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"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." ~Aristotle

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Friday, August 27, 2010

Foto Friday: This Moment

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. -SouleMama

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Fun Fact: Other than humans, black lemurs are the only primates that may have blue eyes.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Works for Me: Hi/Lo

It started with The Story of Us (1999-Willis, Pfeiffer).

The meat of the film is the implosion of a marriage and a painful separation.  But the dessert (and gift) is the introduction of a simple ritual: at the end of the day, everyone at the table tells the rest of the family his or her high and low moment of the day. Since then, we have participated in this ritual, on and off as a couple, and now with the kids.

The result is surprising insight into your spouse/child's character.  What causes the greatest daily joy and satisfaction?  What frustrates, annoys, and casts a shadow on the day?  Is A more impressed by what we did or what was said?  Does Z remember past an hour ago, and if so, what play activity is his favorite?  Mommy has accomplishment-based highs; Daddy has things-going-smoothly concerns.

It's a snapshot way to connect.  Whereas the oft-dreaded question, "what did you do at school today?" rarely ilicits much of a response (at least from children older than Kindergarten), the hi/lo question offers a way to "rate" a day-in-the-life.  To make judgements about what qualifies as best of the best and worst of the worst.  Perhaps even putting the entire day into perspective.

This year I'm recording our hi/lo's.  No pressure; we miss days here and there, and sometimes we can't squeeze a lot out of Z.  But I think some day in the future we will look over this history and smile.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Foto Friday: This Moment

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. -SouleMama

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ooh, ooh, I'm not alone!! Real Simple's Blog: Is it Rude to be Rude to a Rude person?  (see previous post on grocery line etiquette here).
Fun Fact: Armadillos can be housebroken.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Foto Friday: This Moment

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. -SouleMama

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Fun Fact: Al Capone was so pleased with the 1932 film Scarface that he gave director Howard Hawks a miniature machine gun as a thank-you present.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Customer Service: May I Help You?

I walk into a store, bedraggled and harried, anxious and exhausted.  Maybe I'm looking for retail therapy. Or a brief respite from a racing brain.  Maybe I want to absorb some decorating or gift ideas.  Or maybe I want to interact with someone who hasn't been up since 7 am, asking for food every five minutes.  I've probably already broken up several fights, fielded a crying jag, found a missing shoe, packed a car with kids and paraphernalia, and I have probably forgotten to eat.

I don't expect a Target associate to meet my eyes at the door and ask me how my day has been.  But small stores, on friendly town streets (ie: where I live), are more intimate.  It's not a paid senior citizen who says hello when I darken the door, it's the owner.  You, dear proprietor, are a port in my storm.

It's your move.  Your first few choices will affect my life-time loyalty or instant aversion to your establishment.  Say hello, nod in my direction, smile at my kid ... and you're on your way.  Ask if you can help me, make steady eye contact, and I will most likely return.

On the other hand, you can scowl at me.  You can ignore me, or even sigh a heavy sigh when you see me come through the door. I'm not fussily dressed, I have one or two children in tow.  I may not have showered this morning. But I probably DON'T have an oozing taco or frappa-something, my children are most likely not screaming or causing damage. And what you don't know is that when I choose to shop, I'm prepared to drop a decent amount of cash (just ask My Hero).

But even more important than calming my day? Word Of (my) Mouth.  Go the extra mile and I will sing your praises from the rooftops (ok, more like MOPS, Blogland and Facebook).  Buzz has got to produce greater returns for a business than color brochures.  Reward cards are nice, but remember my kid's name?  That's just good business sense.

There are two shining examples of this type of commitment to the customer in my hometown.  One is a shop specializing in kitchen wares, and the other, not surprisingly, is a toy store: Castle Toys & Games.

As my friend Kathleen noted, "It's impossible to be in a bad mood in this store."  Is it the brightly-colored kites hanging from the ceiling? The racks of puppets by the door?  The cheerful window display?  Yes.  But it's also the owner's attention and consideration, the staff's kindness (even when my son exits the bathroom naked from the waist down, leaves a cookie on the train table, or goes behind the counter to investigate the foot-pedal trash can).

Miss Karen will sit on the steps (which lead to the magical second floor) and read Z the Scuppers book ad nauseam.  Miss Amy will engage me in Bananagrams, and Miss Linda rewarded my son's potty training hurdle with a special gift.  

It's cliche, but going the extra mile means so much to me as a consumer.  Heck, just a fellow human being ... give me a smile and a warm hello.  It can't hurt, and it might really, really help - you AND me.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Foto Friday: This Moment

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. -SouleMama

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Button Experiment Update

We are a few weeks into the Button System.

A The Manatee (6) is ecstatic about earning buttons.  She clamors for me to send jobs her way.  Z The Monkey (3.5) could care less, although he does what he's told.  I don't think tv time is a big motivator to him, but I have the feeling the Wii will be a bit different.  He also doesn't seem to have the more=better gene.  At least not yet.

AM has graciously shared her buttons, seeing the logic in watching a show now, with her brother, as opposed to waiting until some time when there is both something she wants to watch, AND her brother is otherwise occupied.  Those instances are few and far between.  So we divvy up the buttons and everyone wins.

I have also decided to switch to poker chips instead of buttons.  There are several reasons for this, but the most pressing is that the chips have easily-discerned denominations, thus adding basic math to the lessons learned via the reward system. (Also, who doesn't like to click poker chips around? Aesthetics is key.)

I imagine someday it will occur to them to trade and barter with the tokens ("I'll give you 2 tokens if you do my math homework!"), but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

To make it easier on me, I have filled a can (modgepodged with scrapbook paper, naturally) with task cards (snippets of used patterned paper, naturally) that include sweeping the kitchen, hopping on one foot, reviewing printing letters and freebies.  There are even a few "Mom cleans your room" cards in there :)

And one more addition: Mommy gets a Kindle for 100 of her own buttons!  Stay tuned ...

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Works For Me: I AM the Dishwasher

As I've mentioned before (have I mentioned this before? if not .... it's going to come up a lot), my husband and I purchased a century-old house and are slowly making structural and cosmetic changes.  Not the least of these has been a completely brand-new kitchen: new walls, new ceiling, new beam, and beautiful custom cabinetry and counters.

The one thing missing from this brand new paradise of expansive Corian and glazed cherry cabinetry is a dishwasher.  And startlingly so, according to the majority of visitors to my humble home.

My father-in-law, with raised eyebrow, dutifully designed the kitchen sans device.  He insisted on putting in a bank of drawers the WIDTH of one, just in case "the next owners want to install one" (or, as he probably thinks more likely, I come to my senses at a later date).

My mother exclaimed: "That's the first thing your father and I bought when we got married!  A dishwasher!" And countless others have sung the praises of their own devices--claiming the inability to imagine a life without.

So here's the thing: I am not going to try to convince you to tear out your dishwasher.  I just feel like explaining my reasons for omitting one.

1. There are four people living in my home.  For the most part, that means I only need 4 dishes for each meal.  It COULD mean a possible 12 (bread plate, bowl, dinner plate, plus glasses, but using that many dishes for one meal is a rarity).  I ALWAYS have enough dishes.  I don't have to pull a dirty one out of the dishwasher to wash it just because someone had an extra sandwich at 3pm.  I also don't have giant stacks of plates in my cabinets.  I prefer extra space to extra dishes.

2. I enjoy washing the dishes.  Hot, soapy water, a job well done.

3. I have two children who, when they are tall enough, will take turns washing dishes, to give me a break.

4. I never have to wonder if what I need is clean.  My favorite knife.  Or mug.  Or spatula.  Or apple corer.  Or soup pot.

5. I have never forgotten to run the thing, empty the thing, put soap in the thing. I never accidentally dump a handful of dirty spoons into a clean silverware basket.

6. No repair issues.

7. There are quite a few things I use on a daily basis that wouldn't go into the dishwasher, even if I had one.  Cast iron skillet, Cutco knives, over-sized bowls, popcicle holders, giant cutting board, dutch oven, stoneware baking pan, virtually all of my storage containers (some are probably dishwasher-safe, but with all the PBA stuff, I don't know how much I believe that).

8.  I have 18 cubic feet more storage space than you do.  Right there, beside the sink, where I do all the prep work.

9. You cannot convince me that the dishwasher actually saves time.  I defy you to load and unload the dishwasher any faster than I wash and put away the dishes (allowing for air drying, or if you'd like, we can race and I will dry them as well).  My dishes are ready again long before yours.

I will concede: I am probably using more water than you are.  The dish drainer sitting by the sink is not particularly beautiful.

I will also admit that the key to making a dishwasher-less life work is that I do my dishes RIGHT AWAY.  I have a washtub of hot, soapy water sitting in wait while I prepare dinner, and the majority of cookware is washed before we sit down to eat, dry by the time we're done, and back into the cabinets before I wash the scant plates and serving dishes we just used.  Nothing gets crusty or smelly.

I get the impression that most people, when imagining themselves in a dishwasher-less home, see a giant, teetering stack of spaghetti-and-ranch-laden-from-three-days-ago plates, a la Hoarders.  And to that I can only say: user error.  Don't blame the dishes, blame the procrastinator. Don't do that to yourself, and it won't be overwhelming drudgery.  It'll be a few dishes.  No big deal.

Hey - it works for me.