Monday, November 9, 2009

Kids say the darnedest things

I am not, repeat, NOT a mommy blogger. But I do like to blog and I am a mommy. So here we are. My little guy is such a HUGE part of my world that it's amazing I haven't posted about him before. Well, I guess if you read between the lines with that last post about opening a macaroni and cheese box, you might have guessed there was a child involved.

Now I know that every mother is just so proud and "my little Jimmy is just so smart." So I won't bore you with my bragging, because my guy IS so smart (see his nerd shot wearing my glasses). But one thing that is an absolute fact is that he is a very verbal child. From the moment he learned to form words with his mouth, he hasn't shut it. He talks, he sings, he babbles, he yells. He is a storyteller, an exaggerator, an actor and funnyman. He is dramatic, moody, and, dare I say, manipulative.

His words can melt your heart especially when he insists on holding my hand so I won't be afraid of spiders. Or rubbing my head after I've stubbed my toe again saying "it's okay, Mommy, it's okay." And his words can drive you absolutely batty. But one thing that can't be denied is watching your little one master the art of language, including all the idioms and expressions is just downright hilarious.

I've tried to capture and remember just some of the best that I've heard lately.

As I was getting him dressed after bathtime, he said "Mommy, be careful of my drumstick." I'm thinking, hmmmm, is that new terminology that my husband uses for know? I ask him where his drumstick is and he points to his ears. Oh! I have to be careful with the Q-tip so I don't hurt his eardrum. I still like calling it a drumstick.

He's reached the brilliant age of reading numbers. Now the speed limit sign takes on a whole new meaning. Because he learned 45 MPH first, he thinks that all speed limits are 45 (yes, he says forty-five). I try to explain that we can drive faster on the highway because the speed limit is 65 MPH.  As we were driving through a residential area, he spotted yet another speed limit sign and announced "Mommy, the speed limit is two-ty five (25)." Afterwards, I thought, yeah it should be called two-ty. Who ever came up with twenty? See, he's smarter than those English language inventorors. Thank goodness he doesn't know how to read my speedometer.

He is also very interested in his body and how things work inside. He was a great comfort when I got my flu shot. Held my hand, kissed my boo-boo. But I guess the concept of thinking about, let alone understanding, all of the stuff going on in our bodies can be overwhelming. Take the example of a simple itch. What causes it? We can't see it.  So the logical question for my son, and it's a good one, is "there's an itch and I can't get it off. Can this not come off?" No, son. But maybe you can grow up and invent a way to remove an itch. That would be awesome.

And what list of the cutest little sayings would be complete without at least one embarrassing statement. As we walk through stores and malls now, he is much more interested in the people around him. In fact, he comments on every biker that rides past our house about whether or not they are wearing their helmet. I may have future law enforcement on my hands here. But what came out of the blue a few weeks ago at Macy's was a comment he made when a patron of the store walked by. It was an older African-American woman. Now thank goodness he has never really picked up on skin color differences but he did notice her hair was different. She was mostly gray with a very natural looking afro. I knew this because I looked right at her after he said "Mommy, look at that lady with the crazy hat." If she heard, and I don't think she did, she just kept on walking. Good choice.

Believe it or not, I look forward to many more confusing phrases and expressions and even embarrassing comments. It really gives me perspective as to how a preschooler views the world. Now excuse me, while I go take care of his request for a "valentine halloween thanksgiving thing for Daddy."

Monday, October 26, 2009

The bane of my existence

Okay. Pardon the interruption but I'm going to spend some time going a little "Seinfeld". If you are reading this, then I know that you, too, watched one of the most popular sitcoms of all time. And as you may recall, said sitcom was founded on the premise of nothing. Yes, the nothingness that makes up our daily lives. Nothingness in all its glory.

And while there are big, heavy, deep topics ever brewing in my head, it's nice to take a little detour to nothingness once in a while and talk about the little things. I don't mean the little things that make you smile and pause and appreciate life. I mean the little things that abso-frickin-lutely annoy the crap out of you. Well, the things that annoy the crap out of ME, anyway.

So here is the bane of my existence summarized in 4 words "To Open Push Here". You know exactly what I'm talking about. Pretty much every cardboard box of processed food at the grocery store has the same idea. I mean, really, it's 2009. Can't we find a more high-tech way to open boxes?

I'll tell you why I have this request. To put it very simply, ummm, have you ever tried to open a box of macaroni and cheese by delicately pushing in the pseudo-perforated semi-circle on the side? I will crush the entire side of the box in before I make any progress in "pushing" the box open. Perhaps the issue is mine. I've always assumed that when I read those instructions, they were referring to my finger actually doing the pushing. I'm quite sure a hammer and chisel would work. Or a Slim Jim. Or an ice pick. Or ANYTHING OTHER THAN MY FINGER.

Anyone have a cat? Ever see those simple instructions on the side of the cat litter box? If the folks at the food plant think they are toying with us with their packaging, the people at the cat litter factory are just downright cruel. "Push in and pull back" the box gently commands. Oh, just tap, tap, tap here and your box will magically open. Well, if it takes an ice pick to open a macaroni and cheese box, think pick ax for a cat litter box.

In all seriousness, it is the most ridiculous form of packaging in existence (correct me if I'm wrong). I actually don't even attempt it anymore. I either take a sharp knife and stab the end open a couple of times or take my chances with my fingernails and slowly pry the glued flaps open. Either way, the result is the same.

In summary, here is a general plea to all package producers out there and I think I speak for all/most of America. I ask that you rethink your packaging. The box is fine. I actually recycle my boxes now too. Just save your money: leave off the semi-circle, lighten up on the glue, and let me open it the old-fashioned way. This has been your moment of nothingness. Thank you.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Have I sold out already?

I'll just start off by saying - "how do you sell out on a blog?" If you've kept up with the news and have a vague interest in blogging, you may have heard the FTC latest ruling. In a nutshell, if you are getting paid to review a product and then blog about it, you MUST disclose that to your readers. Well, I only review stuff that I feel like reviewing. And if I get paid to do it, I'd be more than happy to share that with you. How cool is that? Free stuff, free opinions, and money on the side! Enter the complicated world of blogging.

So today, I've just discovered something new. If you are a blogger, get ready to roll your eyes and say "come ON." I've discovered blogging contests. I saw one that could win me a free Samsung fridge. What fascinates me, from a social media and marketing perspective, is the absolutely free promotion Samsung will get from this contest. The only blog requirements are that you share 3 tips for shortening the dinner preparation cycle. (They actually worded it to be more friendly to the mommy blogging world). So there is no mention of Samsung. Although you can tell from my writing, I've just naturally mentioned Samsung 3 times, um, make that 4.

As a follow-up, you have to tweet about it. And again, you don't have to endorse anything. You simply include the hashtag #SamsungAppliances. What's that? What's a hashtag? Just that little number symbol and the topic of interest. Think of it as a consistent filing system on Twitter so you can always find the information you need. Well, that you are interested in. Do we really need anything from Twitter? Anyway, Samsung will be all over the place because a bunch of bloggers want a free fridge.

Now here is my twist on it. I'm going to make my contest into your contest. I just bought a brand new refrigerator after Thanksgiving last year. And it's a nice one. It's a Kenmore Elite Stainless Steel 25.0 cu. ft. TRIO® Ice & Water Dispensing Bottom-Freezer Refrigerator ENERGY STAR®. Now that's a mouthful. I really like it. But I don't love it. The opening for the water filler on the door and relatively small and I can't fit all of my glasses in the opening. It's just annoying. Not annoying like - I've had it and I'm getting a new refrigerator. More like - I've had it and if I win a free refrigerator, I'll gladly GIVE MINE AWAY for someone else to enjoy and potentially get annoyed with.

So leave me a comment and if I win, so do you. Now on to the technicalities.

With Our Busy Schedules, What Are Your 3 Valid Tips for Getting Dinner Ready in a Flash?

1. Order out. I prefer delivery so I'm limited to Chinese, Thai, or lousy chain pizza. For pick-up, I go for pizza or calzones. And since I'm selling out, I'll put a plug in for my favorite pizza, Bella Italia.

2. Slow cooker. Seems logical, yet somehow I can't get this one to work for me. I have tons of slow cooker cookbooks but it seems like it so much work upfront to enjoy the satisfaction of a well-cooked meal. Plus I'm not really into big cuts of meat, which is what slow-cookers are for.

3. Plan ahead. This is a real tip. When I really feel like we never have anything to eat, I go through some cookbooks and find some recipes that look easy, will taste good, and don't take long to fix. Then I make a list of all of the ingredients I don't have in the house and buy them. THEN - and here's the trick - I make a list on the dry erase board in the kitchen with all of the recipe names I've picked out. Then, when I'm not ordering out, I know what I can possibly cook and not freak out when I have everything but ONE ingredient.

And that's it. I know. That was easy for me to enter and entertaining for you to read all at the same time. If you want to enter, I'll give you the link but I highly discourage it since it will reduce my chances of winning. And aren't you looking forward to my almost new discarded refrigerator?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

These are a few of my favorite things

How do you feel about those bad movies where some action hero picks up a can of soda only to have it strategically turned towards the camera so that every moviegoer can read "Pepsi?" Now I'm not picking on Pepsi, but let's face it, they are media whores. So while the next few paragraphs might seem like nicely written product placement, that's not what I'm here for. I just find a few things in life that I really enjoy and/or make me happy for a variety of different reasons. I'm here to tell you about them, paint a little picture of myself, and maybe you can share yours as well.

Let me just start with food and get that out of the way. I love food. A little too much. Somehow I manage to still keep a girlish figure (okay - a decent post-baby figure) but I do like to indulge. Where my food preferences are brand-specific, I'll let you know. Because that can make all the difference in the world.

I like to drink: Freixenet Sparkling Cava (pseudo-champagne that comes in the black bottle), oakey Chardonnay, a Caipirinha, a cup of homemade black tea (preferably English Breakfast) with a little milk and sweetener.

I LOVE to eat: Stouffer's Macaroni & Cheese (I believe this has been made by God, himself), brie, pasta (especially cool shapes), Sabra Classic Hummus (just as good as homemade), Taco Bell Mexican Pizza, McDonald's french fries (hey - I didn't say this was a healthy list), parmesan-crusted Tilapia from Costco that my husband cooks (just Google this one and you'll see how popular it is), fresh strawberries with homemade whipped cream, cakes, pies, cookies...Okay, I better stop now.

Notice something missing? If you are a woman, you did. Nothing even remotely chocolate-related made my list. I'm just not a fan. I'll eat it with something or on something but I've always had a strange relationship with chocolate. I love brownies and chocolate cake. I don't like chocolate ice cream, chocolate syrup, or a plain chocolate bar. Pack it full of stuff and I might eat it. Did you know Payday candy bar is made with chocolate? That's as close as I'd like to come.

But there is more to life than food. Yes, I've said it. There are other non-caloric things to indulge in. Here is the rest of my random list in no particular order: DKNY perfume (why did they stop making this?), my iPhone (only mine), Scramble (a highly addictive game on my phone), shopping at Marshall's, Origins Modern Friction, (a valuable resource for ANYTHING you might want), comfortable shoes (latest choices include Indigo by Clarks and MBTs), Tous handbags (too bad I can't afford any), my Nikon D80, Southwest Airlines, Body + Soul Magazine, and a really good book.

I've saved the best for last. I bet you thought I was nothing but a shallow drinking, eating, product-using writer. Not so, my friend, not so. There are also the intangibles in life that top my list of favorite things. My true favorite things? Hearing my son laugh. Having my husband call me on the way home to tell me to look outside at the beautiful sunset. Watching the trees that we planted 6 years ago flourish. My family - both immediate and extended.  Seeing my son show compassion towards animals. Taking a long hot bath. The smell when I open my linen closet. Knowing you have friends that truly care about you. And finally, swallowing that last sip of oakey Chardonnay and seeing my pup laying on the cold tile floor waiting for me to go to bed.

I know my list is a bit different than the one Julie Andrews sung about in The Sound of Music. But then again, I bet she never got to try Stouffer's Mac & Cheese. It's a fair trade-off.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

How I'm saving money in a down economy

I was speaking at a WITI conference this weekend on professional development. One of my fellow panelists make remark about how NPR had said that estimates for unemployed people in this country was around 1.4 million and then cracked "that's a lot of new blogs." I nervously laughed. Ummm. I DID get laid off in July. And I DID just start this blog. I know I'm a little behind the times but am I really that predictable? Well, I'm not trying to do anything innovative. I'm just enjoying a creative outlet.

Speaking of creative outlets, I've found a new way to reduce my spending and embrace my inner stylist. That's right. I do my own hair. Men - don't stop reading now. You just might appreciate your wife a little more after this.

After 3 1/2 years with my stylist, affectionately known as the Hair Nazi, I've decided to make a break for it. You see, we call him the Hair Nazi because he likes to have his way with your hair. You wouldn't tell a doctor how to care for you, would you? Why would you tell a hair professional what to do with your hair? That's HIS job. He picks the color. He picks the length. He picks the cut. You have a little say-so but he still holds veto power. So what would make me subject myself to this sort of abuse? He's good. Very good. My favorite story of his is how a woman came in after the holidays and desperately needed help fixing her daughter's pink hair. It was supposed to be temporary but 4 salons later she found out otherwise. So the Hair Nazi spent hours and ultimately restored her lush blond locks. His response to the mother's shock and awe? "Only two people can do this. Me and Jesus."

He's got all the confidence in the world. The color makes my hair so soft and the haircuts are always flattering. But I don't really want short, blondish type hair anymore. (See "before" photo at left). And I was paying $180 a visit. (Men, if your wife/girlfriend spends less than that, you cannot ever give them grief again). Granted, that included cut and color and a large tip. But when unemployment comes knocking on your door, you just might need to make some changes.

So 2 weeks after I was laid off, I went to the store and bought my first box of hair color in a long, long time. I even had to call the L'Oreal help line for assistance (they were great). I soon turned my hair into a rich chocolate brown. What a feeling of freedom! Not only could I start saving money but the hair oppression was gone! (See "the new me" at right).

In fact, I got so confident that I thought I could cut my own hair too! (See my inspiration below. Hmmm, come to think of it, maybe now I understand the problem.)

Ladies, if you aren't married, don't try this at home. You still have to hang onto your good looks. As for me? It's not horrible and probably unnoticeable to the untrained eye. But  the lesson learned is that hair grows back and some things are worth paying for, even when you're unemployed.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Why I can't live without my iPhone

Stop. This is not a shameless promotion for the iPhone. I'm not one of those "OMG, I hate PCs and Bill Gates must die" kind of people. In fact, we're a bit of a house divided. I have a PC and an iPhone. My husband has a Macbook and an iPhone. And we have a house computer that has an Apple on it. I couldn't really tell you what model it is. (I'm sure my Mac friends will roll their eyes here).

But I AM a big fan of the Apple iPhone and not for the reasons you would suspect. Yes, it's fun. In fact I call it my portable entertainment device. You'll never be bored again. Got time to kill? Whip out your phone and play a game, or count your calories, or find a restaurant, or check your email.

Aha! That's it. I have 3 email accounts set up on my phone. First, I check my personal email account. That's where all the good stuff comes in. Then I check my work email account. Sometimes good stuff but much more sporadic. Then I will even check our "house" account for something...anything. I don't even really know what that account is for. But if there is a message waiting, I'll check it.

When I've exhausted all of my email options, I can pull up the Facebook app. I will have already known if I have anything interesting on my wall because I would have gotten an email. But I might check anyway. Maybe someone gave me a thumbs up because they liked something I said or did. Or they liked a picture I posted. I get email notifications of comments but the "like" option is always a surprise. If there is nothing new in my world, I can go and snoop around on 179 of my closest friends. Or people I went to elementary school with a long, long time ago.

So now I'm done. Nothing new is going on. Nobody is calling. Nobody is emailing. Oh wait, let me check Twitter! There is always some random chit-chat going on. And if I'm lucky, I might just have a mention somewhere.

Okay. You are convinced that I'm some insanely insecure person. Call it codependent if you want - I need to be needed. But that's not really it. I think back to the good old days when we used to make important long distance calls and write letters. School kids connected with others through pen pals. For me, I had the daily excitement of going to the mailbox and hoping just MAYBE there would be a letter for me mixed in with all of my parents' bills. My iPhone brings back just a little bit of that excitement for me. The only difference now is I am much better at writing back.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Behind the Counter

So I'll admit it. I'm a big shopper. Online, in the store - it doesn't matter. I find shopping therapeutic and I'm pretty sure I've financed somebody's daughter's education with all of my purchases at TJ Maxx and Marshall's. Oh yeah, I'm a bargain shopper. In fact, it's a badge of honor for me to tell you how much something should have cost and then how much I actually paid for it. I think it's genetic (thanks, Mom).

When I met my husband, I was amazed at how much he loves to shop too. Now don't get me wrong. I think 2 hours in one of my favorite stores would drive him batty. But give him a warehouse club and he goes nuts. The good people of the local Costco know him by name. That's a little sad.

I have to admit I like Costco too. Besides having a nice variety of pretty good food, they just seem to be an all around good company. Good customer service, good to their employees. In fact, it's usually a pleasant shopping experience every time I go in there (as long as I'm not tempted to buy the $1 churro).

And I notice good customer service because it is a rarity these days. I don't go to my favorite stores because the cashiers are so gosh darn friendly. It's often the opposite. But I tolerate it and complain to myself. After all, they CHOSE this job, right? I mean, I worked retail in my younger day and I was always friendly and helpful. Or at least I tried to be.

Stay with me because here comes the important part. As I was walking through Costco last week, I overheard the guy at the Verizon Wireless booth on the phone to someone. He seemed to be having a casual conversation and mentioned how busy he had been. His part-time worker hadn't been in because her boyfriend had been killed in a car accident a few days prior.

I stopped in my tracks. I didn't know anyone involved in the story. But instantly I was given the reminder that there is a story for everyone behind the counter. At some point, this poor girl is going to have to come back to work and pretend to care about the cell phones she is selling. All the while, someone will probably be complaining because they don't want to pay for something extra.

Every person we come into contact with has a story. They may not tell you. You may not know. You probably won't even see it in their eyes. But there is a story there. Sometimes it's a good story and sometimes it isn't. Either way, it's a reminder that we're here to work with each other - not serve each other.

I'm reminded once again of a shopping experience from one of those favorite stores. I had a return and the only service I was getting from the service counter was attitude. I finally looked at the girl that was helping me and said "hey, I like your sweater." Her face lit up with a smile and she was as helpful as she could be. Hopefully I helped make her story that day a little better.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

What's my theme?

So I've decided to become one of "those" people. One of the 20 million or so bloggers (and growing) in the United States. Now, I used to think that blogs were for families sharing pictures of the kids, or for subject matter experts on a variety of business topics. I found that ANYONE can have a blog on ANY topic.

I was recently talking to a blogger friend of mine (Motherhood and Me) and told her how I was going to finally put my writing to some use. Her first question...what's your theme? Hmmmmmm. What's my theme? Well, I'm the theme. Isn't that okay? Can't I just write about whatever is on my mind? If I want to gain readership and make some money off this blog, probably not. But I'm not using this blog as a tool so much as an outlet.

I know a little about a lot. I'm way smarter than Wheel of Fortune but not quite up to snuff for Jeopardy. But I like to think and I like to write and I like to share. Oh, and I'm starting my own business. It's a partnership, actually. And this business is all about increasing and improving your web presence. I figured I should practice what I preach.

Am I worried about what potential clients might read on my blog? Not one bit. My belief is that the business world is shifting and we want to connect with people. Real people. Not just a company name, or a subject matter expert. But a real person with a real life where work is only one part of those you do business with.

So I'm Fadra. I'm a worker bee and super mom. Or at least I'm trying to be. Hope you'll come along with me.