Thursday, August 30, 2007

Foiled again!

Whatever happened to the good old days when one was actually greeted by a real live person on the other end of the telephone wire? Not only do most companies have automated menus, some of them are now voice operated. These systems are certainly not made with mothers in mind.

I am the proud owner of a rather loud toddler. He walks around being as loud as he pleases with no apparent motive. I suppose it’s fun. Perhaps he is being paid by some branch of the government (Toddlers Against Real Food, or TARF, for example) to conduct experiments concerning the actual level of sound/volume one must reach in order to effectively cease to hear any incoming noise. At any rate, the little man has come equipped with all of the nuances of being a child. That being said, when mommy picks up the phone that means the time has come to run around, be loud, and see what his little fingers can get into that was previously off-limits before mommy made the foolish decision to make a phone call.

The march of progress must go on; mommies must make calls; and toddlers must shout. Such is the nature of the universe. So today when I dialed the insurance company the “operator” picked up and began to ask a series of questions to determine where in “her” directory to route my call. Now, these menus are very sensitive to sound so that when a feeble elderly lady calls it can pick up on her far, far away voice and direct it appropriately. (Although everyone knows the little old lady is usually so confused by this technology that she continues to say, “hello… hello?” because she thinks that she actually has a living being on the other end. She remembers the good old days even better than us young folk do). As I was saying, these menus are extremely sensitive.

Robotic voice: “How can I assist you? Please say: claims, benefits, eligibility…”

Toddler: “Yell, yell, yell!”

Mommy: “Claims.”

You can see from the above illustration that the nice operator has very little chance of hearing the tiny eight-point font mommy over the bold-faced sixteen-point toddler. The result is that the robot will either ask you to repeat yourself or it will direct your call somewhere you don’t want it to, i.e. the staff lavatory. In an effort to victoriously complete this call I resort to glaring at the child in an attempt to communicate that I would like him to stop this rendition of “I Like to Hike” immediately. He doesn’t seem to get it because I am still lost inside the Cigna menu, and he is singing even louder. Next I try to lock myself in the bathroom. But after about two seconds I realize that I may not be able to hear him anymore, but I can’t see my little angel either. (For those of you without babies, this is not a good thing for so many reasons that I will not go into at this time.) After making some progress into the depths of the menu-labyrinth and locating my child, I try to smother the mouthpiece so I can instruct my little man to please get down off of the table. I eventually realize that it may be easier to chat with an actual person. After making myself clear to the automated menu, I am successfully transferred to an “associate,” and eventually complete the call.

The poor woman probably thought I was shouting at her; but I, eight-point font mommy, had triumphed. At least this time. Who knows what the future has in store for the next time I am cornered, two to one, by a shouting toddler and an automated menu.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Are you going to eat that?

Boys are SO SCARY! People who don't believe that boys are born boys and girls are born girls probably do not have small children. The other day my son was ripping small pieces off of his peanut butter sandwich, not to eat them, but to stick them up his nose. Oh, yes. As charming as that is, another new trick is to stick his little index finger into the corners of the window sill that cannot be completely cleaned no matter how hard I try, and suck the dirt off of his finger with a quick *pop* as he pulls it out of his mouth. Just in case any of you are wondering- this makes me insane! Perhaps I need to develop a new love for art in order to appreciate the milk-murals that he likes to create on his placemat, or the couch, or wherever there is a surface on which to shake milk out of his cup and smear it into swirls and spirals. Yummy. Which reminds me: anything found on the floor is free gain for food, no matter if it should be ingested or not. At least he hasn't tried to eat any of the bugs that he has maimed while out in the back yard. All that aside, don't get me wrong, I absolutely love my boy. Who else can sing "Old MacDonald had a Farm" at the top of their lungs the way he does; he knows his alphabet, shapes, and colors; he refers to anything cross-shaped, including the letter "t," as "Jesus"; and he really honestly and truly loves his mommy. He's so great. I just hope that I can hold onto my sanity long enough to enjoy every minute of being mommy to such an amazing little boy.

Friday, August 24, 2007

It's curtains for you!

I have been on a rampage the last week or so. Anyone who has tried to shop for curtains on a budget can understand the stress of this seemingly impossible endeavor. My poor children had to watch from afar in the land of neglect while dear old mom spent all of her spare minutes surfing the internet in search of the illusive designer curtain at discounted prices. If such an animal exists I certainly did not find it. What I found instead were headaches, disappointments, and frustration. I think the rest of my family found that last one too. Except toward me instead of the man who decided it was okay to sell one striped window panel for $69.99 hardware not included.

After hours of surfing and multiple trips to Target and JcPenney I came to grips with purchasing plain-colored tab top panels. Even though they were nothing even close to my original dream curtains there was something satisfying in buying eight curtain panels for fewer than eighty dollars (for those of you wondering, it’s hard to buy even four panels for this price). I had high and foolish hopes that this would put to rest the curtain demons that had been hounding the part of my soul that cares about curtains, and that I would no longer be dreaming about panels, valences, and sheers and could get back to dreaming of things more pleasant. Like Alan Rickman’s voice.

I had read warnings from fellow curtain hunters in the reviews posted on Target’s website about the variance of panel lengths from one package to the next. This complaint seemed relatively common, so why I thought I could escape without experiencing it I don’t know. Perhaps in my delirium I felt impervious to the attack of the curtain-making machine they have hidden somewhere in Pakistan that makes these curtains. How wrong I was. After having washed and dried (according to the product directions) the four burgundy panels for my large living room window it has become painfully obvious that two of these curtains are now three inches shorter than the remaining two. I knew they were a teeny bit shorter before they went into the wash, but I was tired of Target at this point. (I believe if I see another red and white bulls-eye I may go into hysterics). So at any rate, I decided I could live with it. But three inches? That’s another story; don’t ask me what I am going to do about it because I honestly do not know. Yes, I could cross my fingers and exchange them for another package of potentially mismatched panels. But even then they could turn out to be like the favorite pair of jeans that are fine for the first one-hundred washes only to be foiled by the infamous one-hundred and first washing that renders them no longer capable of buttoning. Thankfully the four green panels slated for the dining room miraculously came out the same length they went into the machine.

As a small child I think I had good instincts about curtain shopping. I hated it. My mother was operating on an even tighter budget than I am and any time she wanted to look at curtains we all groaned because we knew it would take all day, and we would be given no food or affection, nor would we be allowed any sleep during the trip. With glazed eyes we would nod like crazed lunatics, “Yes, yes, we love those curtains! They are the most perfect curtains ever conceived of by man! Please buy them! Buy anything, something! We must be given access to toilet facilities and nourishment!” It really was a most horrendous experience. Of course I now understand that it was horrible for my mother too. On top of the curtain-shopping stress she also had the “I’m-shopping-with-four-children” stress to add to it.

So, in closing, I would like to thank the makers of fine chocolate for helping me through this (not that I have any fine chocolate to consume); and, more importantly, my husband, who promised not to seek a legal separation during this time of hardship and stress; but who has instead poured his energy into resisting the urge to throttle me at the mere mention of the “c” word.