Thursday, March 24, 2011

Of Magic Erasers and To-Do Lists

I once read a time management book which made the suggestion that "if something can be done in only 2 minutes, then do it now!" So I put that pithy little gem to use and knocked out several items on my to-do list. Like change the HVAC filter. Water the plants. Email the photographer who took pictures of my kids back in November and still hasn't given me my order. Wipe all the little handprints and boogers off the front of the refrigerator. Icky stuff, etc etc.

Speaking of cleaning, I have to give a big shout out to one cleaning product I was introduced to that totally blew my fucking mind. (And BTW, I'm not one to advertise or even mention products by their real names, but I'm about to break my own rule here.) So DS recently decided to draw some crayon pictures all over the beige wall of our living room, and once we found his crayon-art masterpiece, we figured we'd just have to re-paint over it. Then someone told me about the Magic Eraser. Holy fucking shit! It is amazeballs. I paid $3.50 for a pack of 4 sponges that you just wet and wipe... and every bit of the fucking crayon comes right off the wall without any effort or elbow grease whatsoever. It also works on random marks and scuffs that have been there forever. I have no idea what sort of alien technology they have going on in there to make it work so well, but what can I say, the shit just works. Your grandkids may turn out like monkeys, but your walls will be clean, so there's a trade-off.

One of my other brief to-do's was to check the status on my online complaint with my state insurance commissioner's office against the insurer of the woman who totaled DH's car 3 months ago. Long story short, the shady adjuster for her co made a written promise to reimburse our rental car expenses back in Feb and still has not done so. But instead of actually doing his job, he sent some hilarious emails in which he quoted old case law and tried his best to sound like a lawyer... and that I forwarded around to a bunch of people who also got a kick out of them.. Today his supervisor finally emailed me and cc'd him to bascially encourage him to stop emailing and start talking on the phone, presumably because his emails were only helping my case... No, I won't be taking their calls. "Email is forever" - and much much better for documenting what they actually say. I kind of enjoy the game of it - luckily the amount they owe us is not earth-shattering. And most importantly of all, all parties involved walked away from the accident without a scratch. We also learned that our own insurer handles claims properly and professionally, so that's good to know.

I love it when I actually have my paperwork and facts together so no one can trip me up. That happens maybe once a decade, so let me revel in it.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Meme Whilst I Avoid Focusing on Sad World Events

Slow news day around here. Actually, that's not true. I could talk about the events unfolding in Japan, but it is too close and too ouchy for me. I used to live in rural Kyushu when I worked on the JET Programme. The people were so generous and lovely. Others have said everything I wanted to say much more eloquently than I could have.

Well, I should say Happy St. Pat's to my fellow partial or 100% Micks out there in the world. Good news is that DD finally seems to be feeling better: the unflavored, clear pediatric electrolyte fluid we put in her nighttime bottle (which is usually filled with plain water) seems to have helped her to feel better. DS has been watching the new "Star Trek" movie this morning - in Spanish with English subtitles, thanks to NK's excellent suggestion in my comments section awhile back, for getting kids to want to speak in a different language. DS has been speaking a lot more Spanish since we started doing that, so thanks again, NK! (She writes a very impressive home reno/style/design blog, and inspires awe in me by posting frequently and with cool pictures!)

One of the things I see bloggers do when they're having trouble coming up with a post topic and/or are avoiding world news is to do one of those memes (is that the right word?) - like the "ABC's of me" meme I've seen around lately.

Age: 34.
Bra size: 39.5 DD+. Yes, I'm afraid I have National Geographic boobs that are not a standard size. They look much better secured in a correctly-fitted, albeit Granny-style, uber-supportive bra. I'm proactive about getting new ones at least 3 times a year with the help of kind, department store salespeople.
Chore you hate: All of them! Especially folding and putting away laundry, and dusting.
Dogs: Three. I am a "crazy dog lady" who thinks of them as her quasi-children, but who happen to actually hear what I have to say. We even let our oldest dog sleep in our bed.
Etiquette Rule you always obey: Handwritten thank-you notes, promptly mailed.
Favorite color: Turquoise and Kelly Green. And occasionally Reddish Orange and Fuschia. I'm known locally for my colorful dressing.
Gold or silver: Silver.
Height: 5' 8".
Instruments that you can play: The skin flute...
Just one item you'd grab from burning house: Old family photos. I should really look into scanning them and backing them up electronically.
Kids: A 3-year-old son, and a 17-month old daughter. (And the dogs.)
Live: A small town in the rural, inland Pacific Northwest US
Movie last seen in theater: "The Adjustment Bureau" - great movie, loved John Slattery from 'Mad Men,' makes me want to read some Philip K. Dick. Although I wish the ending had been a little darker, and more European cinema instead of Hollywood-ish.
Novel you're reading: "The Lacuna" by Barbara Kingsolver, for book club - not far enough into it to have formed an impression yet.
Overnight hospital stays: One - unnecessary, but mandatory after the birth of my first child if I wanted my insurance to cover the bill. With my second child I went home by choice on the same day a few hours later.
Pet peeve: Using a handheld mobile phone to talk or text while driving - you people are crazy! "All Snake" claims adjusters who don't respond to emails and phone calls.
Quote from a movie: Anything from "My Blue Heaven" which DH and I quote pretty frequently and can relate to our own lives as big city people living in Podunkille, like "You could melt all of this stuff." - Vinny as Todd Wilkinson
Regret: Not sticking up for myself better when I was once accused of stealing someone's gym bag.
Simple pleasure: Clean bedsheets fresh out of the dryer (that someone else washed for me.)
Time you wake up: 7:15am if I'm lucky - that's life as a mother of 2 small children!
Underrated TV show: "Justified" on FX starring Timothy Olyphant. Extremely violent, but excellent.
Vegetables you dislike: Cauliflower.
What makes you run late: My son tantruming/refusing to keep his carseat buckled properly.
X-rays: I had one when I lost the very tip of one of my fingers under the hood of a car in 1991 - it was actually a painless experience, and unless I keep my fingernail too short, the injury is not at all visible today.
Yummy food you love: Chicago-style pizza, New York-style pizza, Korean BBQ, all Indian food, Sabra hummus from the grocery store... I could go on and on.
Zodiac sign: Scorpio (and the description fits me perfectly, unfortunately!)

You're all tagged if you want to be - to answer any or all of these for yourself - feel free to leave it in the comments

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sick Days

I always knew it was going to happen eventually, and finally it did: both of my children, DH and I have been disgustingly sick with some very strange, no good very bad virus for the past 48 hours... all of us have had some form of lower GI issues. I'll spare you the details, but let's just say someone in my family was very, very confused when he sat on the toilet to defecate and it came out sounding like urination.

DD seems to have the worst of it and is still not out of the woods yet. I just got back from a 9pm trip to the store to pick up some pediatric electrolytes and BRAT diet items (BRAT = bananas, rice, applesauce, toast for the uninitiated). My illness was over in a matter of hours but involved me sprawled out in the tub crying for mercy for the better part of the evening. DH hardly had anything at all - DS got over his bout quickly, and decided he doesn't like vomiting.

I'm so tired of scrubbing toilets, and doing laundry, and wiping the floors, and wondering if my house smells as bad as I think it does. I've missed work, and then our poor babysitter also contracted it, so I've been alone with the kids all day. Yelly Mama made a brief appearance, but DS quickly put me in my place with this direct quote: "Mama, be nice or Daddy won't want to marry you or kiss you." I know, I know, everyone thinks their kid is a little genius in some way shape or form - and we're all correct!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

"PC Load Letter!!!???!!!"

Why can't we ever manage to find a basic, bare-bones inexpensive home printer that actually works? As in one that like actually prints documents and doesn't get an "out of paper" or "paper jam" message every 5 minutes? I don't need one that can fax or print photos. Scanner and basic printing capabilities will do.

Here's what I'd like to tell all the home printers I've purchased and hated before.

To our newest shitty printer purchase, the H-Pee AWFUL-ice-jet 4500, I say: Go eff yourself! Unfortunately, we have to live with your broke ass a little longer.

To its shitty predecessor, El Ep-Sun Style-less See-Ex 4450, I say: We had you for like a month because you were included for free with some other equipment we got. (The fact we paid nothing for you should have been our first clue.) Eff you very much!

To the O.G. printer we got back in like 2004, the H-Pee All in one 6210: Thank you for some shits and giggles. We got to talk to some guys in India about your issues on two occasions. Eff off!

Tomorrow I take 2 useless printers to the recycling place; the other I must keep until a better replacement can be found at a reasonable price point. Oy.

The good news is DH and I have date night tomorrow, and we get to see an actual movie in the theater. Maybe it will be at the same theater where I went into labor with DD 17+ months ago while watching "Zombieland." Good times!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Taxes Schmaxes

I hate tax season. Especially for this year. Our returns are taking forever in part because our files were a bit of a disaster. But I've learned a few little tips to keep us organized for next year, like the shockingly brilliant idea of actually filing papers in correctly labeled files. Like duh! Fingers crossed that all adult members of my family (ahem) will actually comply with ideas like these stemming from basic common sense.

We had 2 regular babysitters in 2010 for whom we are legally (and I also feel, ethically) obligated to file payroll taxes because they worked in our home, were over age 18, we paid them at least $1000 in any calendar quarter of the year and/or over $1700 that year. Simple enough parameters, so time to pay Uncle Sam, right? That way, should they ever need to make an unemployment claim, they'll get all the funds to which they're entitled, and it hopefully someday they'll have a little more money to put to use in retirement (that is of course assuming Social Security is still around when today's 20- and 30-somethings retire). So allow me to share our tale of two babysitters with two vastly different views on taxation. But before I do, can I just take a moment to say how much easier it would be if there were actually good daycare in Podunkville? Then at least we'd have no real tax issues to have to concern ourselves with.

Sitter One was a 20-year-old white chick born and raised in Podunkville. When I had her complete an I-9 Form when we hired her, she didn't list her social security number, as she did not know it. She worked for us for about 7 months, was sick a lot, and was late a lot, then once day she told us she was getting married at age 19 and needed to find a job with health insurance & benefits. Fair enough - so we agreed upon an end date 2 months hence. Two weeks later she informs us she needs to quit a little sooner, like on the following Monday. I then have to reschedule a bunch of meetings and work shit. Apparently, she's never heard of the professional courtesy of 2 weeks' notice. I actually wasn't too pissed about it; as I had become quite used to her flakiness.

After the Great Summer 2010 Sitter Hunt of Podunkville that lasted 2 frenetic weeks, enter Sitter Two who starting taking care of our kids in June. She is one of the best things that has ever happened to my family. We have given her raises, and all of the bonuses and perks we can reasonably afford (which isn't much...). She just makes everyone's life so much better. She happens to be a Mexican-American immigrant who may or may not be here legally - I honestly can't tell, nor will I be asking too many questions about her immigration status. We have fulfilled every legal requirement though, just like with Sitter One: she filled out a I-9 form, we examined the documents from the I-9 list, made a copy of her social security card, and we still keep them on file, along with the I-9 form we still have on file or Sitter One. Legally that's all we need to do. We need NOT do the work of the friggin Border Patrol or act like we live in Arizona.

In early January, Sitter Two double checks with me and asks me to please file taxes for her if I can - I said "Of course I will." Last month we put together the 2010 W-2's for both sitters. I had to text Sitter One to get her SS# - asking her to please call me with it. No response after 2 days, I ask again. She said "oh yeah sorry I forgot" and texted me back with it instead of calling me. Texting one's SS# = probably not the smartest move ever. Both W-2's went out in the mail by the January 31st mailing deadline, then we filed them with the SSA. (Sorry to bore you with these details, I promise I'm getting to the point soon.)

A few weeks later, Sitter One texts me "I wish you would of [sic] told me you were gonna make me pay taxes, cuz nobody i ever nannied for has, then i could of [sic] had time to prepare."

I was actually disappointed to get that text. I told DH, who in his no-nonsense way basically said, "She really isn't very bright, is she?" I had to resist every temptation to get into a texting war with this silly little womanchild. As if I enjoy paying taxes on someone who honestly wasn't that good, and as if we really have a choice? Aren't the only certainties in life death and taxes? But I digress. After pondering several different retorts and explanations, I simply texted back: "That's the law. Call me if you have any questions." Haven't heard anything back from her about it and I don't expect to. But bizarrely enough she did list DH as an employment reference and the prospective employer actually called... more proof that she isn't the sharpest tool in the shed. Lucky for her, DH is way too nice of a guy to throw her under the bus even though she sucks in all of the areas one generally needs to be a decent employee. But around people we know really, really well DH is pretty candid. DH wishes he could tell this story to the Tea Partiers who think that "real Americans" like Sitter One are losing ground in this country to "all of the illegals who don't pay taxes." There you have it.

In other news, I realize the Oscars have come and gone, and I recall blogging about them last year... so that means my blogaversary has come and gone without even a mention. What can I say, I guess I'm still at it. Glad someone out there is still reading.