Will Retail Compete?

I had a pretty frustrating experience with retail shopping this week that reminded me why I do all of my shopping on line. Made me wonder if retail is even truly trying to compete with online shopping.

Saturday morning, I ran to the bank with my toddler. While for some, this would be a painful and frustrating experience, my toddler loves running errands. She loves going to the bank. So, we took care of our transaction and headed back to the car.

She begged not to go home.

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She can be convinced to do a lot for a ride in the car. Like getting dressed.

I’d been planning to head home and order a Christmas present online, but I checked the Toys R Us website on my phone, and it said my “local” store had them in stock. The closest store is about twenty minutes away, but the toddler loves the ride, and I love the quiet.

So, we headed over there. Only, they didn’t have it in stock when we got there. Because of course they didn’t. A snotty floor attendant informs me of this, at which point, I showed him the website on my phone saying that they did, in fact, show it in stock on their site.

Biting back several expletives that I don’t want my toddler to parrot back to me, I took her to the mall which is right down the road from Toys R Us. I was going to pick up a Christmas ornament that JCPenny said they had in stock.

Only, at 9:45 am on a Saturday morning, JCPenny wasn’t open. Because who is out on a Saturday getting all of their errands done before taking one of their children to a friend’s birthday party then going over to see family for dinner?

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No, just twice, because I couldn’t believe it the first time.

I am not waiting fifteen minutes outside in 34F/1C weather with a toddler. Or even without a toddler. Especially not when I can order the same thing from Amazon, with free shipping, and it’s $0.03 cheaper.

Finally, we swung by a cabinet store to get a special knob to spruce up a plain white desk. I wanted a sparkly knob to make it look less like furniture we put together, even if it totally was furniture we put together.

I’d done some perusing of the internet before going to the cabinet store, and I almost laughed myself and my toddler out of the store when they were charging $27 for the exact same knob, by the same maker, as one I’d found online at several different place for less than $10. That $10 included shipping.

All in, three stores and well over an hour of my life, and I came back with nothing I’d set out to get.

Much to my toddler’s chagrin, we went home at that point. I popped open my iPad, and less than fifteen minute later, I had the toy ordered, the Christmas ornament for the tree on its way, and the knob for the drawer bought.

Even when I want to support local stores, I’m reminded why so often I don’t. I either can’t afford to, they don’t have what I want, or they just aren’t open.

 

Anyone else have these kinds of struggle with retail lately?  Is it just me? Maybe I’ve just been spoiled by online shopping for so long?

 

 

 

Taking Time to Unplug

It’s Sunday night, and the family is getting ready to go back to our work schedule. I’m trying to get dinner ready while sneaking in a few more words, and DH and DD1 are trying to enjoy a game together.

Enter DD2.

She is angry and upset, crying for no apparent reason. We’re all testy with her. She cries harder.

One of our cats has had made a mess, and DH is irritated as he gets the vacuum to clean it up. Terror sparks in DD2’s eyes as she sees the dreaded vacuum. I put my iPad away, gather her up, and carry her to our bedroom.

Her tears instantly dry up as we lay on the bed together and play silly games of counting her toes, getting tickled (we took turns tickling each other), and just laying together with her head on my shoulder.

Her laughter and giggles made my night.

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Or trying to understand and bond with a toddler?

Holding that in my heart, I cuddled with DD1 before work Monday morning. She is getting so big, but she still likes snuggles. For now. We talked a little, but she mostly just wanted to be held.

I’m starting to feel like the whole family is too busy, but not busy with the right things. Time goes by so fast now. I was looking at pictures of DD1 when she was just a few days old. Hard to believe that was almost six years ago. It seems like only last year we were bringing her home and learning what it was really like to have an infant in the house.

I need to slow down. Make connections. Build a relationship with my girls, and strengthen the one I have with DH.

Writing is a part of the equation. I really shouldn’t have been trying to sneak in words. But there’s more to it. I feel like my family has all become too reliant on technology for entertainment. We need to unplug.

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Not this bad. Yet.

Bored? We turn on Netflix or Amazon, and we don’t even have to sit through commercials. Open the iPad or Kindle. Pull out your phone. A lot of this isn’t deeply entertaining, but the companies know how to lure us how. How to grab our attention and keep it. How many times has boredom had me checking my phone for a quick fix rather than getting up and actually doing something meaningful?

I got so consumed with these distractions that I got annoyed with my beautiful and amazing toddler rather than giving her the love and attention she both wants and needs.

A part of me wants to give away all of the electronics, but that’s just not reasonable.

Still, I need to find a way to unplug and disconnect more, help my family unplug more, so that we can really connect. So that we spend more time counting toes and less time staring at screens. I just don’t know how.

 

How about you? Ever tried to unplug? What did you do? How did it work? Ever try to unplug your whole family? What did you do? How did it work?

Special Flower or Weed?

I have repeatedly heard children called flowers. Each one unique and special.

Whoever coined this phrase either never had kids or is a grandparent who has forgotten what having small children is like.

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My toddler is not a flower. She’s a weed.

Oh sure, she looks cute with her little pigtails when she smiles up at you. Her giggles of delight could make angels sing. But two seconds later, she’ll have found a crayon in her sister’s room and be coloring all over your walls while you’re making dinner, totally ignoring the toys you gave her to entertain her.

I had always thought coloring on walls was an exaggeration. I never did it as a kid, and neither did my sister. My oldest daughter never did it. My youngest? Not once, but twice so far.

Thank god for magic erasers.

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You can get them here. In bulk. Highly recommended if you have a weed in the house.

I was also spoiled by my first child when it came to potty training. I read the books on how to potty train a child, and DH and I applied them. They worked! We had a total of two accidents, and DD1 was potty trained.

After a solid week of intense training, DD2 was no closer to be trained than when we started. We showed her the books and what she was supposed to do. She just grinned at us. Or stomped her foot and shouted, “No!”

I’m telling you, weed. A spiny one at that.

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Oh sure, some of these stubborn traits will serve her well later in life. I can see her stubbornness propelling her to CEO of her own company. I will probably be less worried about her succumbing to peer pressure as a teen as she isn’t a “pleaser”.

But right now, I need to be able to make dinner without my house getting trashed.

They don’t make playpens she can’t climb out of, so we must now jealousy guard all writing utensils.

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Okay, not legal playpens.

I should’ve bought stock in Pampers with how long she’s been in them. Okay, that’s not entirely true. She gets pampers at night because I don’t want to be woken up to do laundry when there’s a leak. During the day, she gets whatever generic brand Target carries.

Yeah, I’m mean. But that’s the way I roll these days. Maybe if she’s a little uncomfortable once in a while, she’ll be more apt to learn. Gotta make it her idea . . .

 

How about you? Any guidance for someone living with a weed instead of a flower? Tricks to help them morph into a flower? Or perhaps just some potty training advice when you’re trying to train a weed?

Hulless Barley

What is Hulless Barley, you might ask?

Here’s a pretty good look at it:. Not pearlized barley, mind you, though this is what most of us think of when I say barley. Hulless is quite different from its processed cousin, both in taste, texture, and fiber content.

I came across hulless barley back when we were really trying to add more whole grains into our diet. I really like it. To me, it tastes faintly sweet and nutty. I can take or leave rice, but I actually will eat hulless barley without butter or other toppings.

But then, our local grocery store stopped carrying. Yes, I could drive across town and get it from the organic store, but let me tell you about shopping with a toddler and preschooler in tow.

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So, yes, we make one trip to one grocery store per week. My husband and I make the grocery list together, and one of us goes on a mission to acquire the groceries while the other stays home with the kids. It’s sort of like a mini-mission impossible: get out of the house without either child noticing and going into a fit of tears because mommy or daddy is leaving.

Of course, if you ask them if they want to go to the store, the answer is always no. If you take them anyway, there is a price to pay, and I’d rather them cry at home than at the store.

Anyway, we gave up on the hulless barley and moved on to other grains.

Then, my love of Amazon reminded me I could check there.

Lo and behold, while Amazon didn’t sell it, one of their third party vendors did. On prime, no less, and their with shipping included was less than what I’d been paying at my local grocery store. You know I hit that Buy button.

So, we made it with stir fry the other night. Yes, that’s right, barley instead of rice. Delicious. And really good for you. Then, I had it the next day in my lunch. But, I’d forgotten what eating such a high fiber food when you aren’t used to it does to you.

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Moderation. I won’t forget again.

 

How about you? Any whole grains you like? Perhaps something new and amazing, or something you’d like to warn the rest of us about?

What, No Salt?

I never thought I liked hard boiled eggs. I though the outside was tasteless and rubbery, and the inside was a gritty yellow mess.

I avoided hard boiled eggs in all of their forms, including deviled. I knew they were a protein-packed snack full of good fats, but the knowledge did not make my taste buds snap into line and like the taste or texture.

Well, the nutritionists are telling us eggs are great right now. I remember as a kid being told they were high in cholesterol and terrible for us. Seems like the consensus on whether or not they’re healthy changes with the decade. My taste buds, however, have been unwavering.

Anyway, my youngest child mostly refuses to eat meat. Yes, she’ll occasionally partake of very expensive steak. Possibly a few bites of hamburger once a full moon, but otherwise, she doesn’t much eat it. After hearing this, the doctor told us to try several other protein sources, among them hard boiled eggs.

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So, I looked up how to make hard boiled eggs online. There are a slew of recipes out there, all that promise not to create the nasty sulfur-tasting green ring around the yoke.

I figured, okay, this is literally boiling an egg. How hard can it be.

*smiles*

Yes, I know you’re laughing at me, but after attempting to follow these recipes, I was able to soft boil an egg, but never hard boil one. A word on soft boiled eggs. A two-year-old can make quite a mess with one, and she will not eat it as much as see it as a finger paint.

After several dozen eggs and frustrating attempts, I pulled open my old Better Homes and Garden recipe book. You know the one.

Better-Homes-Gardens - Copy

I received it as a gift probably twenty years ago, maybe more. It has a recipe for hard boiled eggs, and it also discusses the sulfur taste as well as gives a way to avoid it. I followed Better Home’s recipe, and my first batch of eggs turned out perfectly. Yeah, perfect firm exterior and bright yellow middle. No sulfur taste, no discolored yoke.

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You will note the perfectly yellow yoke.

I took a bite, but I still wasn’t impressed.

DH then informed me I needed to add salt. It would be a lot better.

I was skeptical, especially as we’ve tried hard to reduce the sodium in our diet. But he insisted hard boiled eggs were eaten with a sprinkle of salt on the exterior.

I sprinkled some salt and took another bite.

It was so much better!  I might even say I like hard boiled eggs.

My daughter, however, was still unimpressed.

On to beans!

 

How about you? Ever resort to old-school advice on anything? Have any tips or tricks to boiling eggs? Or getting toddlers to eat meat? Getting toddlers to eat or do much of anything you’d like them to do?

The "i" Generation

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I wish the above weren’t so true. Although, she is figuring out a fork. Just not as fast as she did my iPad.

There is a ridiculous amount of guidance out there on how much “screen” time you should allow your children to have.  For the longest time, children under two weren’t supposed to get any. Even if they had older siblings.

We tried to follow this with our first child, and I swear she could smell the iPad. She could find it tucked away in the back corner of a dark room, and she hated dark rooms. She would find it and come toddling out with it triumphantly clutched in her tiny fingers.

Our saving grace was that she loved being showered with attention more. Loved being read to, “helping”, anything that put her front and center of our world. So, we could get the iPad away from her without a complete meltdown.

I know, kids cry, etc. But when you work, you’d like your few hours with your child to be as nice as you can get them without a tug-of-war over an electronic device every day.

At a neighborhood block party, I asked some of the other moms how they kept their little ones away from their TV and iPad. They offered me a cocktail, told me to sit down, and then explained that they didn’t. If the pediatrician asked them about it, they’d lie.

Wait, what?

Most had older children, and they said it just wasn’t possible or reasonable. They then informed me our school district gives kids an iPad starting in kindergarten to do all of their homework, reading assignments, etc.

Still, I tried to keep her away from TV and the iPad for a while longer, but the realities of making dinner, doing laundry, and washing the dishes won out, and we allowed her to have Sesame Street.

That mostly made her happy, and she would drop TV like a rock the moment we could again give her our undivided attention.

DD2 is an entirely different child. She likes attention, but on her terms. She laughs, gives hugs, and even pets you to soothe herself, but she wants “alone” time. We were terrified at first that this was a sign of autism, but our pediatrician reassured us. DD2 was normal. DD1 was exceptionally high maintenance.

However, this means that if DD2 gets a hold of an iPad, there is no getting it back without screaming. It’s like stealing her favorite toy. Which, in a way, it is.

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So, we compromised, as parents so often do. She’s at a formal daycare all day, so she gets no screen time during the day. We figured a little at night while we’re making dinner won’t hurt anything. And if I’m truly honest, I’m concerned not introducing kids to technology early enough puts them at a disadvantage to their peers.

We took our old iPad and removed almost everything from it except some games specifically designed for her age group that her therapist recommended. These were games she was only allowed to play while she stood on uneven surfaces, for example.

She loves them, and they do seem to be teaching her things.

We still have story time and snuggle time. Playing with Fisher Price Octonauts time, Duplo time, and Magna Tiles (Magna Tiles are amazingly fun, even if you’re a grown-up). To that, we have added TV time and iPad time.

Everything in moderation.

How about you? Did your kids know how to work an iPad before a fork? Did you allow them to have any TV?  Could you lure them away from an iPad with books?

It'll Be Fun, They Said

Ah, the family vacation. We didn’t take these much as kids as our family simply couldn’t afford it. Family vacations in my childhood primarily consisted of me being sent off with grandparents so our parents could get some time away.

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DH and I didn’t take too many vacations when our first child was small, partially because of the restrictions I was on as we tried to have a second.

Now that both children are older, we thought it would be fun to try a quick three-day vacation. We all were excited, and I had high-hopes.

I’d done my research, having both searched the internet and talked to lots of other people as to where a good place would be to go with a toddler and pre-schooler in the winter. I wanted to be close enough to home we could come back if we needed to, but far enough away that we’d test out the over-night thing.

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After selecting where we were going, then came all of the planning. Making sure we had snacks in the car and in the room. Enough  drinks. Enough clothes to get us through. Toiletries. Entertainment for in the car.  I felt like I was planning a military assault. Perhaps that should have been a clue.

And yes, the vacation was as horrible as some of you are imagining

They had all kinds of up-charges for different things to add to your room, but none of them including giving you a “toddler proof” room. You forget what it means for your toddler to have access to every cord, every cable, and every outlet in a typical hotel room. There are no toddler gates barring off stairs, no toddler locks on doors.

There is no safe place in the room where she can play for ten minutes while you catch your breath. And if you try to make a play area anyway, there were will be tissues scattered across the carpet and you’ll find yourself sprinting across to room to stop her just as she attempts to figure out how to unplug the lamp.

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Vacation also meant being subjected to kids out of their comfort zone. Out of their comfort zone and over-tired, cranky and irritable. Everyone’s favorite kind of child!

The biggest issue to my having fun of any sort was my expectations. I went into the long weekend wanting a vacation. Time to relax, unwind, and recharge. This was anything but that.

They were kids at a water park. They needed constant supervision. I knew that going into it, but what I didn’t understand was how much work this was with none of the fun.

See, my oldest child is big enough to do a lot of stuff at a water park. I figured DH and I would switch-off going on the slides and rides with the oldest, and then spending time in the toddler zone with the little one.

What I didn’t anticipate was that my oldest child would want to do nothing but play in the baby area with her sister. No water slides, no fun rides. We literally spent hours in water up to our ankles. Our knees when the oldest finally got a little braver.

Yeah, fabulous way to spend our time at the water park.

Our issues were compounded by DD1 being an early riser. She’s up at 6am and ready to go. The park doesn’t open until 9am. This means her having to wait and me having to listen to her ask “if it’s time to go yet” for three hours. By the time we got the water park, I was ready to leave.

Let’s also remember that I’m an introvert.  Being stuck in a huge crowd of people I don’t know, wearing only a swimsuit, is already not my idea of fun. I thought this was going to be tempered with the excitement of water slides. I was wrong.

But it did teach me some valuable lessons. One of them is that we’re just not ready for a family vacation yet. None of us.

I work full time and so does DH. If we’re going to do a vacation, it has to be a vacation for the whole family. Something we’re all going to enjoy.

I know DD1 had a blast. She will be talking about it for weeks.

I’m just glad to be home, book in hand, and iPad waiting.

 

How about you? Did you go on family vacations as a child? Did you like them? Do you go on family vacations now? How are they?  Where did/do you go on vacation? A favorite place come to mind? Something you really loved?