Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Yoga for Runners

A Bit of Background

I'm a recreational runner. I've been in a few races, but I really don't like to race and have no intention of ever doing a marathon. I just like to run. I usually run about 3 miles 3-4 times a week as one part of my exercise routine.

Three years ago I started having pain on the outer side of my knee about a mile into my run. I learned that this was (ITBS) ilio-tibial band syndrome after I had really hurt myself, hoping that I could "run" the pain off. I took a whole year off from running hoping things would heal on their own. But, when I started to run again, I had the same problem of knee pain early on in my run. I learned some exercises and stretches I could do for my ITB and learned to slowly increase my distance over a few days. That helped. Then I got a bike to incorporate cycling into my exercise. Not long after I started cycling, I started having pain on the same ITBS knee, but this time it felt like it was under my knee cap. I found that it was all part of ITBS.

Rather than let the problem continue, I decided to turn to Yoga for some help. I have shared some of Esther's yoga videos before. They are excellent! Here are some particularly helpful videos for ITBS and running. I have been doing them on the days I'm not running or biking and so far I haven't had any pain. I hope this will continue!

First, a general yoga video for runners:


This one is targeted for opening hips so that you don't strain your knees to begin with, but is also helpful in correcting the problem once it has started.


And this one is for the knees.


As I have learned, coming back from an injury takes patience as well as persistence. Patience, to keep yourself from doing too much too soon. Persistence, to continue with the therapy to help correct the injury. Hope this helps other runners/cyclists out there.

Update: August 12, 2010
For the past year, my husband has been having knee pain when he rides his bike. He decided to give the above yoga techniques a try and he too noticed improvement. He stretches before he goes out on his bike now with the knee and hip opening techniques. It's really helped!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

More Thoughts on Ooma

With Ooma, I'm now basically in charge of my phone service. So, there are some preventative measures I will have to take to ensure that I have continued, reliable service.

Ooma won't work if:
  • The power goes out
  • My internet service is interrupted
  • My modem konks out
  • My Ooma device dies on me
As you can see, there are a few different factors that play into having Ooma work. Here's my plan to protect myself if any of the above senarios does in fact take place.

Power:
This is a relatively easy fix. I should have this anyway: A battery back-up for my computer (aka uinterrupted power supply or UPS). They are just fancy surge protectors that give you some extra time to shut off your computer when the power is out. Prices start at $40 and go up. Ooma doesn't suck much power, so it could run on one of these for the duration of most power outages.

Internet Service Interrupted:
I'm not too worried about this. Typically when this has happened, it's only been for a couple of hours at the longest. I have a cell phone, so I could get calls out. IF I had Ooma premier, I could set it up so that my calls got forwarded to my cell phone or another number. (If someone called while my Ooma isn't hooked up, they would just get dead air, no voice mail or anything.) I don't get enough phone calls to worry about this. More than likely, I'd just miss a couple of political calls. :) If this outtage were expected to go on longer, I'd find a place (library or something) that had internet and get signed up for Ooma Premier and then just cancel it when my internet service resumed.

Modem Breaks:
Here's another thing that would be smart to have. An extra modem. If you've ever had one break on you, you know that it's a pain to wait 3-5 days for a replacement to be delivered to you. However, if I were fortunate enough to live in a place that had stores nearby that sell modems, I don't think I'd worry about having an extra modem on hand.

Ooma Breaks:
It's not very cost effective to have an extra Telo on hand ($299). What I would do instead is sign up right away for Ooma Premier ($9.99 per month) so I could have my calls forwarded to a cell phone. I would go ahead and buy another Telo and once recieved, cancel Ooma Premier. This is of course assuming that my current Telo lasts a good long time. (Telos do a have a one year warranty.)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Major Crib Recall: Now What?

I'm sure that many are aware of the most recent, sweeping crib recall. When I heard about it on the news, I was pretty sure that the cribs my twins are using would be involved in the recall. I got onto Evenflo's website and sure enough, they were.

Our cribs have worked fine for us and one of them was used with two of my other children, so I wasn't really worried about having a recalled crib, but I did figure it would be sensible to go ahead and order the kit to fix the cribs. I was able to locate the model number and date of manufacture on my cribs with no problem (they are on the headboard.) The Evenflo website states how to find this info and says that you can order repair kits on their website or you could call their phone number. Well, it's hard to find where on that website you can order the repair kits. The link is not anywhere handy. So, I called the toll-free hotline. No help. It just tells you to order the repair kit online. So, I go back to the website, this time looking very carefully for the info. Found it. After scrolling down to the bottom of the long webpage, I found the link "Register for Recall." Don't know why they didn't put this link in a better place.

Anyhow, from there it was easy. Entered my crib's model and date of manufacture and address. Now I'm waiting for my parts. We'll see how easy the repair kits will be to install...

Update as of August 27, 2010
I received one of the repair kits yesterday in the the mail. I'm trusting my second kit is on its way since I registered for them on the same day. My husband installed the kit on one of the cribs last night. It consists of four metal pieces, 4 screws, and 4 wing nuts if I remember correctly. My husband described the fix as a bit "chintzy" but it does do the job of keeping the crib side from sliding down. In my book it's not a particularly pretty fix. Once installed, the metal pieces (rather large) are quite visible. But, It'll do. Here's a pix of the fix:


Update as of October 20, 2010:
I received the repair kit for my second Jenny Lind crib about a week and a half ago. Yeah, it took a while. This repair kit is even worse than the above one. It consists of some heavy duty straps, a couple of metal rods and some "locking rings" (for locking the mattress in the lowest position). I put this repair kit on myself. It was easy to get the straps and the metal rods on, but the locking rings? Forget it. I got one on after too much work and decided not to put the rest on since my daughter will be moving to another bed soon and I didn't want to have to remove the locking rings from all four sides when I have to take the crib apart. Of course, I'm sure the companies don't care how dorky these repair kits make the crib look because they want us to buy another crib. I think pack 'n' plays are looking better and better (price and all). Here's a pix of the least aesthetically pleasing part of the fix. (This crib doesn't have hidden hardware.)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Ooma, Free VOIP Phone Service: Part 4

I've only been using Ooma exclusively for a month now. Not long enough to know if it was worth my money. (I'll break even in six months, taking into account what my phone bill would have been.) In the previous posts I've attempted to explain the process I went through to setup Ooma with my DSL internet. It was not without hassle. I expected this, however because I see Ooma as a do-it-yourself phone service. So, I'm mostly happy with the system because it works.

Call Quality

I'd like to focus on my experiences with call quality today. First, Ooma has a distinct dial tone which is sort of fun but might freak out visitors who pick up your phone. No biggie. The vast majority of the calls I have made with Ooma have been just as good as those that I had made with my land line and they were hands-down better than calls I make with my cell phone.

But, I have had some weird issues. My husband and I have both experienced a strange connection a handful of times. It has only happened when we have dialed the number and connect to voice mail/answering machine. We hear a jumbled, computery, train wreck sound. So, we hang up and dial again and it works better. I don't know what this is about. Like I said, this has only happened when we get connected to voice mail, no other time.

I have not, as of yet, experienced any dropped calls. I'll be sure to post any experience I may have with that in the future right here on this post.

Ooma gives new users a 60 day trial of their Premier service. I'm not going to list all of the features of Ooma Premier, but one of them is anonymous call blocking. This sounds nice, but you'd be surprised how many numbers are anonymous that come from people you know. My husband's work phone, for instance, could not get through. So, I should have changed that feature, but I figured that soon my trial period would be up and I would lose that feature. I'm pretty sure that I should have. However, a couple days after my trial expired, my husband still could not get through. I decided to wait on it before I called costumer service. I had my hubby try to call me this morning and he got through. So, I'm thinking there was a bit of lag on the suspension of my trial period.

In a nutshell: Ooma is not worry-free, not hassle-free, and not effort-free. I am still liking it though. Must be my do-it-yourself leanings that make me like it. I would like to see Ooma improve on customer support and fix some of the other funky issues they seem to have.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Ooma, Free VOIP Phone Service: Part 3

So, I've got my phone number ported to Ooma. My phone company has closed my account associated with my phone service. I'm ready to distribute the Ooma dial-tone to all the phone jacks in my house.

DISCLAIMER: The easiest way to use Ooma on multiple phones would be to buy a phone with multiple handsets (if you don't have one already). Hook the base phone up to Ooma and put your other handsets where you need them. No wiring issues and line splitters. But, if you are stubborn like me and want the phone jacks to work with Ooma, read on:

First, Ooma has very little information on this issue. Here is a link to their official support on this. I do suggest that Ooma users/future users look at this first so they can formulate what questions they will yet have.

As I have said in other posts, I have DSL for my internet. Ooma doesn't offer a lot of help to someone on this. I don't recommend trying to call customer service for this issue. The Ooma forums are much better. Real Ooma users who speak and write English can help there. It's quite helpful.

In the end, My husband invited his tech-savvy friend over to open our phone box and mess with the wires to get it to work. We had a home-run line straight from our phone box (outside) to our computer. So, we had to do some wiring in our phone box and I don't get how they did it. Sorry. But it works now!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Ooma, Free VOIP Phone Service: Part 2

Today I'll talk about the process of porting my existing phone number with Ooma. It took just about 5 weeks for my port to complete from the time I initiated the request. That was longer than I had expected. And I expect it would have taken longer if I had not contacted customer service. Here's my story:

Porting My Existing Phone Number With Ooma

In theory, porting your phone number should be a rather simple process, and for many it is. Check Amazon.com for reviews. For some reason, I had some issues. I couldn't get any customer rep to explain why either. I suspect this was because of the language barrier.

Porting can be done online, once you sign on to your "My Ooma" account. You simply fill in some information about you phone company that you currently have and make sure Ooma has your correct address. Because a customer rep had inputted my address incorrectly during the setup process, I had to stop here and try to change my address via "My Ooma." For some reason, each time I made the change, it didn't show up on my account. So, I called customer service. They manually changed my address so I could proceed with the port request.

At one point in the request, I was asked to check a box saying that my DSL internet was not associated with my phone line. This is something Ooma requires, I think, so that they are not held responsible for complications that could arise from this. Well, my DSL and my phone number are on the same line. So, I chatted with a Qwest customer service rep and asked them how porting works from their end. I asked them if I would need to separate my lines and get "dry loop" internet before the port. The rep told me I did not need to separate the lines, and that Qwest would separate the lines on the day of the port. So, I went ahead and checked the box that said my DSL and phone line were not associated... even though they were.

After submitting my online request for a port, I received an email (same day) from Ooma with LOA (letter of agreement) attached which I was instructed to fill out and sign and either fax or scan and email back along with a copy of a recent phone bill from my current phone company. No problem. I was just giddy that they didn't require that everything be faxed. Talk about 21 century! I sent back the necessary documentation right away. I received an automated email confirming that they had received my information.

The next morning I received another email from Ooma the same as the first, asking for the LOA and copy of a phone bill. Even though I had already done this, I sent it again, writing that I had already sent this information... and received confirmation. Minutes later I received another automatic confirmation of receipt.

At this point, I got to wait for emails telling me of the status of my port. After one month of not receiving anything, I called customer service. I asked the rep of my status and why I had not heard anything from them. He put me on hold for a while. Once off hold, the rep told me that my port was in process and I should be receiving an email soon. I was skeptical since I had read this before a month ago in one of the confirmation emails. How soon should I expect it? He said within five days.

Later that same day, I received an email from Ooma informing me of the scheduled port date. Coincidence? I doubt it. My port was to happen in two weeks.

Got to say, at this point I wasn't sure how smooth the actual port would go since I'd had all these issues leading up to it. I continued to monitor the status of my port online via "My Ooma" account. As my port date came closer, it was pushed back one day. No biggie.

On the day of the port, I was expecting to have internet issues and phone issues. In the morning, I received phone calls via Qwest with no problem. Early in the day I had to go out of the house for about an hour. I called home with my cell while I was out just to see if I could get though. I could... My Ooma voice mail greeting picked up. That was fast!

So, in the end, I was pleasantly suprised with how well the port went. I experienced no down time to my knowledge (since I wasn't home during the port). But even if it were just an hour, that would have been fine by me. My DSL was working fine too.

Next Post: Distributing the Ooma Dial tone through out my house.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Ooma, Free VOIP Phone Service: Part 1


Okay, now that I am all done setting up my new Ooma Telo and have been using it for a bit over a month, I'd like to share info about my experience. I'll do this in a few different posts because there is A LOT to say about it.

Ooma is a free* phone service you can use with your existing internet connection. I put the asterisk by "free" because while you do have to pay a one-time fee for the equipment ($199-$250), you also have to pay an on-going monthly tax to Big Brother. Mine is $3.74 a month. And if you want the added bells and whistles Ooma offers, you need to subscribe to their Premier service which is $9.99 a month (still better than a landline, in most cases).

PART 1: Ordering, Setting It Up

I ordered Ooma from Amazon.com because I love Amazon. They had the lowest price too and shipping was free. I paid $199 for my Ooma Telo. It arrived in a timely fashion (about 5 days). Here's what it looks like straight out of the box:




You get the Telo device, a phone cord, power cord, and manual. Upon opening the package, I was impressed with the packaging itself, and the sleek look of the Telo. I was shocked at the owner's manual. It is very short, and lacking in detail to the point that I had more questions after reading it than I did to begin with. Here's a link to that manual so you can see for yourself. Besides that, the manual is nicely designed and isn't full of editing errors, so that is comforting.

I set up the Telo as soon as I had a kid-free moment. Getting back behind my computer with the owner's manual, my new Telo and two new cords, I marveled at my cord plantation already growing freakishly well without water or light in such a dark corner. *Shrug* The thing must be plugged in, so proceeded to plant the new cords in their new home.

I have DSL for my internet. It seems as though Ooma assumes that most people have cable internet. They don't provide a lot of information on how to set up the Telo with DSL. I found that I needed a splitter (not explained in the documentation) since I needed two phone jacks at the wall (one for my DSL modem and one for the Telo). Luckily, we had a splitter sitting in the garage. I stuck it into the wall jack. I had my modem/router plugged into my computer, but because Ooma advises to plug the Telo directly into the computer for the best sound quality, I did so. So, essentially, my Telo is connected to my computer with the ethernet cable, and my DSL modem is connected to my Telo via another ethernet cable. I was concerned that this might affect my modem's performance with speed, but I have tested it since then and I have not found any speed difference with my modem being plugged into my computer vs. being plugged into the the Telo and then to the wall jack.

Next, I plugged the power cord into my surge protector (or better yet, an uninterrupted power supply, which I hope to be getting soon). I plugged the phone cable that came with the Telo from the jack labeled "wall" on the Telo to the jack in my wall (remember, I had a splitter here so it could share with DSL) and plugged a phone into the jack labeled "phone" on the Telo. After plugging things in, I was ready to get my product activated.

To activate, I went to Ooma.com and clicked on the "Activate" link. I'm a pretty savvy person when it comes to technology, so I was pretty confident that I could handle the activation process. I think I could have... But... The first thing you are asked to input is your activation code found on the back of the Telo device. It's supposed to be a seven digit code. Mine was six. So, naturally, the system could not activate my Telo. Great! I get to call customer service, which, from reading reviews on Amazon, I am aware is outsourced. Yippee for language barriers in customer service!

I didn't have to wait long to get on the phone with someone. The service rep was nice enough, but because of that language barrier, she had a hard time understanding my trying to explain to her that my activation code was only six digits. I tried to ask her why, but she didn't understand my question. She just went ahead and activated my Telo for me from her end. This meant that she input my address, my name and other account info herself as I dictated it. Hahahah. When I signed into my account after I hung up with Ooma, I saw that my address was incorrect. So, I had to fix that. Anyhow, once my Telo was activated, I picked up my phone and heard the unique Ooma dial-tone. I set up voice-mail and other preferences from my Telo next. That's pretty step-by-step and easy, so I'm not going to talk much about it here.

Normally, if you are planning on using your current phone number with Ooma, you have to get it ported and during that port, Ooma assigns you a temporary number. The service rep didn't do this for me and I didn't ask. This didn't make my Telo unsuable, but it did mean that any number I dialed from my phone connected to Ooma had to be dialed 1+ area code+ number. (Note that I still had my landline service and all other phones in my house ran off the landline phone company. If I stopped here, It'd be like having two phone lines: Make calles on Ooma phone and still be able to receive calls through my landline.)

Anyway, I made a few calls with my phone that I had connected to the Ooma device and didn't notice any difference in call quality from that of my land line... so I figured I should take the plunge and get my landline number ported.

Next post I'll talk about porting my number. Fun, fun, fun!

Friday, July 2, 2010

No Spill Miracle Bubbles

I was in Walmart the other day, doing some browsing. I rarely venture into the toy section, but since I was sans children, I did. For $2 I got an 80z. bottle of Miracle Bubbles in a no-spill container. I figured if it worked, it'd be worth it because my little ones spill more than $2 of bubbles every summer.

We tried the new bubble container out on my spill-happy four-year-old last night. Okay, this really works for the generally stable child who knows how to use bubbles. Sure, it gets a little messy around the slit in the lid where you pull the wand in and out, but my daughter hasn't spilled the first half of the bottle (like she routinely does with new bubbles). And sure we have had a few spills when my 20 month old twins go crazy with it, but it's still much cleaner than the regular container.

The bubbles can be stored with the no-spill lid on. The wand snaps onto the appendage sticking out from the lid. (Directions say not to store bubble wand in lid.) This is totally worth the $2. I don't say that very often.Align Center