Friday, January 29, 2010

Sales Pitches Suck

My husband let a vacuum cleaner salesman into our house last night.
I’ll give him credit for not realizing that these people were selling vacuums.  Their ploy was to offer a free one-room carpet cleaning, and I assumed (as I think my husband did) that they were selling either maid service or carpet-cleaning services.  I think the agreement was for them to clean our stairs (as our dining room is not in need of it, and the rest of the main level lacks carpet), and I’m not entirely sure whether they did that or not.
The whole experience was funny.  They had some kind of bait-and-switch tactic with the sales people, as the first door-knockers were female and it was a male salesman who then moved in for the kill.  A talkative male salesman who was really hard to shut up.  He set up shop in our front room (the dining room with “formal” sitting area) and soon had our oversized coffee table covered in little round filters showing various puffs of dirt that their miraculous vacuum had extracted from our floor.  And of course, he had my husband bring out our current vaccum for comparison.
Trystan, my pint-sized vacuum-obsessed engineer, was fascinated by the whole show.  Had the Wonder Pets arrived in their flyboat, he would not have left the scene of the demonstration.  No, we didn’t buy a vacuum.  Are you kidding?  Their so-called list price was over $3,000.  Yes I meant every one of those zeros.  Their so called offer prices (and there were 4 of them, depending on your payment method) were all over $1,000.  That was the funny part.
I am not a fan of salespeople.  I like to evaluate purchases by my own criteria—usually some mix of need, aesthetic qualities, functionality, and price.  Having someone talk for an hour straight attempting to push every emotional button while performing sleight-of-hand does not sway me.  It annoys me.
Some of my “favorite” sales techniques from last night:
  1. The fact that their vacuum could always suck up a tiny bit more fuzz and dirt out of our carpet, even after using our vacuum.  Clearly our vacuum is crap. 
  1. Funny, he wasn’t cleaning out and testing our vacuum repeatedly to see if it stopped extracting fuzz at some point.  He just asserted that if his worked then our must have stopped.  Hmmm…did we mention that we’re engineers?
  2. Our carpet is nearly 10 years old. And cheap.  And l don’t actually trust our builder to have thoroughly cleaned our subfloor before installing the carpet and pad. I’d be shocked if a vacuum failed to find dirt and lint and carpet fibers and disintegrating pad flakes.
  1. If anyone in the house has allergies, you have to buy this vacuum.
  1. If our allergies are that severe, we nix the carpet, not the vacuum.  You catch a lot more dander with a mop any day.  And I can lay a lot of laminate for $3000.
  1. The only way to buy the super-duper vacuum is when someone knocks on your door and covers your living room with tiny filter circles demonstrating just how many dead skin cells you can shed.
  1. Are you telling me that if I call your company and say “I’m willing to part with a few grand” that you won’t have a salesman at my door in minute?
  2. If that’s true, then your fancy sucky device is a total, utter rip-off and you know it.
  1. All those same-branded vacuums you just found for sale on line are stolen. 
  1. Even the ones in your company’s online store?  Weird.
  1. You can either buy a Chevy Cobalt  or a Mercedes, your choice
  1. Um, for that price I probably could buy a Chevy Cobalt.  Or at least pay a maid for a year to come vacuum my carpets for me.  And seriously, if I’m not the one cleaning out the bag/filter/whatever the heck kind of parts, why would I care?  I don’t intend to eat off of my carpet, and my toes aren’t offended by a little dust.
  2. The guy never asked what kind of car I drive.  A 7-year old Honda, not a shiny new Mercedes (or a Chevy for that matter).  I like dependable vehicles with a low total cost of ownership.  I’d probably still be driving my ’98 Honda if it weren’t for a little close encounter on the highway 7 years back.  And our existing vacuum already fills that role (1) its already bought and paid for and 2) there are no bags or filters to buy for it ever).
  3. A Mercedes is a status symbol.  I tend to hide my vacuum when company comes over, not go cruising in it.
  1. There was some anecdote about having to continually replace broken hammers, and how his father told him to just buy a good one.
  1. Yeah, you totally weren’t paying attention to the vacuum we already own.  6? years old.  Going strong.  No bags or filters to buy for it ever.  My hammer’s not broken.                 
So, vacuum man, thanks for the show. You kept the kids entertained. Do you sing?  They really like songs.  Next time you come by, I’ll have you demonstrate in the basement.  I bet dead pillbugs would look cool on those little filters of yours.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Teachable Moments

Sunday I took Charlotte with me to the grocery store.  I had scribbled down a short shopping list, and she insisted on acting as the keeper of the list.  That meant I had to translate my chicken scrawl for her.  Halfway through the grocery store, she told me, “Mommy, I can’t read what you wrote,” for the millionth time in twenty minutes.
I fought the initial urge to just take the list back and finish the job myself.  After all, the kid can read some words, but not a lot yet (“milk” was no problem for her, but “liquid dish soap” would have been hard even if I had spelled it all out). Instead, I decided to be a mother.  A (slightly) humbled one at that. 
I explained that I had written the note too fast, and hadn’t expected anyone else to try and read it.  And that if I had taken the time to write my words out nicely, then she would have a lot less trouble.  I then reminded her how we are always requesting that she take time in her writing, and that this was exactly the reason why. (Handwriting is not her strong suit because, like me, she prefers to scrawl the words down with little care for how nicely they’re formed).  She understood, at least a little.
“Mommy,” she told me, “I need to schedule some writing lessons for you.”

Monday, January 25, 2010

A week of single-motherhood

Last week, for the first time in over ten years, my husband had to travel for work.  He left on Monday and got home on Friday.  And, of course, something went wrong at home.  Not like burning embers or ambulance wrong. But we couldn’t just have a normal week.  Oh, no.  Never that.


Trystan got sick.  Not just a one-day feeling-a-little-off.  RSV.  My least favorite virus.  The one that takes a kid down for a week at a time with fever and leaves them coughing for a month.  He started just coughing on Sunday into Monday, and at first I hoped it would be no big deal.  After all, Char was off Monday for MLK day, so I was already taking a day off to be home with the kids.


Monday night, he ran the fever.  After two unsuccessful attempts at getting him to sleep in his own bed, I brought him into mine, and I was kicked and climbed on pretty much all night.  No daycare for him on Tuesday.  I dosed him with ibuprofen and stuck him in the car to drive Char to school.  The ibuprofen helped a lot.  Trystan and I then spent two hours at the doctors office (plus a 35 minute drive on either side of it), because they were running behind.  RSV tests require a q-tip up the nose, which Trystan did not appreciate in the least.  And both of his ears were infected as well.  He was, of course, sound asleep when we got home, which gave me just enough time to put air in one of the tires on the Highlander (the darned thing had been giving me tire pressure warnings all morning—think we have a leak), and then stuff him back into the car to go pick Charlotte up from school.


Tuesday night, Charlotte had dance class. Parents have to wait in the building while the girls are in class, so Trystan got to come along. Luckily for the other few children in the lobby, he pretty much wanted to snuggle.  And peek in the window to watch his sister.  And snuggle more.  Char decided to freak out about the class at first and tried to refuse to go.  When she finally calmed down, she realized that she knew several of the girls from other sessions, and ended up having a grand time.  Schedule changes and having Trystan sick and Daddy out of town are not good for her.


My in-laws came and sat with Trystan on Wednesday, thank goodness.  I really needed to get work done at work, and I’d postponed some meetings and reviews for my team already.  And, luckily, it was a longer day because Char has after-school piano lessons that day. So I got about eight hours in.  It would have been less than seven with me doing the normal drop-off/pick-up routine myself.


Thursday was the annoying day of his illness.  He was still feverish Wednesday night, so it wasn’t worth chancing taking him to school.  So I took yet another day off, and he was an absolute toddler terror.  He had high energy right up until lunch time when he crashed hard and I later had to put him, still sleeping, in the car to pick up his sister at 3.  He was fever-free all day. Of course.


Friday was “normal”.  Everyone left the house. I worked. The kids schooled. We picked my husband up from the airport around dinner time.


This weekend was about trying to catch up on life, although the house didn’t fall too far behind.  I had plenty of time for laundry and dishes all week. What I didn’t get was any quiet time for myself.  Even after getting the kids to bed every night, I was up packing lunches and starting the dishwasher, and setting out clothes so that we could get moving on time the next morning.  I missed my weekly writer’s group night, and skipped my aerobics class on Thursday (I might have worked out earlier in the day, but Trystan took that marathon nap).


I think on a truly “normal” week, my husband’s business trip would not have been a big deal.  Keep me from sleeping a couple of nights in a row, withhold exercise and adult conversation, and super-glue a fussy toddler to my hip, and I start getting pretty cranky.  I am glad that I’m not in this parenting-gig alone.  I think I’d go batty without my husband around.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

What do you do with a not-so-sick sick toddler?

What do you do with a not-so-sick sick toddler?

Take him to the grocery store. Buy him a donut and a new Thomas the Train book. Play choo-choos, race cars, blocks, puzzles, cooking, magnetos, and watch too much Max and Ruby. Then give him fruit snacks and feel serious mom-guilt about it when he falls asleep thirty minutes later having refused an actual lunch. The donut wasn't much of a factor in the lunch embargo--he had only nibbled some of the icing off a few hours earlier.

This is the hard day of a multi-day illness. The one where the fever is probably gone, but its still within the 24-hour window where you're not supposed to dose them with motrin and send them to daycare (I was sorely tempted...). He's too sick for school, too well to sit still. And too two to be reasonable about simple demands (such as not bouncing on the couch, not climbing on mommy when she attempts to do pushups, and to just pick one of the three identical yogurt cups and move on with life).

I'd actually rather be at work right now than sitting on my couch surfing the web while he sleeps. I can't count on how long of a nap Trystan will take (Yesterday, for his grandma & grandpa, 4 hours. Tuesday for me, 30 minutes). So any task more complicated than laundry isn't feasible. Murphy's law (or is it Scott's Law of Luck? Or just Mom to the Terrible Two's) states that as soon as I become productive or interested in something, he shall arise to terrorize the house. But if I'm a couch potato, I'll have to carry him to the car still snoring when its time to pick his sister up from school.

Ah well, I bought myself a Cosmo at the grocery store this morning (magazines are expensive these days)...haven't read one in years. And now I feel old. Really old. I'm going to start clucking my tongue and shaking my finger at all of the twenty-one year olds who believe any of this crap. Speaking of which, why am I still typing? I'm only halfway through the issue...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Do you Sudoku?

I do. And Charlotte does too, after a fashion.
Monday afternoon, while her brother slept, and Charlotte was working on a craft project, I sat down to do the Sudoku from the morning paper.  I like these little puzzles and kept a calendar of them at work this last year.  Once you learn the pattern of solving them, they go pretty fast (unless you get ahead of yourself and mix up a few numbers early on, ahem).  Charlotte was immediately interested in what I was doing.
I showed her how the puzzle worked, and explained that you can’t repeat a number in any row, column, or small box.  She wanted to try.  She was serious.  So I though I’d start her off with a fairly simple one.  3x3, not 9x9.  I grabbed some paper, drew up a key, filled in about half the boxes on a grid, and handed it over.  I thought I’d have a couple of minutes to work out a few more digits in my own puzzle.  Um, no.  She finished it before I remembered whether I was already checking rows or columns.  She demanded more.  I made a second 3x3 puzzle.  Again, finished in the first try, about 60 seconds flat (she’s not very fast at handwriting).
So I sat down to make a 4x4 puzzle.  These are a tad harder to hand-generate, btw.  But once I had a working key, I realized that if you divide the 4x4 grid into 4 2x2 boxes, then the numbers don’t repeat within the boxes.  Cool.  Like a 9x9 (And I suppose it would also work out neatly in a 16x16 grid…hex-Sudoku here I come…).
That puzzle took her more time, and she actually had to do some re-factoring and re-thinking, and we erased the entire grid once for her to start fresh.  But she solved it, with the exception of one solitary number.  Then she asked for more.  At that point, I deferred her to later, since she was also getting a little too frustrated (and refused to switch the one incorrect number, even though she knew what the right answer was). 
Charlotte is, perhaps unsurprisingly, fast at picking up on mathematical and logical problems.  She is all-around bright, really, though handwriting is hard for her (also unsurprisingly, as anyone who’s ever seen my handwriting could agree).  But I am always making up numbers-type problems for her at home—demonstrating slicing a pizza and asking her to figure out how many slices we can all have, or how many we’d get if we sliced more times, how many cookies are left if everyone eats one, If we have 3 rows with 4 cupcakes each, how many are there.  Math and cooking go together, though she’s becoming more and more interested in problems involving money right now…
This is one area that I think her pre-school all but skipped.  Their idea of math was to teach the kids to count to 20. But in Kindergarten, she’s getting a well-constructed study of math and logic designed to challenge kids, in a school that prides itself on being “academically rigorous”.  And she’s keeping up and helping out her friends.
And to think, according to the state of Missouri, Charlotte is not yet ready for school.  Huh.  Guess I need to write a little Sudoku generator tool.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Not so resolute.

Happy New Year? What? I'm late? Yeah, well, what else is new.

You're wondering where my resolutions are, where my 2009 wrap up is, right? No? Oh, yeah, well I got tired of reading those too.

I am not a big resolution-maker. I do set goals, but I don't like to fail. So I keep my goals to myself usually so I don't have to admit what I did or didn't fail on. Yep, I'm a coward and darned proud of it.

Last year I did meet one goal that I've had on my private list for, say 15 years. I lost a little weight. About 10 pounds (I can claim more depending on where I mark my starting point and my ending point). I'm wearing single-digit sizes for the first time since early college, and thrilled about it. And the Wii has quit telling me that I should set goals to reach my "ideal" weight. Because I'm already there.

So there. My 2009 wrap-up.

My goals for 2010: um, don't gain the weight back. And a few other things here and there, some that are more wish than goal, and none of which I care to share right this moment.

Oh yes, and this half-a$$ post serves 2 purposes: 1) to admit how lazy I can be about resolutions and 2) to test an attempt at cross-posting blog/twitter/facebook. We'll see how this goes.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

3 posts in 1, because I don't feel like splitting it up

Sunday, our grocery store hit a new low (or maybe it’s a new high) in food-sampling. They were handing out samples of Coffee and Cream flavored Kahlua. Mmmm. Lucky for me 1) the samples were very small (maybe a tablespoon of liquor plus crushed ice) and 2) I passed the table on the way in, not the way out. Yes, I bought some (it was quite effective marketing). And its too bad I was shopping by myself or I could have stopped back through for another sample or 3 and let my husband steer the cart…

Trystan has been asking to use the potty more and more. It’s a good thing, except for a few small snafus. 1) He likes to stand up. That’s great, for a boy, except our toilet seats (that have a built-in toddler-sized seat) won’t stay up and he doesn’t care to hold it up while he pees. Nor does he aim. 2) He thinks tinkling all over the seat and/or floor is funny. He’s a boy. And he’s 2.

He also likes to change clothes. Some of it is his newfound expertise with dressing himself. He can do many shirts and pull-on pants all by himself. And shoes (but not yet socks). And he knows how to strip.

Last night, after he had already been dressed in his first pair of jammies (a tad early as a result of peeing all over his jeans, and laughing about it), I found him buck naked at the top of the stairs, holding a pair of Elmo underwear. “No yuckies on Elmo”, he told me. I went ahead and helped him into them (underwear are harder to pull up than sweatpants), and he then donned a different set of jammies (fleece this time, with feet. He did the big zipper all by himself). We made sure he went potty before bed, and verified that he had a waterproof mattress pad on his bed. He made it about 3.5 hours before wetting himself (and getting sent back to clean sheets wearing a third set of jammies plus a pull-up). Still, it’s a start, and he’s the one driving it. If he wants to start wearing “big boys”, I’ll happily send several extra outfits to daycare every day and save myself the cost of buying more pull-ups (though the money’s probably a “wash” compared to the extra water and detergent for the laundry).

Last night’s dinner: Panini with bacon, swiss, and sautéed mushrooms (and salad). Want a lighter version? Don’t butter the bread, and hit the gym first. Works for me. The great part about that dinner was the bacon grease. I turned around and sautéed the onions and mushrooms for today’s crockpot dinner in it. (I never claimed to be cooking low-cholesterol, btw). If I’d had an un-cut pork roast to brown, I would have done that in the drippings also, but I used chops, and figured that if I pre-browned them, they’d be total mush by the time we get home tonight (they might be anyway after 9 hours of slow cooking). Besides, the longer I waited to make those Panini, the less bacon was going to be inside each one…

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

The newest member of our family

Meet Charlie. He's a male betta of unknown age. And he lives in my daughter's room.

Charlotte asked Santa for a fish. We tried to explain why Santa probably would not bring her a fish--it would freeze on the sleigh! I think she mostly understood. Our objection to the request was more about practicality than about having a fish in the house. There was no way for us to buy and set up a fish tank, get the water ready, and the fish prepared, all in time for Christmas eve. Without Charlotte finding it. And I was afraid to have Santa provide a present with such a short life expectancy.

So, instead, my mom brought the fish tank with her when she came to visit. One of my sisters originally offered an unused one of hers, but was unable to access the storage place over the holidays to retrieve it (thanks, though!). Mom found a Little Mermaid one, which is perfect.

We set up the water, and picked out a fish for it before Mom left for home last weekend. Charlotte picked the name. She is thrilled with the fish. For the first five hours or so, she gave us minute-by-minute reports on what he was doing, whether he was eating, and whether he was smiling at her.

We thought a betta would be the least trouble, though we did have to buy a heater for the tank. They apparently prefer their water at least 75 degrees, and we keep our house around 65 during the week in winter. Charlie basically hid next to the Ariel statue and the filter for the first two days before we warmed up his tank. I think he likes it toasty in there.

Charlie has been moved once, too. Originally we had him on Charlotte's dresser. But that had to change when I found Trystan, with wet sleeves, threading a necklace into the tank. Charlie is now on a higher bookshelf, where Charlotte can still see her little friend.

Charlotte is still asking about getting a pet cat or puppy occaisionally. For now, I'm happy with a fish. Less potty training to deal with.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Kristi: 0 Netti Pot: 3

I have always dealt with allergies.  As a kid, my parents called it hay fever and I have tried a variety of medications over the years (most of them make me sleepy—including/especially the non-drowsy stuff—don’t bother offering suggestions, I’m not interested in attempting driving and work in a drug-induced haze.  I buy Kleenex instead.).  And, having produced two miniature germ factories over the past 5.5 years, I’m now getting more colds than ever before.  And the occasional ear infection and strep.  I love my children.
My husband started using a netti pot a couple of months ago to aid with persistent sinus issues of his own.  I’ve been intrigued but skeptical and have watched his experience with interest.  Over Christmas, I decided to give it a try.  Pour warm saltwater through your brain. Can’t hurt, right?  Well, maybe wrong.
First of all, it seems to take quite a long time to get the water actually flowing back out of my head.  I gather this is normal.  But in the mean time, I feel like I’m jumping into deep end of the pool without plugging my nose.  And my head feels like it’s going to explode. Think intense sinus headache, self-induced. On my very first attempt, one of my ears began popping, so I quickly switched sides.  The second attempt wasn’t so much painful as it was uneventful.  I spent a long time feeding water into my head.  And very little came back out.
Last night I tried again.  There was no instant ear-popping, but I definitely put pressure on my inner ear again.  And I don’t think that much of the water I poured in came out my nose (I can’t be doing it completely wrong, because water did come out correctly).  I think (Gross-Out Alert) that I swallowed most of it in my sleep later.  Except for some which just hung out around my ears all night.  That is not fun, by the way.  Not only am I jumping into the deep end of the pool, but I’m doing it with swimmer’s ear.
I have some interesting options at this point.  One, give up.  Two, keep at it and hope that eventually, all that warm saline will chip away at 32.8 years worth of collected gunk.  Three, go see a doctor and/or ENT and make sure there’s nothing else wrong.  Besides the allergies, colds, strep (did I mention that my daughter sucks her finger? And has huge tonsils?), and sinuses so enlarged that my dentist comments on them every time I get an X-ray, that is.