Saturday, March 29, 2008

Stay Awake, Staaaaayyyyy Awaaaaaaaaakkkkeeee!

I am not a morning person.

Not. At. All.

Never have been, never will be.

And I somewhat resent being saddled with two children who think the rising of the sun signals the start of their day. Because when my kids wake up at the freaking crack of dawn, who do you think they come running to? Who's side of the bed do they climb on? Who's covers do they pull off? Who's ear do they scream in? Me, that's who. Not Daddy, oh no. Never him. Always. Me.

{Are you listening, Being In Charge Of All Things Ironic? This isn't funny!}

As far back as I can remember, I've needed more hours of sleep than the average person. Even as a kid, I was a pain in the ass wee bit grouchy if I got less than about 9 hours of sleep. Luckily, when you're a child this is not so difficult to attain. My parents insisted on a 9:00 bedtime while I was growing up, so pretty much by default I was usually rested and happy. (Being a parent now myself, I personally believe that by about 8:00 their tolerance for dealing with 3 kids started crumbling, resulting in us being hurried along to bed before they completely lost their minds and gave into the urge to do something crazy, like running through the neighborhood naked and screaming mindlessly. What, you've never felt that urge? Oh. Okay. Moving right along, then!)

Things started changing when I hit the tender age of 14 and began my freshman year. Ah, high school. That institution of crowded hallways, smelly gyms, lockers glued shut with old gum, sadistic math teachers, and a starting bell that rang at 7:18 am.

7:18 people! I don't even have to be at work that early!

Between sports, homework, family time, and hours on the phone (remember those calls when you'd use 3-way calling to get 18 friends on the phone?), I started running short on sleep pretty early on. Luckily, I could usually sleep in on weekends. My mom dragged us all to church on Sundays, but that didn't really interrupt my sleeping schedule.

When you've been a Catholic since birth, you can sleep through mass even with all the standing and kneeling and praying in unison. Trust me.

Sadly enough, I eventually graduated and was tossed into the cold, cruel world as an *ahem* adult. I managed, for the most part, to continue my pattern of slowly losing my mind not getting enough sleep during the week and sleeping until noon on weekends. Hey, it worked for me. Life went on, years passed, and I didn't think much of my sleeping habits.

When I found myself pregnant with Kays, I learned I was in for months of sleepless nights. I read the parenting books, took the classes. I found out that for a newborn, "sleeping through the night" meant a 4-5 hour stretch. Hah! What a crock. Why don't you call it what it is, a nap long enough to give Mommy hope that her sanity will one day return and short enough to keep that from actually happening. Luckily for me, I was blessed with a child who started sleeping through the night {insert eyeroll here} at about 2 months old.

Unluckily for me, I then learned The Ultimate Truth. Kids are morning people. Early morning people. People who could easily be mistaken for roosters, except they get up earlier than a real rooster ever would. People who aren't content to lie in their crib and amuse themselves while mommy resides in Dreamland for another hour or two. Oh no. Kids want mommy, and they want her right. Now!

Four years and a second child later, mornings haven't gotten any better. Now there are two miniature delinquents screaming delightfully in my ear. Twice the volume for half the price! Joy.

This morning, my lovely little bugger of a son came toddling in at the asscrack of dawn. Climbed over my lump of a husband, who didn't even twitch (damn the man). Flung himself with great enthusiasm upon my head and shoulders. Shared his joy of the morning with me in his ear-splitting adorable baby boy voice. And for a second, one sweet second, I contemplated letting him play by himself until I could open my eyes without sandpaper scraping the inside of my eyelids. I mulled over the wonders of actually rising from my bed feeling rested instead of like something the cat hacked up.

One second. And then my brain was flooded with the memory of That Day.

That Day, in which I was just a smidge too tired. That Day, in which I didn't open my eyes. That Day, in which I whispered the fatal words.

"Just go play, honey. Mommy is sleeping."

In my defense, I really was asleep in every way that counted. I have only the vaguest memory of me speaking to my then three-year old daughter. I didn't rise up out of unconsciousness long enough to even contemplate actually getting out of bed myself. My lips shaped the words, my vocal chords gave sound to the murmur, but my brain did not engage. All systems were definitely not Go.

Kays, being the obedient, dutiful daughter that she is {snort}, skipped right off to enjoy a morning of entertaining herself.

A three-year old.




A half hour later, Kays was back. Having completed her morning "project", she came to show it to me. Upon hearing her persistent little voice calling for me, over and over, I tried to once again tell her that Mommy was sleeping. However, she kept at it until my sleep-deprived brain slowly caught up with my Miss Independent mouth. I cautiously slitted open my eyes.

And promptly had a heart attack.

As a scream rose up into my throat, a very bright and very harsh light blinked on in my head. Not blood, not blood, NOT BLOOD! She was too damn happy for it to be blood. Standing there, smiling for all she was worth, pleased as punch with herself.

My poor abused brain just refused to process the situation and went into auto pilot. Just get the kid cleaned up and all will be well, right? Yes, yes, a little soap and water and we can pretend this never happened.

As I led her toward the bathroom, I stumbled across Part Two of her little morning adventure.

Not paint, nope. Nothing as simple as that for *my* daughter. She went for the artistic impact that only lipstick can have. Being the inspired artist that she is, she skipped right over the subtlety of a nude shade. Didn't bother with the daintiness of a pale pink. No prissy colors for my girl.

Did you know that soap and water won't remove dark red lipstick from a child's skin, hair, or your hallway carpet?

In the end, I laughed. I laughed and laughed and laughed. One might argue it was simply my overwhelmed little mind finally cracking up, but I hope know it was because I knew I had no one to blame but myself. How could I be mad? So I laughed. I laughed, and installed a baby gate on her bedroom door.

By the way, take it from someone who has been there ... a three-year old can climb over a baby gate. So can a two-year old.

There will be no sleeping in for Mommy at the Casa de Madness. Happy yawning, people.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Finally, Some Service Around Here!

Apparently, I am a lightning-rod for bad customer service.

I will admit, I have expectations when it comes to those in the service industry. My expectations are: I expect good service.

That's it. That's the sum of my expectations.

These days, that's apparently asking too much.

Although N swears the problem comes from living in the great Commonwealth of Virginia, I don't agree. I think customer service everywhere has gone downhill. I know that when we lived in California, I dealt with my fair share of bad service there as well. To this day, I refuse to step into a Hollywood Video because of the treatment I received in a CA store about 7 years ago (no, I won't let it go, thankyouverymuch). But I think that as I get older, as my kids get more difficult to deal with more obnoxious older, and as life continues to add balls to my juggling act, I have become less tolerant of stupidity, especially from those in a customer service position.

Let me preface this by saying I currently work in retail. I am a dog trainer, part-time anyway, and I work at a chain pet store that rhymes with "lets fart". Before I went back to a regular day job, I worked about 30 hours a week in this store. I was not always in the training room; I spent quite a few hours each week on the floor with customers who just didn't understand why choke chains and shock collars don't belong on a 10-week old puppy, or why crating their six month old Lab 10 hours a day might create a problem with excessive energy when he's finally let out. However, I will say that in my 1 1/2 years in this job, I have never - NEVER - had a customer complain about me to my managers. I have never offended anyone to the point of contacting our corporate office. In fact, I have had quite a few customers take the time to tell my managers how helpful I was. I *know* how shitty a day in customer service can be. I *know* that people suck. But I also know that if you choose to work in a customer service position, you have to suck it up, keep a smile on your face, and remember that the stupidcluelessmotherf'ingpos customer is always right. Even when they're not.


I like to think that because of my experience in customer service, I am more understanding toward others in that same position. When I go out to eat and my rare steak is served well-done, I never take it out on the waiter. When I am in Target and my on clearance outfit rings up at regular price, I do not get upset with the cashier. I do, however, expect those people to do their best to fix whatever problem I am experiencing at their establishment. I do not appreciate being given 'the look' and hearing some version of the words, "I don't know how/want/care to help you."

Is that asking so much?

Apparently it is, as I could fill several pages of this blog with bad customer service stories. However, if you remember way back to the title, this entry isn't about bad service (ha! fooled you, didn't I?). It's about that rare, wonderful, lovely moment when you feel like a valued customer, like your business and perhaps even happiness mean something to the sales person standing in front of you.

In Richmond, there is a fabulous children's hair salon called Pigtails and Crewcuts. Now, you may be asking why one would ever have need for a hair salon specifically catering toward kids. I would have asked that myself, prior to having a 2-year old. However, when your child believes down deep in his soul that haircutting is a torture specifically reserved for the Seventh Level of Hell - and said child feels the need to share his belief with the entire world (or at least the locals within a 5-mile radius) - you suddenly grasp the importance of a hair salon that can deal with that perspective.

I took the kids to P&C after a disastrous experience at SuperCuts (let's just say it involved a screaming, sobbing child, sticky lollipop covered in bits of hair, a bitchy stylist, and a crooked hairline that cost $10). Being a stay-at-home mom, it was nice to just pop in mid-week, when the salon was relatively empty. P&C does not take appointments, so if you show up and it's busy, you're just screwed. Luckily, we could easily avoid that problem. Our first visit was excellent; JT had a blast playing with the train table (both before and after his torture session) and Kays loved getting her first mani and pedi. Plus, they got great hair cuts and the price was lower than I had anticipated. It was a good day.


When you are a working mom (or, for those annoying people of you who would argue that all moms work, a mom who works outside the home), it's not so easy to just swing by the salon at 10am on a Tuesday. In fact, when said salon's hours are 9:30 - 5:30, it's pretty much impossible to *ever* swing by during the week. They've got that covered, though, because they are also open during those same hours on Saturdays. It's all good, right? Well, yeah, except when you're a freak with a second job that has you working every Saturday from 9am to 8pm.

Yep. I'm screwed.

Now, I have a husband. And to be completely honest, he's an exceptional person, both as a mate and father. I know that if I asked him, he would pop a few Excedrin and happily take the kids to get their hair cut. But because I am anal retentive, I like to do these things myself. I like being able to make sure JT's cut is short enough to spike up but long enough to lay down flat, that Kays doesn't end up with unwanted bangs, that no one's eyes get poked out with scissors, etc. etc. I know I am anal retentive and I usually deal with it fairly well. It makes me a great admin assistant, a good home decorator, and one day I'm sure I'll be a wonderful PTA fund-raising organizer. However, it makes for bad times when I can't find a way to get the kids to the salon myself.

Shortly before starting my new job, I realized that nature had taken its course and once again the kiddos were looking at the world through hair-obscured eyes. Being a procrastinator, I waited until the last weekday prior to my new employment start date to take the kids in. Being a reading freak, I got lost in my newest Janice Davidson book and lost track of time.

Leaving at 4:55 + a 25 mile drive at rush hour - a salon that closes at 5:30 = bad bad bad.


When I got off the freeway at 5:32 with still another 3 miles to drive, my frustration with myself and traffic and life in general hit the breaking point. But instead of, oh, I don't know, calling my husband and taking it out on him, I had the brilliant idea of calling the store. Gold star for me!

I think a tiny part of me was hoping they'd pick up and tell me that, yes, of course they understood that I was an idiot and yes, of course they'd be happy to stay open late and accommodate my unreasonableness.

Instead, I got the answering machine.

Did I hang up? Oh, no. I did not.

I listened to a voice telling me that their operating hours were "Monday through Saturday, from 9:30 to 5:30, no appointments necessary!" I looked at the clock and felt my blood pressure rise. I heard that beep, and I unloaded.

"Hello, my name is Jenn, and I just wanted to let you know that I really, really love your store. But your hours suck.

"I'm a working mom,
{Not really a lie, I was working p/t}

"and I left work early today so I could bring my kids in.
{A total lie, but I needed to create a better excuse than simply being daft enough to lose track of several hours. Yes, I'm a horrible person.}

"I left work early, but I hit so much traffic that I wasn't able to get to your salon prior to 5:30.
{Not a lie at all. I did hit a lot of traffic. I did!}

"I realize that for most working moms, it wouldn't matter that you guys close at 5:30 because you're also open on Saturdays. Unfortunately for me, I work a second job that takes up my Saturdays. I start work before you open and get off after you close. This leaves me totally screwed. Honestly, I realize that my situation is not your responsibility, and that for 99% of the working world, your Saturday hours cover their needs. But I just wish that you had one night - one night - with extended hours. 6:00? 6:30? Just a suggestion. It would be really great. Anyway, I'm not going to leave my number because this is more just frustration than it is a complaint. Hopefully I'll be able to bring my kids in sometime soon. You've probably already deleted this, but if you haven't, I just wanted to say thanks for listening. Hope I didn't ruin your day. Bye."

{Pause for my collective audience to recover from their attack of 'Holy Shit This Woman is a Piece of Work-itis'.}

And with that, I drove around until I found a random chain hair salon and got the kids their hair cuts (and once again had to fix the crookedness of JT's hairline after we got home).


Later that night, I noticed I had a voice mail message on my cell phone. I had accidentally left my phone in my car while inside with the kids doing the hair thing, so I figured that's when the call came in. I don't think anything of it, just retrieved the message.

"Hello, this is Mr. Owner at Pigtails and Crewcuts.
{Oh. My. God.}

"I just wanted to let you know that I got your message and I'm sorry that we have been unable to accommodate you. I value all of our customers, and I'd really like to help you out. Maybe we can work something out and do a late appointment one night.
{Seriously dying of shame at this point.}

"You definitely did not ruin my day; I am always happy to hear from our customers. Hopefully we can make this work for you. I'm getting ready to leave the store, but I'd really like to talk to you, so please call me on my cell phone, XXX-XXXX. Hope your night gets better. Bye!"

I'm telling you, I damn near fell over. The owner of the store not only listened to my message in its entirety, he *got my number from his Caller ID* just so he could return my call.


Seeing as how I now felt like a total ass, I so was not calling this man back on his cell phone. I wanted to apologize for my message, though, so I figured I would just call the store and leave another message. Coward, thy name is Jenn. I hit up my own Caller ID, figuring since it's now several hours past closing, I'm good to go with this plan.



{Shit! Shit shit shit!!!!}

"Um, hello Mr. Owner? This is Jenn the Cowardly Bitch, I left you a message earlier ... ?"

"Oh, yes, Ms. Freak Of A Customer Who Makes My Job A Living Hell. I'm so glad you called!"


Actually, the conversation went very well. Mr. Owner was at all times professional and courteous, yet still managed to be personable and funny. He even said my message amused him, with my opening statement that used the words "love" and "suck" in the same sentence. I assured him that I realized how ridiculous I had been to leave that message, and that we most definitely did not need special accommodations; I would just unclench and let my husband bring the kids in. All in all, I was extremely impressed with how he handled the situation. By the end, I even felt comfortable enough to give him my last name and my kids' names when he asked for them, to help him remember us when we next came in.

My Saturday work days are numbered, so chances are by the next time haircuts are needed, I'll be able to take the kids in myself. I'm actually looking forward to it; I plan on apologizing in person and then making up for my behavior by buying a bunch of unneeded expensive hair accessories from them.

It'll be fun, I'm sure.

Although now that I think about it, he probably took that personal information and marked us down on the Moronic Pain In The Ass Customers list in permanent black marker. He's probably just waiting for our next visit so he can surreptitiously snap head shots to tack up next to our names on that list.





Hey, if we've gotta take mug shots, at least our hair will look great.


(In all seriousness, I highly recommend P&C. Take a look at their website, because they have locations all over. They rock.)

Friday, March 7, 2008

Tears in my Heart

I have no words to express how I am feeling this morning.

Last night, a woman was given devastating news.

This woman is an acquaintance from a message board. To be perfectly honest, I don't consider us friends. We don't email. We don't start threads addressed to each other. She is just one of the regulars on the board, as am I, and we have interacted through various posts over the last couple of years.

Yet my heart is breaking for her.

Hers is a story of years of infertility, miscarriages, and failed attempts at pregnancy. She has posted her troubles in bits and pieces, never asking for sympathy, never raging against circumstance. She was simply sharing parts of her life, as we all did. On a message board full of mothers, she was the much loved "mother to be". We all assured her that somehow, someday, she would have a baby to call her own.

She and her husband were in the process of adopting when the country they were working with all but shut down international adoptions. Our board bemoaned the unfairness of it, offered up advice and sympathy, prayers and good luck wishes. Then lo and behold, a new fertility treatment, experimental but with a high rate of success, was made available to this couple. They chose to go for it, to give one last shot at pregnancy and new life. The women on our board were thrilled; posts abounded with excitement and happiness. We held our collective breath, waiting as the days and weeks crept by, devouring every post she made that talked about blood tests and numbers and hormone levels. As the days passed, more and more posts were made with that flavor of certainty, that "this is it!" feeling.

And it was.

It was, two times over. Twins.

I cannot begin to express the unrestrained joy of a mom's board learning that there was another one of us in the making. If cyberspace can have a party, we threw a humdinger. With each post, each new doctor appointment, each mention of morning sickness, each question of maternity clothes, we celebrated.

It has been 20 weeks since that fateful procedure. Less than that since the confirmation of the pregnancy. Even less than that since the news of two heartbeats in one womb.

And now, this woman has learned that one of those heartbeats is housed in a body not meant for this world. A brain that will never develop. A life that will never know quality.

This woman, this mother, is being told by doctors that she should heavily consider ending her baby's existence before she ever draws a breath, so as to give her twin a better chance at life.

Is there any more devastating a choice?

Is there any heavier sorrow that could fall upon a mother?

How can one ever find peace and healing in circumstances like this?

I do not know this woman. I have never met her, never spoken to her on the phone. I do not know her last name or her husband's name. I do not know when her birthday is or what movies she likes best.

But I can feel her pain. It is palpable, even though a computer screen. I can hear her ravaged heart spilling into her words. I can see her confusion, her complete lack of understanding the why of it all.

I do not know this woman, and she does not know me. But we are connected on some level, connected through motherhood, through that unconditional love for the lives we bring forth into this world.

And my heart is breaking for her.