Thursday, January 31, 2008

Working Conditions


Last Friday, Jeff’s parents took mercy on us and took Ten for the long MLK weekend. I met Jeff’s mom on the other side of the grapevine for the hand off, and despite the fact that it then took me 4 hours to get home, I felt it was worth it for 2 days of peace & quiet.

My long drive home gave me time to reflect on my employer. No, not El Torito…the other one. Here are the harsh truths:

The hours tend to suck. I work a 15 hour day on average. My day starts somewhere between 7:30 and 8 and usually doesn’t end until 10-10:30. Sometimes there’s overtime. Days have been known to start as early as 5 and go as late as midnight. Occasionally you do shift work- you think the day ended at 10, but due to an unforeseen monster/lost lovey/hallucination that a train is about to drive through the office you discover that you have a shift at 2, 3 or 4. Or all of them. However, my employer still currently embraces the idea of siesta, so you do get a 2 hr-ish break in the middle that it is wise to take advantage of.

My employer does not give sick days. It’s worse than when I worked for places like Pac Bell & Disneyland where you were only allowed to have X number of occurrences totaling X number of days. Keeping up with the Boss when you have a cold or the flu is a killer- and forget about taking any medicine that might make you sleepy or groggy. If I’m really bad, I’ll call in a contractor like Grandma Suzie or Aunty Kim to see if they can work a couple of my hours.

My employer does not give days off. Not if she can help it. This is a seven day a week operation, and all staff members must be accounted for at all times. Occasionally we can arrange little meetings with the contractors, like last weekend, but otherwise there is no rest for the weary. Even then, the Boss prefers to have her staff with her. The best you can usually do for yourself are the days with the 3.75 hours when she meets with the other little upper management types and their educational consultant to create office d├ęcor, learn annoying little songs, feast on cheese & crackers and try to establish some reasonable language and social skills.

The Boss has uniform issues. Most companies pick a uniform or dress code & stick with it. They may update the uniform, or go to casual Fridays, but it’s usually pretty much the same. At this point, the Boss could care less what the staff wears. We could wander around in fishnet body stockings and pith helmets and that would be fine (as long as she got a pith helmet too). The Boss, however, is like a bad community theatre production of “Gigi” and insists on changing her outfit several times a day. Jeans are currently a requirement for leaving the house. But then the whole outfit comes off so she can put on her ballet clothes and do Bella Dancerella. Then it’s time to run around in underwear. Then the jeans are back on…but with a new shirt. Suddenly, boots are required. Then it’s naptime, but pajamas must be worn. After nap, the jeans are back…with a new shirt. That gets shed so the hula skirt can be donned while she watches Lilo & Stitch. And on and on. Any attempt by the staff to cramp the Boss’s style, like insisting that a sundress & bare feet can not be worn outside in 40 degree weather results in a lot of screaming, crying, and running away.

The lunch hour is non-existent. In a very trend forward and health conscious manner, the Boss wholeheartedly embraces the idea of several small meals a day. Actually, what the Boss wants is a continuous smorgasbord of snacks- preferably marshmallows, cheetos, cookies, crackers, suckers, popcorn, pudding, peanuts, mandarin oranges, yogurt, etc. An actual meal can be a challenge, and she’d like one of the first 5 snacks listed as an appetizer. And God forbid you eat something other than what she’s having, or eat at a different time: either way your meal will be hijacked and you will be required to “share” which roughly translates to “I’m going to eat your food and if you can get a bite in, well then that’s nice for you.”

The Boss is not a motivational speaker. “Because you have to!” “But I want it/to now!” “But I want (fill in the blank)!” “You have to give me sucker/candy/cookies because it’s yummy for me.” “NO!” …these are a few of her oft used phrases designed to motivate the staff to do her bidding. Obviously, they don’t seem to have that effect on us, which is when the Boss goes into Tyra Banks-Diva mode and begins pitching a fit. Lately, whenever the whine begins, I seem to be spontaneously unable to hear her: I explain that I see her mouth moving but I just can’t seem to hear anything. Often my hearing returns as soon as the whine leaves and the word “please” is employed.

The good thing about the job is that the pay can’t be beat. When you actually get paid it’s fantastic. These days, unfortunately, pay is sporadic and you tend to live off the little daily per diem of snuggles during story time and big hugs after pre-school. Occasionally there are surprise bonuses like climbing in your lap and snuggling until she falls asleep, getting told that you’re pretty, or even spontaneous “I love you”s (note: these are also given out when the Boss knows that she’s done something that is going to cause the staff to turn on her).

I keep hoping (although I am told it’s in vain) that as the Boss gets older she’ll become a bit more reasonable, learn some motivational speaking, and decide on some set hours; and that these little changes might lead to more pay on a more regular basis. Until then, I’ll just have to take what I can get, and roll with the punches. Because the truth is, that even if I could quit- I wouldn’t. Not for all the tea in China.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Uh-Oh, it's too Quiet!

When all of a sudden it is quiet around the house and there is no tell-tale signs of a terrorist three year old, you go looking for her and this is what you might find.


Also, when you take your daughter to work with you on an early Saturday morning and it is very quiet, you have to wonder what is she up to????



Wednesday, January 02, 2008

A Happy (?) New Year

Our “fun” outing the day after Christmas was to sit in gawd awful traffic on 3 freeways to arrive over an hour late to the pediatritian who informed us that Ten had received the unexpected and unpleasant gift of pneumonia. A weeks worth of serious antibiotics later and she’s doing fine.

I don’t know whether it’s been a side effect of the antibiotics, or Christmas letdown or what, but for the last week or so my child has been the biggest brat on the planet. We have seen temper tantrums like you expect to see out of early 2’s: kicking, thrashing, flailing, screaming, yelling, roaring, crying…all at the same time- and over God only knows what. Sometimes you know what the problem is: you have (selfishly) declined to put in a Dora / Backyardigans/ Elmo/ Barbie/Hello Kitty DVD, and declared that it’s Daddy’s turn to watch something on TV since you’ve just been subjected to 3 hours of continuous episodes of Little Bear and are now in a diabetic coma. (Like most 3 year olds, Tenley only believes in sharing when it benefits her) Sometimes you have no idea what has set her off. The war in Iraq? We’re out of marshmallows? The Earth’s axis is off by .000000001 degree?? What ever it is, you’ll never know because she’s so busy screaming that she can’t tell you what the problem is- you just put her in time out and listen to her thrash around for an hour or so (no, I’m not kidding). We have no idea what to do with her.

It was one of these tantrums that awakened me from my pre-work nap on the 29th. I was blissfully dozing, but knew that Ten & Jeff had come home because I heard the screaming before they hit the front porch. Jeff took her to The Pod and tried valiantly to shush her and calm her down. I was using my phone as an alarm clock so I texted him to find out what the issue was. He had no clue. So he brought her back to see me. No, lack of my presence wasn’t the issue either. But I offered to try to cuddle her & calm her down. Bad idea. As Jeff bent over the bed to hand her thrashing form to me, she threw her head back and screamed…and connected with my nose. There was a sickening crunch, I screamed, and then the blood started. Poor Jeff, he wasn’t sure what to do first: deal with the crying & now profusely bleeding wife or the hysterical child. I restrained Ten and sent him for ice.

The long and short of it? She broke my nose. As a broken nose goes, it’s not too bad. She connected low enough that although the nose is swollen & purple, I escaped getting the raccoon eyes.

So 2007 has officially ended with a broken nose, a healed heel, a cranky kid who is now wearing big girl panties full time, an unregistered car, and a stinky dog.

Bring on the 8.

The Holiday Recap

Well, the holidays are finally over, and I can’t say that I’m sorry to see the back of them. Some years, Halloween gets you in the Fall feeling, and then it’s Thanksgiving and you’re enjoying seeing friends and family; the days are long and stretch before you with time to shop, wrap, bake and generally just enjoy the holiday. But then there’s years like this one where (despite the fact that it got cold) it never really felt like Fall, Thanksgiving came and went- but it still felt like early November even though Christmas was days away, and there was no time (or money) to do much of anything.

It was during an late Nov. trip to Disneyland that Jeff started complaining that his left heel hurt. “Hmmm…maybe plantar facisitis” we all said. But no. “Ahhh, a cracked heel bone!” the doctor said. So Jeff spent the rest of the year hobbling along on his cane, which Tenley ran off with at every available opportunity.

We missed Hannukah at Scott & Gaynor’s (again!) this year because Ten & Jeff decided to get the stomache flu the day of the party. ::: sigh::: No latkes again.

Tenley did go to see Santa, and at 3 years old we finally got our first non screaming/crying/trying to get away picture. She informed the attending elf that she had a “short list” and indeed asked the big guy for only 2 things: a rocking horse and a Cinderella dress. I informed Santa that I had him hooked up.

I had no free time during the holidays because I was being one of Santa’s elves and working on the above mentioned “rocking horse”. I had aquired a 1993 Hedstrom spring horse (which I know I am at least the 3rd owner of) and it needed a little TLC, so I spent 8 weeks completely restoring it.

Christmas Eve was fun because this is the first year Ten is really starting to “get” what’s going on (next year should be even better). Her favourite part of the experience is still the paper shredding. Paper is shredded and the tissue flys, and the gift emerges and she says “Ooooh look Mommy! It’s Baby Mulan!” as she tosses the box to the side and says “I want to open another present!” The only gift that caused her to pause at all was the Disney Princess Vanity that Grandpa Duke gave her… and the only 2 gifts that she stopped and wanted to play with immediately were the Cinderella dress from Cousin Kari & her kids, and the very cool mailbox from Grandma & Grandpa. The only thing not fun was that it was obvious that the “cold” we had been treating for 8 days was not getting better and was in fact, getting worse and going to require a trip to the doctor.



Christmas morning came and Ten was delighted to find that Santa had indeed left her a rocking horse whom she named “Molasses” after all the various equines in the Backyardagains. She spent the day happily playing with her toys…and running a fever…and vomiting (probably from all the junk she was eating). We decided not to go to my extended family’s Christmas gathering, but when we told her we weren’t going to go, she burst into tears. So we relented and traded an hour of laying on the couch watching her new “Barbie of Swan Lake” DVD for going to the party. We forbid anyone at the party from feeding her anything, and she did pretty well. She helped everyone open their gifts, and conned Aunty Meg into opening the Bella Dancerella she bought for her- so we got to see both of them playing with it. Aunty Lisa bought her her own digital camera- so be on the lookout for “photography by Tenley” very soon.

As usual, the Tiny Empress had quite a haul. The loot list included a bean bag, a Learn Through Music, clothes & shoes, books, 2 baby dolls, a board game, DVDs, a Barbie, accessories for the baby dolls (including hand made ones!), sheets for a big girl bed, and playdough...just to name some of it! I'm trying to casually weed out old toys so I can make room for new ones...which seem to be rather large.
But wait...there's more....