Thursday, October 29, 2015

Coach Toppall

Is there anything sexier than seeing a father be involved with his kids?  I can't think of many things that warm my heart more.   I wish everyone could see Jeff in action as Ian's flag football coach.  It is quite a sight!

I had about 6 very close girlfriend's mouths drop open when I said Jeff was going to coach Ian's team.  Even Jeff and Ian were a bit surprised that Jeff got instantly promoted from his desire to be an assistant coach to the top position.  No one was certain how this was going to go, especially given Jeff's ability to get frustrated and lose patience very easily.  In similar fashion to Jeff wanting to chaperone the 12 hour field trip to Jamestown (on a bus, no less), we've all been pleasantly surprised at Jeff rising to the challenge and then some.

Out on the field, Jeff is so patient with the kids; even with the one that never stops asking questions.  And he has this smile on his face as he calls out encouraging words to the kids on the field or gives them advice on which way to go with the ball.  I am so proud of him and love to watch him in action.  Ian is enjoying having his dad be involved too.

Coach has a nice ring to it!  Now, we just need Jeff's huge projects he is knee deep in at work to get in line with the program.

That's Ian in the middle of this picture, #22

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Sam's great advice

Our mornings have been getting smoother.  It has taken approximately the 10 weeks since school started for us to achieve the success I was hoping.  Sam now gets dressed on her own; picks out her own clothing, doesn't throw a fit and doesn't whine.  We are not a 100% perfect, but far enough along that I consider this a big check mark on the list for trying to fix our rocky and turbulent mornings.

About a week ago, my friend texted me venting about her two girls and what she goes thru each morning.  She was at her wits end and couldn't take it anymore.  Boy, could I relate! It was exactly identical to what I had been experiencing; from the "I have nothing to wear!", to "I don't want to wear that!", "or that!", "or that!", "or that!", to "I'm not getting dressed!", I didn't even need to read the text messages to know what my friend was saying.  One of her daughters was too young to employ the same tactics I had been doing with Sam, but the other girl was the perfect age to give my strategy a go.

When I picked Sam up from school that afternoon, I decided to try something unique.  I explained to Sam what my mommy friend was going thru and did she have any advice for her?

Sam: She needs to tell her daughter that she will not get breakfast until she comes downstairs dressed for school.  And let her daughter know she will not get involved in any way.  Just ignore her until she is dressed.  She can only ask for help if she needs to know if something matches or needs help with a button or a zipper.   

Oh my gosh!  When I heard Sam's advice, I had a smile from ear to ear.  She totally got it! 

I said to Sam, "Boy, that's great advice!  It really has made our mornings much easier, hasn't it?"

Sam agreed with me.  Consider this obstacle now officially ironed out. 

Friday, October 16, 2015

Going old school...very old school.

We spent last weekend visiting Colonial Williamsburg.  The kids and I had gone during Spring Break and we were eager to return with Jeff.  I have to say this was by far the easiest weekend away we've ever had.  It was low key, low maintenance and no fighting/whining or screaming.  The kids packed themselves for our overnight trip.  This alone made it a pleasure to wake-up on Saturday morning and take us a total 5 minutes to pull our stuff together.  No diapers, pull-ups, crib, baby food, or stroller was needed.  We've come a long way!

We stayed at a Hampton Inn and Suites very close to the visitor's center and just 2 miles from where we would be going for dinner.  You couldn't beat the location and the room was a good size.  We each had own space to sleep (Jeff/me in the king size bed, Ian on the pull-out sofa and Sam on a rollaway bed) and we all easily slept anywhere from 9 to 11 hours.  That's pretty awesome considering we were all in the same room. 

We enjoyed our time in Williamsburg and got to eat at The Cheese Shop for lunch.  Jeff and Sam couldn't fully appreciate the madness/chaos/crowds the Cheese Shop offered.  Every hour thereafter during our weekend was a constant comparison to what we experienced at The Cheese Shop.  Fortunately the rest of our time was much more easygoing.  While Jeff and Sam didn't find the wait at The Cheese Shop worth it (for the record, Ian and I did), everyone unanimously agreed that the wait for a table at dinner more than made up for it.  Team Toppall has a new favorite restaurant that makes us all happy:  Food for Thought.  I believe if we were there another night, we'd go back and eat at the same place.  It was that good!  

For it being a holiday weekend, the town was not that crowded, which made it nice for walking around and checking out all the demonstrations/little shops.  Maybe that's because everyone was in line at The Cheese Shop. :)

In Front of the Governor's Palace

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

An apple a day...

Friday, October 9th was a school holiday.  What better time than to load up the car and head for apple picking?   This year we left the husbands behind and added another mom and her two girls to join us.  We tried a new location and found our way to Great Country Farms in Bluemont, VA.

Sam and her friend Ruby

As you can see, Sam couldn't stop eating the apples. :)

All the kids.

What better way to reach the higher up apples?

It was a fun afternoon and we can now check this off our Fall to-do list.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Flu Shot Extravaganza 2015!

Flu Shot Extravaganza strikes again!  Each year we do the following events with the same mommy friend and her kids (same ages as mine):  Dinner at Uncle Julio's, flu shot clinic, and then ice cream at Ben & Jerry's.  Everything is conveniently located in the same area and doesn't even require moving the car.  It's a pretty awesome location where the pediatrician is.  We've been doing this for years now and everyone absolutely loves it when they see Flu Shot Extravaganza on the calendar.

This year there was a bit of a twist as our pediatrician couldn't guarantee there would be enough of the flu mist vaccine for everyone who signed up for the clinic.  If the mist wasn't available, the shot would be in ample supply to make it happen.  I gave my two kids the option that if they couldn't get the mist, I wouldn't make them get a shot.  I'd track down the mist at a Target.  Beth gave the same out to her kids.  We knew even if the kids all decided to wait for the mist that we'd still have a nice dinner together and enjoy each other's company.

Ian told me on the way to meet up with Beth and her kids that he was ok getting the shot if he had to.  All he would need is for me to distract him.  When I told Beth this at dinner, she said her two kids told her earlier if there was only 1 mist available, they'd let Sam have it and they would get the shot too.  Wow!  I was very touched.

We had a great dinner and headed to the pediatrician's office.  As we are standing in line (it's an amazingly well-run operation -- they keep the line moving super fast), we see the first set of kids exiting.  I surveyed everyone who passed by us and asked if the mist was still happening.  Affirmative.  Yay!  We still stood a chance.

We were all in this together and entered the exam room waiting for the nurse to come in.  When we saw she had 4 of the flu mists in her hands, we screamed with joy!  Whew!  We took a gamble and it paid off.  Happy kiddos all-around.  Sam even went first in getting the mist.

We headed to Ben & Jerry's as happy campers and got the kiddos ice cream.  Afterwards they played chess on the big chess set behind Coastal Flats.  Another successful Flu Shot Extravaganza is in the books!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Satellite radio absurdity

My car came with a 3 month trial subscription to SiriusXM radio.  I was super excited and couldn't believe I was FINALLY bringing Howard Stern back into my life.  11 years ago I used to listen to him faithfully on the FM radio in my car on the way to work.  Next thing you know, he migrated to satellite radio and I stayed at home having two kids. It's been 11 long years.  Here was my chance to make mornings fun and saucy again!   It goes without saying, I don't listen to him when the kids are in the car. This is just a treat for me when I am kid-free.

I knew immediately I would become a subscriber when the trial ended.  Beyond Howard, there are some pretty fantastic channels I am enjoying...."Seriously Sinatra", "On Broadway", "XL Stars", "Today Show", and yes, for Sam "Radio Disney".

I received marketing material after marketing material with pricing on what it will cost for me to keep the subscription going.  I decided to do 6 month increments and have it auto renew each 6 months afterwards.

On October 7, I get in the car and head to my preschool job.  There is no Howard Stern.  The channel is showing an "unauthorized channel" message.  OMG!  I look at the date and realize this is day one of the paid subscription.  Without missing a beat I call Sirius (from the car on the way to my job) and find out from a gentleman (who doesn't speak English as a first language and is very hard to understand) that my paid subscription does not give full access to all the channels.  WHAT!!?!?!?!?!   In none of the many wastes of papers that were mailed to me (mind you, they kept coming long after I had called in my credit card number) did it say that I was paying for one set of channels that were completely different than the channels in my trial period.  I felt like this was a major bait and switch!

To say I was less than pleased is a major understatement. First I need to confirm all my information before this guy will tell me what the difference is in price.  I have to give my full name, my husband's full name, my relationship to my husband, my address, my phone number (both home and cell), email address, and the make/model of my car.  The difference in price is $29 for the 6 months.  Fine, please charge my credit card and let's get on with it.

The guy starts saying something and I'm not understanding him.  I tell him to just let me know the difference in price and keep going with making this transaction happen.  The next few minutes are not pretty and then the guy has the nerve to say, "My phone connection is not good, you need to call back."  That was all and then HE HUNG UP ON ME!  Yes, HE hung up on me!  Now smoke is coming out of my ears.

I immediately call back and this time a woman answers.  I tell her I want to speak to a supervisor.  She says fine but first needs to confirm all my information.  OMG!  So yes, I go through all the info again.  All of it.  She puts me on hold for a minute and then supposedly a 'supervisor' comes on the phone.  Um, it's the same exact voice!   The same exact accent and everything.  Amy is pretending to be a supervisor.  Whatever!  I tell her how the first representative intentionally hung up on me, I tell her how I feel like a major bait and switch is happening with the access to the channels on trial vs paid subscription.  All she says is "I will make a note in your account".   So I press her on this...."What does that mean exactly?  What happens when you make a note?  After the note is made, then where does it go?"   She tries to tell me that they take the notes very seriously.   So I reply, "So someone will follow-up with me to discuss the note in my account?"  Nope, no one will let me know what happens with my note. Now its her turn to talk and all she wants to know is "What Sirius channels do my kids enjoy in the car?"  Um, what?  I am not subscribing for my kid's listening pleasure.  I say, all I want is Howard Stern. Again she asks, "What channels do your kids like listening to?"    This is crazy.  I tell her stop asking me about my kids.  Just get me Howard Stern. She says she wants to make sure that my kids don't miss out on their favorite channels.  I am pretty sure no is charging extra for access to Radio Disney.

She then charges my account the $29 difference in cost for getting the Howard Stern channel for the next 6 months.  After that it will be $143 every six months. Yowzer!  Again with the enormous price hike.   Somewhere Mr. SiriusXM is sitting there counting his money, because he is making a lot.  And let me tell you, it's not being spent on quality customer service.

When my morning was over at the preschool, I got back in the car and to my dismay, the Howard Stern channel was still not accessible.  So I make another call.  And another 5 minutes verifying all my information to tell them they haven't done what their supposed to do.  As I say to the woman (who also has a really strong accent) that I am Jeff's wife, she interjects "his loving wife you meant to say, right?  Really?  Is this any concern of hers?  What if I wasn't his loving wife?  What if the guy hits me and I am ready to run for the hills and escape?   Whatever, I go through my whole spiel as to how the channels don't seem to be working still.  This time just as I am finally getting somewhere, the phone disconnects.  UGH!

And yet another call is made within seconds of realizing I am no longer speaking to a human being on the other end of the line.  And this time I say from the very beginning, please just connect me to a supervisor.  I am tired of making these calls.  I just want a supervisor.  I refuse to verify any of my information until a supervisor comes on the line.  Frank puts me on hold for a minute and comes right back on the phone "This is Frank, I am a supervisor".  Seriously!??!?  Another representative pretending to be a supervisor?

Me:  Frank, you are not a supervisor. You are the guy who just answered the phone.
Frank:  Yes, I am.
Me:  No, your not.
Frank:  Am to.
Me:  No, your not.
Frank   Am to.
Me;  No, your not.
Frank  Am to.
Me:  OMG!!!  Please stop this insanity!!
(magically now Howard Stern comes on!)
Me:  Look, I was calling because I am supposed to have all channel access and up until 10 seconds ago I didn't have it.  Now I do.  For the record I would like to say, this is the worst customer service ever.  Worst marketing materials ever.  And if it wasn't for Howard Stern I would cancel my subscription right now.
Frank:  Can you verify your account information?
I laugh.  I really laugh.  Then I give him all of it without him even having to prompt me for the next item.  I give him my full name, Jeff's full name, my relationship to Jeff, my cell phone number, my home number, my address, my email address, and the make/model of my car.

Frank:  I am sorry you are so frustrated. I will make note of this in your account.
Me:  Wow Frank, that would be great.

Fast forward to the next day.  I get an email asking to take a survey for feedback on my call to  SiriusXM.  I can't wait to see if they do anything with all the information I typed back.

1. They do not employ any supervisors.
2. They do not have any employees that have English as a first language.  I am pretty certain all 4 calls were directed to a call center in India.
3. Their marketing materials sent to potential customers needs major help; it was not clear that I was paying for a limited amount of channels and would not be getting everything my trail had included.  The marketing materials also did not stop arriving and arriving and arriving encouraging me to be a new customer even after I had already given them my credit card and signed up.

It's shame there isn't more competition (or any?) in this industry to make them step up their game.  They've got us where they want us.  And with 3 months of loving the trial, I am officially sucked into their game. I'd say they are by far the winners in all this.