Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Peanut

So there are a couple of things that you can always count on at the beginning of the school year.

First, there are lots of forms to fill out. Lots of redundant forms. It doesn't matter that you provided your school with all the useless particulars last year, you must fill out the same forms once again even if NONE OF THE INFORMATION HAS CHANGED. And forget about simply providing the name of your medical insurance company; no, it's not that easy. You will need to provide their mailing address and phone number, as well as your policy and group ID number. And the school also needs your doctor's name and phone number and your dentist's name and phone number. And they will most likely need the info on several different forms. And definitely one for each child, cause you never know when a family is going to mix things up and have different coverage for each child. 

I've started making stuff up. Not so much the names of the my kids' doctors, because I do (for the most part) know their names, but definitely their phone numbers. And the insurance policy number. I make that one up, for sure. Like I have those numbers committed to memory? Or even written down? I can barely remember my kids' names, for crying out loud. But rest assured, when they are sick, I look up their doctor's number. Come on, if it's a real emergency, is the school nurse really going to pull out my little blue information card to find my doctor of choice and then give them a call? I think not. So why do we pretend that this is such important stuff?

Another thing you can always count on during the first few days of school: the issuance of The Peanut Policy. In capital letters. I cannot tell you how much The Peanut Policy pisses me off. The fact that we have a Peanut Policy is simply beyond me. 

I'm not saying I don't feel for those kids with peanut allergies, because I do. A day without peanut butter is like a day without sunshine. And yes, I understand that sometimes - very rarely - but I'll give it to you - SOMETIMES said peanut allergy may be life-threatening. But then you know what? That kid with the fatal peanut allergy better be well-schooled in what may and may not kill him. He should be able to rattle off 10 things that contain peanuts or peanut by-products in 10 seconds. 

Do the parents of children with peanut allergies pass out The Policy to moviegoers at theaters where they frequent? Do they have copies of The Policy on hand when their child swims at the neighborhood pool? What about at the mall? Are the shoppers at Nordstrom made aware that there is a child in the shoe department with a life threatening peanut allergy? Cause I just want to know who is protecting the peanut allergy kids when they leave school property?

Aren't we doing the child a disservice by making the problem everybody else's and not solely his responsibility? Look, I understand there are hidden dangers for these kids. Wasn't there a case where a girl with a severe peanut allergy died after kissing her boyfriend who had eaten a peanut butter sandwich hours earlier? Or is that an urban legend? It might be. My point is, I realize there are real dangers, but if it was my kid, I would make sure that he was very much aware and informed and educated. Sure, if the allergy is severe enough it helps to make those around you aware of the problem. But a Peanut Policy? In capital letters? Really? How about a Lactose Policy? I suppose lactose intolerance doesn't kill. 

I think peanuts are getting a bum rap. And I think people are going overboard with The Peanut Policy. (In capital letters.) Do you know that peanuts are widely eaten in China and India but peanut allergies are almost unheard of there. Swear. I read that somewhere (not an urban legend). Apparently the roasting of the peanut (which is much more common in North America than China and India) causes the major peanut allergen to become stronger. So if anything, The Peanut Policy should notify peanut manufacturers to stop roasting the heck out of their peanuts. That way I can send my kid to school with a peanut butter sandwich without being read the riot act. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


I think America's workforce needs a lesson or two in productivity. Granted, I'm not an industrial engineer by any stretch, but I've been noticing some rather odd efficiency practices as of late. 

Ok, take for instance the cashiers at Harris Teeter....

I'm used to rolling my cart up to the cashier, having the cashier take the milk from said cart, dragging it over the scanner and then sending it down the conveyor belt to be bagged. Works beautifully. Has for years. If there is a bagger there, the items are bagged, if there is no bagger available - I am happy to do my own bagging. Always do.

But lately I've encountered some rather odd check out practices. Some cashiers think it's better to scan and then immediately bag, thus avoiding the conveyor belt altogether. In other words, after sliding the milk over the scanner, they place it directly into a bag. Hmm. This works if there are only 5 or 6 items to ring up. But if the cart is full (and granted, mine usually is) it gets cumbersome when the bags start filling up and the cashier is not using all the space on the conveyor and thus a cluster of grocery bags is formed. And there is no place for you to move the bags because the cashier has your cart! Again, I don't pretend to be an industrial engineer, but I've been around a grocery store or two in my day and this is a flawed system. 

Now, as if that isn't bad enough, I've also experienced the rogue cashier who again, opts to bypass the conveyor belt, but instead of immediately bagging the item after scanning, this efficiency "guru" opts to return the item to the rear of the cart. Swear. It's beyond ridiculous. And then after everything is scanned and returned to the cart, the bagging process will commence. Seriously, what the? 

This totally sets you up for double ringage. The first time it happened I was caught off guard, not paying full attention and thought to myself, "What just happened here?" But the next time it happened, I inquired as to how the cashier was going to keep track of what she had and had not scanned. She looked at me like I had ten heads. Like I was the crazy one. Like this skill of hers was obviously lost on me. I so badly wanted to say, "Where, pray tell, is the efficiency in this process?" But I could tell by her glare that this particular cashier was not open to constructive criticism, so I backed off. 

But it's spreading. 

It kills me to take Target's name in vain, but my brand-spanking new Target has a flawed check-out system. You place your items on a conveyor belt that delivers the items to the cashier who then rolls the items over the scanner and immediately places the goods in a bag. So far, so good. But herein lies the problem...the bags are behind a wall and the customer cannot easily reach over the wall to load the bags in the cart. And the wall is too high for the cashier to lift the bags and place them in your cart. And the rack of empty bags takes up a lot of space behind said wall, so as a result, bags that are not chock full of items are inevitably left behind because they are hidden behind the rack of empty bags. In fact, the last time I was there, the cashier warned me to be sure to collect all of my bags. Um, hello, why is this my job? And more importantly how do you propose I pick up bags that I cannot possibly see? 

After checking out this afternoon I stopped by the Starbuck's (conveniently located by the Target exit doors). I placed my order and paid for the goods and before the barista started on my grande skim latte extra hot, she asked the next person in line what she wanted. Um, hello? How about getting that delicious latte going before taking the next order? At least get me that cup of water I asked for. And perhaps start steaming the skim milk. Efficiency. So now she has two orders, she has collected the money on both orders, there are no other baristas in sight and while she starts to step away to make the latte and chai tea, another customer approaches the counter. You guessed it - she comes back to the register and takes her order as well. What the? 

Luckily for me, no other customers approached the counter. But for some reason unbeknownst to me, this particular Starbuck's employee is convinced that she can make the latte, the chai tea and the iced mocha something-or-other at the same time instead of one at a time. Suffice it to say, the steamed milk (extra hot, mind you) exploded out of the tin pitcher, the chai tea was a Grande rather than the requested Venti, and the iced mocha something-or-other had vanilla added to it much to the customer's dismay. When the customer pointed out the vanilla issue, the barista responded, "Oh, that's right it was you who wanted the Skinny Vanilla Latte." and pointed to me. Um, no. I wanted the skim latte extra hot. And for the record - I ordered FIRST. AND I never got that cup of water that I asked for!

But I couldn't be mean to her because she was as sweet as the day is long; she just needed a lesson or two in efficiency. Good to know that if her particular Starbuck's is one of the 600 planned to close by March, she can easily get a job as a cashier at Harris Teeter. She certainly has the skill set. 

Back to school....

And so they are gone. And so is summer. Today is the first day of school and my kids just finished the dreaded photo shoot in the driveway and now are off to the bus. (for more photo opps, I'm sure). 

The sumer of 2008 was the fastest summer on record. Why isn't the media all over that? And why is it that time flies when you are having fun? While eating his breakfast this morning, Beck glanced at this morning's headlines and wanted to know what a "VP Pick" was (apparently Obama will be texting his choice sometime in the very near future)...so why does it seem like Obama has been running for President for 14 years and yet summer lasted a mere 14 days? It's hardly fair. 

But now it's back to a schedule. The first day of school is kind of like New Year's day for me. I have lots of resolutions. I want to get back on an exercise schedule and an eating schedule (ie: stop eating everything in sight and washing it down with a cocktail). I want to cook dinner a few times a week (notice I did not commit to every night.) I want to be patient and kind when it comes to homework (that will undoubtedly be the first resolution to be broken.)

OH. MY. GOD. Time out. 

The phone just rang. It was was Maddie (who would leave the house each morning without her head were it not conveniently attached to her body. Swear.) calling from her bus driver's cell phone, "Hi Mom, I need my tennis shoes." 

Are you freaking kidding me? Rrreally? This is how you want to start things? Wow. 

Suddenly summer is a distant memory and all I can remember are the countless times she sat down to do her homework only to realize she had forgotten her books. As my blood pressure steadily climbs, I run to find her tennis shoes so that I can make it to the bus before it pulls out of the parking lot. I can assure you that I looked lovely in my fleece bathrobe and Medusa-like hairdo as I leaped into the tan minivan (in bare feet, mind you) and pulled out of the driveway at upwards of 90 mph. (Did I mention she never said please or thank you? She's going to pay for that one. Dearly.)

As I approach the bus stop, I see loads of cute moms with big smiles on their faces waving to their precious (and no doubt reliable) kids on the bus. I screech in on two wheels and roll down my window to announce that I am here with a couple of pair of tennis shoes (god forbid I should choose the wrong pair for the Princess, so I brought every tennis shoe I could find in her cubby) and will not be getting out of the vehicle to catch up as I am sporting a bathrobe. Hardly embarrassing. At all. And then it occurs to me that THAT is exactly how she is going to pay - I am going to climb on to that bus in said bathrobe looking like I-don't-know-what and I am going to call for Maddie on the top of my lungs announcing to all of her friends and upper class men that Maddie has a total hag for a mother! 

But before I could get the seatbelt unbuckled, Maddie is leaping down the stairs of the bus. She grabbed the shoes out of my hands and was back on the bus begging Steve (the bus driver) to close the doors and pull away. I could smell her desperation through the windows. She knew the lunatic in me had been unleashed and she was frightened for her life and the lives of her fellow passengers. As she should be. My job is done. 

So much for peace and quiet this morning. Maybe it's a good thing that summer is over. I need some distance....

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Idols Live

So even though I promised that there would be blogging after Idol, I was not true to my word.

My summer was completely blog-free. But all that's about to change now that summer is officially over (my kids go back to school this week). And to get me going.... I was re-energized tonight....when I saw the Idols in concert! It was good to see my old friends; some of them, that is, others I could have done without seeing tonight. Unfortunately Simon wasn't there, but had he been, I'm pretty sure we would have had the same take on things. 

We had great seats. The Idols were only a stones throw away from us. I felt like one of the judges. So without further ado...

Chikezie opened the show. And to be honest with you, I have no idea what he sang. I think I recognized the songs while he was singing them - but I've forgotten them now. Because Chikezie is forgettable. And he always had a problem with song choice. And I've always had a problem with him. 

Next came Ramiele. She looked adorable, but that little girl totally lacks stage presence. She had some choreographed dance moves to Jackson Five's "I Want You Back" but they were painful to watch and I just wanted her off the stage because I knew who was next....

Michael Johns. The guy rocks. I thought I only had eyes for Michael Phelps this summer, but I was mistaken. After seeing Michael (Johns, not Phelps) tonight I still can't get my head around why America voted him off so early in the season?? He sang "We Will Rock you" and then Dolly Parton's "It's All Wrong, But It's All Right." And he was totally all right. Happy to report he was not sporting one of his signature ascots, but he did wear a scarf around his neck. I think he's been hitting the gym hard this summer as he looked especially buff. In fact, many of the Idols looked like they dropped a few pounds and toned up while on the tour. The crowd loved Michael and he finished out by saying "This is the song that got me voted off Idol..." and then sang "Dream On". 

I think Kristy Lee Cook in all her country glory was next. She looked fantastic; but then again, she didn't have a pound to lose nor a muscle to tone. She gave a shout out to the troops and sang that cheesy "God Bless the USA" song. I don't remember her two other songs because as easy as she is on the eye....she is very forgettable. 

Carly Smithson is down about 30 pounds. Swear. She no longer needs to pour her sausage-like body into a pair of Spanx. In fact, she had on a hot little outfit and looked great. If this music thing doesn't take off, I think Weight Watchers would hire her as their spokesperson. She sang Heart's "Crazy on You". And after belting out two more songs, she introduced Brooke. 

Brooke came up through the stage playing the piano and singing "Let it Be". I thought she was one of the best performers tonight. Sure, she comes across as a bit nervous, but she's got a great voice and I loved her song choices. After "Let it Be" she traded in her piano for a guitar and sang Feist's "1 2 3 4" and then went back to the piano for Coldplay's "Yellow." She can't work the crowd, but she entertains them with her vocals. 

Then right before intermission, the six of them sang U2's "Pride" while plugging Idol Gives Back. Michael John's stole the show, but it was easy to do as the others don't have much star quality. Michael is quite the ham and the crowd was eating it up. (no pun intended).

After intermission, it was Jason's turn. The teeny boppers in the crowed LOVED him. I'm pretty sure that he was sober during this performance. At least during this first performance, things took a turn for the worse later during the group sing when he walked on stage and either forgot the lyrics or thought "Please Don't Stop the Music" was hysterically funny, because he couldn't stop laughing. Hmm. He's lucky he's so darn cute. He sang "Somewhere over the Rainbow" with is ukulele and then switched to guitar to sing Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" and then Lovin' Spoonful's "Daydream". Adorable. The kid is simply adorable. 

Syesha opened with Rhianna's "Umbrella". She did not make it her own. And then she tried to do her best Beyonce impersonation with "Listen" from Dreamgirls. Yeah, not so much, Syesha. She did a lot of shouting. Screaming, really. She looked great, as usual. That girl has legs and she knows how to use them. Ouch. I am curious to see what she winds up doing after the tour.

As you might expect, David Archuleta was a big hit. He started with "Angels" and then did a few of his grunts and groans and "aw shucks" before he ventured into "Stand By Me" complete with Sean Kingston's "Beautiful Girls" added at the end. I hope his father was happy with his rendition. The crowd sure was. He wore a Liberace-esque jacket and had his eyes shut tight during all four songs. I was so happy not to have to hear "Imagine". 

And then it was finally David Cook's turn to dazzle the crowd. David has also been pumping iron this summer and looked mighty fine. Gone are the days of David's bad comb-over; his hair looks fab and his stylist has taken him to new heights. His voice was awesome and he rocked the house starting with "Hello" then "Time of My Life" then "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing". In between songs he was gracious and funny and entertaining. He dedicated "My Hero" to his brother Adam and then came back on stage to sing "Billie Jean". He really is a rocker. America totally got it right - he can sing and he can perform. 

And then all the Idols came out for a final "Please Don't Stop the Music" finale. Good times. And high times for Jason Castro. 

It's good to be back...