Saturday, March 31, 2007

My house is almost sorta clean

We had a babysitter (SIL) on Friday night, so my house is almost clean. Sadly, on the way out of the house I wondered if it would be wrong to go back home, keep SIL there to watch the children, and just go to bed.

Don't know why, but this last week has really thrown me into a funk. Work has been brutal. I'm training, so I have had to go in early. The kids have both had colds and Meimei's been back in my bed three times. Kitten was Meltdown Sally today and couldn't keep it together for more than 20-30 minutes at a stretch. I have to train all next week again and the stuff I'm training is completely half-baked, but I don't have time to make it better.

I have been so on the edge today, I didn't really know how I was going to get to the end. We can't take the kids outside because it rains all day. I think we're going to IKEA tomorrow, consequences be damned. I need some retail therapy.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Kitten and Meimei are both teething something fierce and Kitten's getting a cold. Or her teeth are so bad it's making her nose run and the drool is gagging her and making her cough.

The warm weekend made me long for gardening and spending the days outside. Kitten loves it. I think we'll be spending a lot of time out there this summer. Can't wait to get out of the house. Of course, now it's going to rain the rest of the week. Hmm.

Yeah, can't care about the delicate little grass, either. I'm stomping it if it means I get to spend some time in the sun.

Got my haircut. It's a bit shorter than I intended. Shorter than the last time I whacked it off. So if I slick it forward like the Mia Farrow thing, I just end up looking like Ross from Friends. I'm spiking it up instead, but now I look like a 12-year-old boy. I figure it will be long enough in a week or two to be over this weird Peter Pan boy-look stage, but we'll see.

Found a patio set for the deck. Pants said yes as soon as he heard the price. Go IKEA! I like the idea of the bench on one side for the kids.

Pants and I walked the house this weekend while the kids napped and worked on the list of stuff we want to get done. My list for this year:
  • Our bedroom. I think with $400 and a weekend, I could make an awesome vacation retreat in there. We never do our room, so it's kind of exciting.
  • Paint the front of the house. We know we can't afford the stone and siding in the front this year, but painting over what can only be described as ORANGE-BROWN, painting the garage doors and removing the weird wood stylized hinge cutouts, putting on new house numbers, and putting up some faux shutters (and removing the 70s plywood "artistic rendition" shutters) should actually do wonders for the look of the house. And because it's only the front, it should just take a weekend or two.
And that's it for this year. That's not so bad, right? Oh, and some of the landscaping in the front.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

How I spend my free time

  • The fifth Stephanie Plum book - she's currently living with a Little Person FTA and Ranger's getting a bit frisky. And her dad reminds me of Kashka's.
  • People Magazine. Damn Cub, they didn't have the new one this evening.
  • Taxes - working a tougher case, but almost done.
  • Obsession over the state of our money, but not nearly as much as Pants.
  • Thinking that one day, one glorious day, we will actually be able to make a real dinner again instead of slapping something together because both children are crying.
  • Picking out a patio table and chairs set from IKEA. Pants immediately said yes just from the price.
  • Wondering if I should take a landscaping class or if I should just wing it. Wondering how I would go about measuring my lawn so I can lay out a plan.
  • Wondering why the cat is howling at me today.
  • Planning what I would like to do with my bathroom remodel when I finally, actually, get to do it. Which will most likely be done before the kitchen. And hopefully next year, but probably not.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Random Thoughts

Kitten's vocabulary:
Hey! What are you doing?
Go get the mail.
Too funny.
I careful.
I fall.

And counting. She's counting with Sesame Street and anticipating the next number.

Kitten thinks getting the mail involves running down to the end of the driveway and stomping in the water running through the gutter from the melting snow. I don't think she thinks it has anything to do with the actual act of getting the mail.

Why the hell am I still up? Oh yeah, this is the only time I get to myself in day.

So, Meimei's been sleeping on her own for a full week. Oddly, I am now sleeping worse than I did with her in bed. In fact, when I was sleeping with her, I actually was sleeping really well. Weird. This is wrong.

Oh, and I know all of you might have thought Meimei was sleeping on her own for awhile, because my last post about it indicated she was and that it was really easy, but I just didn't tell you about the immediate backslide because it sucked and I had already gloated, so it was like a cosmic smackdown. Pride goeth before the fall. Or, just when you think you have me figured out, mother, I will defy you.

My sentences are too long.

I have now read through the first 4 of the Stephanie Plum novels (in the same number of weeks) and I have been jonesing for the fifth for about 6 days. But Target was out of that particular novel last week. Ack!

I am seeing how long I can wait before I go out and buy People this week. I usually have it on Thursday. Again, jonesing. But I'm sure tomorrow will be D-Day.

A Very Special Family Ties

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, Jennifer ditched her real friend to hang out with the popular kids, and Mallory helped her get all dressed up and crimp her hair just right (with the top, off-center ponytail).

Sadly, this coincided with my mother and brother's efforts to get me to try to be popular. "You're just as good as they are, you should just go sit at their table at lunch. Just go sit with them, you'll never know until you try." But I did know. I knew how the high school caste system worked and it wasn't in my favor.

I can give you some spiel about how I knew who I was and wanted to be more "real", and on some levels that was true, but there were certainly days when I really did want to be popular. Like the day in 7th grade when I naively asked the cutest boy in school to go to the homecoming dance with me and he said, "Sure," and I thought for several hours that day that I was going to the dance with him because my sarcasm meter wasn't real fine-tuned yet. Only to be mocked in the lockerroom after gym class. Tragic, I know.

This is how I initially uncovered the knowledge that, once you are in a social group in high school, you can make lateral and downward moves, but rarely does anyone ever move up to Popular.

At the end of the episode, Jennifer realizes that the popular girls are really fake and her real friend is who she wanted to be with all along. Which apparently escaped my mom, somehow. Even though all of these episodes end this way (13 Going on 30, anyone?). Hmmmm.

And of course, there were those times that I was glad not to be popular. Like in 9th grade one of the popular girls was announcing in the lockerroom that she was afraid she was pregnant. Nonissue for me. (By the way, said girl later went to Denmark the year after graduation and was sent home. Early. She was EVICTED from the country. Yeah, I want to be her.) And the time when another popular girl asked in class one day why all the guys she dated thought it was really funny to fart and burp at her and how none of them really acted liked they cared, they were all just children. This is one of the perks of dating dorks - at least they try. They hold the door, they save their more base bodily functions for when they are in the car alone. Apparently, popular boys did not have to try so hard.

So I wasn't popular. I was a band geek. A theatre dork. A know-it-all nerd that answered too many questions in English class. Despite the urgings of people who shall remain nameless. Unless you want to refer back a couple of paragraphs. Sorry Mom. But in the end, I was who I was. I didn't pretend to be anyone else. I mean, I probably tried, but it never worked. I always ended up being the same person.

So what made those other girls popular? Family history? Some of them were from the "prominent" families in Monticello. Can you be a legacy, like in a sorority? Was it that they were more social? Like extroversion automatically makes you popular? Were they just pretty? Cause I didn't look so bad in high school, but I was probably already pigeon-holed by the time I outgrew my awkward phase (see social movement rule above). They certainly weren't more together. And some were smart, but many weren't, or at least didn't want anyone to think they were. Was it confidence?

So, who were you? And if you know what makes people popular in high school, I'm actually genuinely interested and will promise not to mock you.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Does anyone care about customer service anymore?

I struggle to come up with direction for my woebegotten little website. So I come up with labels and other items, but often, after reading everyone else's blogs, which I always do first, I forget what I was going to write about and I just tell you all what's happening with the kids. It's a direction, but it's audience is limited.

But here is my new passion - customer service. One of my goals this year is to create a complete customer service training package (reps and managers) and website with continuation training, etc. etc. And here's what I am now noticing - customer service really sucks in this country.

So here's a new direction. I'm going to rant to all of you about poor, and hopefully some good, customer service experiences. Names and all. And if I can help one bored service worker be just a little nicer to the next person, WHO MIGHT BE ME, I will have done my job.

So here goes.

Sunday, we got MIL to come sit with the children while we went to see 300 at the IMAX. Movie criticisms aside, if you're going to see a movie at the IMAX, this is the one to see. It's visually quite beautiful if you can get past all the blood and killing.

Anyway. We got advance tickets to the IMAX in St. Michael, the new CineMagic. VERY nice theatre, and they have a bar. And you know how often I get a sitter, so we went straight to the bar on the second floor and got mixed drinks. They only had one bartender, though, for a sold-out movie that was attended by men about 10-1 over women - big mistake. But this isn't my problem. I'm just saying, bar is to theatre as lightbulb is to home inventions. Brilliance.

After my drink, we still have about 14 minutes before the movie starts, so Pants goes back to the bar and I go downstairs to get an ICEE. I wait in line about 10 minutes, which I know I am in for because the movie is sold out, they have at least 10 other screens, yada yada. Not great, but I get it. I get up to the front and make my order to the teenager behind the counter, and I mistakenly order food because I haven't eaten yet today. The boy comes back a minute later and tells me they don't have mini doughnuts (something about the machine being broken?) and ask if I just want a refund.

Now, this is mistake #1. He could easily sell me something else, but he offers to give me money back. Not a service issue, but dumb for the company. Keep my money dude as long as you can.

Mistake #2. The kid then asks the man behind me (and his friend) to wait while he tries to get a manager to do the refund. It's stupid that he can't do it himself (to all the retail managers out there, figure out another way), but to ask the guy to wait? He's obviously not as forgiving as I am about the line and he's already pissed that his movie (MY MOVIE) starts in 2 minutes. He waits about 90 seconds before he angrily asks how much a soda is so he can just pay and leave and the kid can ring it up later. But the kid rings it up like there is really no problem at all. Nice cover, kid. He is then so nervous he forgets a dollar of the guy's change and just gives him the coins. So now the guy is angry, not just annoyed, his friend gets out of line completely (lost sale), and he harrasses the kid to give him a dollar out of the next guy's money before he even gets it near the cash drawer. Something about a "black hole".

Mistake #3. The manager, another very young kid (girl, maybe 20), is running around trying to get everyone change because their registers are low. The kid asks for his change and, as an afterthought, says he needs a refund. She says, no lie, "I don't have time for that right now." I'M STILL STANDING RIGHT HERE. Boy, do I feel like a special customer. I'm still not saying anything because my food isn't out yet, so I have to wait anyway. But I watch the manager come and go two more times and not only do I not get a refund, Junior doesn't mention it again. I guess he should have made everyone else wait so he didn't forget.

Mistake #4. When my food is brought out, I still haven't received a cup for my drink. So, admittedly sounding very snotty at this point, I ask the little food girl for a cup for my drink. She looks just a bit scared, goes and gets the cup, and starts to make excuses as to why she couldn't have known that I needed a cup. Don't take it personally, babe, just take it for the company. In the end, she didn't even apologize, just got defensive and started making excuses. This was a prime opportunity to win me back over by saying something like, "I'm sorry." Or, "I'll get that for you right away. Is there anything else I can do?" But no, she was more interested in herself than me.

Mistake #5. So now I have my food. I have my drink. But I still have no refund. After about another minute or so, Junior looks at me and asks (I kid you not), "Are you STILL waiting for your refund?" When I say yes through gritted teeth, he says, "My manager keeps running off on me." Can you feel the empathy? Just close your eyes and feel the good vibes flowing from him to me. In a matter of another 90 seconds or so, he comes over and gives me the money, although I saw no manager come again. Hmmm.

I would love to complain, but I know I am already late for my movie. And even though I am told the movie started about 7 minutes late, I come in about 5 minutes into it. So the entire ordeal took more than 25 minutes.

So if anyone from St. Michael Cinemagic is reading this and would like to give me a free movie so I can have a better experience at their concession stand, please leave a comment. I paid a lot for the movie and the food and although your theatre is beautiful, I'm smuggling in treats next time. Your loss. Had any of you, at any time, tried to say something to win me back, this might have been a different story.

The truth is, people expect bad things to happen. People expect crappy service these days. It's only when everyone tries to pretend it isn't happening that you start to lose customers. If just one persons crosses that invisible canyon into human awareness instead of trying to maintain some idea of professional (read: chickenshit) demeanor, the whole situation could be saved.

Be human, people. If your friend were having a bad day, wouldn't you say, "Wow, that sucks." You can say that. It's okay.

Monday, March 05, 2007

My mommy never read to me

I don't remember my parents reading to me. I don't know how I got my love of books, probably because they didn't make fun of me [You, reading this book, you suck!]. But my parents didn't read to me. I just don't think it was done very much then.

I remember, though, maybe I had a sleepover at the girl's house, maybe I was just there really late, but I was at the girl-down-the-street's house and her mom read to us. We climbed up on her bed and she read us a chapter from The Hobbit. It made me want to read it and I started it a year or two later. I never forgot how exciting it was to be read to.

I read to Kitten as much as she wants, and she wants to do it quite a bit. It makes me pretty happy that she likes books and that they make books that are so good.

Tails Are Not for Pulling
Sometimes I Like to Curl Up in a Ball
I Love You Stinky Face

But I do remember this: I had more books than I could read as a kid. I had my mom's books from when she was little, books that included Treasure Island and compilations of stories like the Three Billy Goats Gruff. And she signed us up for a book-a-month club, or something like that, because I had a lot of books from the same company and I think they came in the mail. This is where I got my love of Encyclopedia Brown and Cam Jansen. We weren't rich, or even middle class at the time, and I don't know why she chose to spend the money on my books. She always let me pick books from the book ordering thing at school, too, and I got to read Bunnicula and The Celery Stalks at Midnight. As a tween, I got several of the (now defunct) Canby Hall series books.

My dad let me read his Hobbit and Trilogy, even though I lost one of his books. My mom would not let me read her book on demonic possession, but did let me obsess over the creepy pictures in The Lincoln Conspiracy.

Even though I wish I would have been read to, it clearly hasn't stunted my desire to read or learn. And although my parents didn't know to read to me, or weren't really interested, I had more books than most kids, even with our extremely limited funds.

So you can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Do I hear 5?

I think I'm getting another cold. And I think one or both girls are also coming down with it, on account of the sleeping and general crabbiness.

Meimei is teething, in her genial little way. She's turning over from her back now and really looks like she wants to crawl. She's going to be mobile much sooner than Kitten was.

Kitten got to try out the naughty stool today. Twice. This is why I believe she is getting ill, this and the general tiredness she has been showing the last two days. She's been exhausted. Which just makes her more mischievious. I caught her pouring water out of her cup onto the floor.

On the other hand, I took Kitten's diaper off tonight, asked her not to go potty, and she went straight into the kitchen and did a little dance in front of the stove. When I asked what she was doing, she told me "potty". So I guess it's clear now that she knows what I am talking about when we discuss potty. Time to get a potty chair.

Anyone have an opinion on potty chairs as opposed to the rings you put on top of your regular toilet?