her room.  I’m talking cleaning out shelves and baskets, cleaning out the closet, going through clothes, shoes, etc.  Making drawers neat and organized.  Getting rid of the crap that this pack-rat child won’t typically get rid of.  And put it on her to keep it that way.  And if she does not, THEN withhold part of her allowance on the weeks that she doesn’t.

This way, we are kind of looking at a solution – forward-looking – giving her an opportunity to earn the repair, but will have set repercussions if she doesn’t do it.

The downside to my plan?

She’ll never do this without me.  I will have to do this project with her.  It will be MY weekend, too.

The upside?

I’ve been planning to do it for months, but just haven’t gotten to it.  Now I can force her to be more engaged in it, and get it really taken care of, and hopefully give her the motivation to keep up with things, through her precious allowance.

David is not going to like it.  He thinks we are spending the $$, she needs to contribute $$.  That she either needs to start babysitting, or cat sitting, or something-sitting to earn money, or she needs to give up at least half of her allowance.  He wouldn’t insist on the entire thing being paid by her, but maybe half.

In the meantime – today is Good Friday, and the kids don’t have school.  I think this is weird.  Even when I went to Liberty Freaking University, I had classes on Good Friday.  I think that the reason is because in my corner of New England, we have a large Jewish population, and we end up with days off from school for a few of the Jewish High Holidays, and to do that and NOT do Good Friday would be … inequitable?  Or maybe it’s because Boston has a large Catholic population, and we just follow their school calendar?  I don’t know.

But the kids have the day off.  Mouse and her friends decided last night to see Titanic 3D.  No one was thinking about the computer (David brought it to the Apple Store on Wednesday) when this plan came up.  I thought to say “Mouse, you don’t have any money, and I don’t have cash on me.”  But then I had the brilliant idea of buying her ticket on line, with her allowance that is due today (payday).  So I did.  David knew about it, said nothing (except, “don’t forget to buy her ticket!”)  They went to the 9:30 show, and David picked them up at 12:30.  When he got home, I’d been asleep for almost 2 hours, and so he emailed me.  I found the email at 5:30 when I got up for my morning run.  “So, wait — she gets to pre spend allowance on a movie — allowance that’s supposed to go toward her computer??”

But but but!!  He didn’t think of it last night!  And we never came up with a PLAN!!

So now we’re working on figuring out a plan.





  1. I have no parenting expertise (first baby due May 29th), but how about (1) the thorough weekend cleaning; (2) a deadline for her to get her room cleaned each week (either Friday before she can leave to do stuff on the weekend or Sunday night if it’s more important to you to have it clean for the school week); and (3) no allowance if her room is not cleaned by the deadline. I think it’s unrealistic for the main goal to be getting her to pay for the repairs (unless there’s a summer job on the horizon?), but you’ll probably get at least some money out of this deal. Taking away the repaired computer as punishment doesn’t seem realistic now since she uses it for school, but that would be a summer option. Geez. Sorry for the lawyerly parentheticals!

    • Yeah, no summer job. Family vacation, then camp, then high school sports start a few weeks before school. We also live in an area that’s I will do my best to continue to keep on her about the keeping the room clean. So far, 48 hours later, we have some success. Heh. Let’s see how long it lasts.

  2. As an IT person, a few thoughts…

    – You have a *teen* and bought an expensive Mac laptop rather than a $400 Dell desktop that would have performed the essentially the same tasks…and wonder what to do about expensive repairs, including the idea that she should pay more than an equivalent desktop would cost. It’s none of my business of course, and you may beat me up, but would you wonder the same kind of thing if you bought a new driver an expensive Mercedes…

    – Laptops need air flow to stay cool. A desk works. A bed doesn’t because the bedding wraps around the case and covers the inlet and/or outlet. Understanding the technology is hard when so much is glossed over, but engineering principles can’t be ignored even if they’re unknown. This might be the cause of the overheating. (For my oldest daughter, she has a cooling pad, which is a ‘stand’ for the laptop that includes dual USB-driven fans if shes chooses to plug it in…which is normally only done for graphics-intensive games that stress the hardware)

    – You have a teen and wonder why her room is untidy, even minutes after it’s tidied. The rest of us with older kids will just pause for a moment to laugh hysterically! Note: If you solve this problem, please let me know — call anytime of the day or night.

    I wrote this in a dry humorous tone and hope it doesn’t come across as insulting. Many apologies if it does. Good luck with the laptop. I always used to feel very bad when my PC had a problem. Now I have enough devices and extensive backups (by the way, I hope you use Time Machine to back up each of the laptops very regularly — if not, you *will* lose important data one day) that I can sigh and move on. If only I could lose on of my teens!! 🙂

    • I would rather buy a $1000 computer once every 6 years than a $400 computer once every two years. This was the first time we’ve had this happen, since 2006. It was a pain in the ass, to be certain, and there was no “protection plan” that could have prevented the costs. (Fortunately, as I mentioned a minute ago, the repairs came in closer to $200 than $500, that mitigates.)

      No curiosity here as to how a teen’s room ends up messy — I was that teen whose room was always a disaster (actually, I only got over it in the past 2 years or so)! I did intervene and we did a major purge this weekend. I don’t think it would have happened without my involvement, and it certainly wouldn’t have without the option of storage. The child is such a packrat. (“No, you can’t throw that away, that’s the note that my friend wrote me on a gum wrapper when I had a cold in 3rd grade!”) I’ll let you know in a week if this actually worked to KEEP her room clean. So far, she’s very motivated (but she still has the threat of allowance penalties hanging over her head).

  3. I was going to say something similar to Separated Dad. You should give Mouse’s repaired laptop to Lemon (since it sounds like hers is on its last legs as well), then buy a cheap desktop for Mouse. This will force her to work at her desk. Then, you should make Mouse to pay for 1/2 of the repairs (through some combination of deducting off her allowance and other jobs. Summer is coming – maybe she can pick up some $$ during that time?) When she realizes that she is effectively paying for benefits that will inure to her sister, she might be a bit more introspective?? BTW, you used Mouse’s real name at some point in the post, in case you want to edit?

    • Oof! You’re like a SADIST or something!! 😉 I will absolutely not be giving Mouse’s computer to Lemon. Lemon is due for a new computer (not a 3 year old computer), and will get one probably within the year.

      Fortunately, the computer repairs came in a lot lower than we expected.

  4. As a Dell person, I don’t understand the Apple hype, so I can’t comment on the argument above to just give her a cheap desktop since I’m not savvy about all the reasons why you got her a Mac to begin with.

    Anyway, regarding the current situation, I’m in agreement about the laptop-on-the-desk rule. Honestly, I’d probably take away her Mac every time her friends come over, just in case, but that’s just me. I’d totally set some strict expectations about room cleanliness and then follow through weekly, even though it would be a pain my ass too. But then again, I’m the mom who took away my daughter’s extensive duct tape collection because she left it out too long and then made her earn back the collection through a serious decluttering and cleaning of her room that took three weeks.

    • Her room was completely transformed this weekend — it will be very hard for her to create the same kind of mess now, considering how much CRAP we took away. I like the idea of actually taking the computer out of the room when friends are over. I think it’s better than trying to police how they’re using the computer and where — not to mention all the other benefits of not having a slew of 14 yos huddled around the computer for any extended period of time.

  5. […] In a Minute has a dilemma. […]

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