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Today is the last week day of Spring Break. (Our spring break was two weeks long; we went out of town for one of those weeks.) (The first week went by MUCH more quickly than the second week has.)

Since my husband is on call, I have two remaining days of entertaining Carla, and then she is back to school on Monday. It has been a long week, through no fault of Carla’s. But I am not cut out for two weeks of spring break. Nor for being solely responsible for entertaining my child. Why yes, I am one of those people who says I need a vacation from my vacation.

  • It is no secret that I am an introvert. And being a parent has only heightened my need for alone time, I think. Not because I don’t enjoy being with Carla. On the contrary: I love spending time with her, and I especially love it when I have enough energy to plan and do fun things with her. But I need time to myself. It is essential for my mental well-being. Normally, after spending a lovely, fun-filled week with my husband and child, in-laws, sister, and niece (as we did last week), I would prefer to close myself in my office with my computer, some tea, and maybe some Reese’s peanut butter eggs and not talk to ANYONE for a good three days. This is not hyperbole. I am 100% serious. Instead, this week, I had my lovely energetic and talkative child at home with me all day every day. I also had multiple appointments scheduled, because I figured they would help break up the time. Instead, I ended up compounding the problem by needing to interact with additional people. By today, I am DONE. I have a friend who is returning from spring break tomorrow who wants to get our kids together and I cannot FATHOM such an idea. I cannot wait until Monday when I am going to drop Carla off at school, come home, and sit in my office silently All. Day. Long. I am even dreading the social interaction that will come with drop off. Since it was a long break, Carla’s teachers sent the kids home with everything in their cubbies so the classroom could undergo a good thorough cleaning. So Carla has a bunch of stuff to take with her, which means I will need to walk with her to her classroom. And that means running into parents – parents I like! and am friendly with! and want to talk to! – who will want to chat about spring break. I don’t think I can do it, Internet.
Matcha latte

Reese’s peanut butter egg not pictured because I am brashly using an old photo from a previous post.

  • I’m afraid Carla has had a pretty boring spring break. I am trying really hard not to feel too guilty about it. We have been spending time together and playing together every day. And she did have a WHOLE WEEK of sunshine and grandparents and swimming pool and cousin. But I do worry that she’ll grow up and remember how I kept her closed up in the house for spring break and all she did was watch TV. (That is NOT all we’ve done! We’ve gone bike riding! And for walks! And to the grocery store twice! And we went out for donuts one morning! And to the library! And to Tuesday Morning and Kohl’s! Okay, okay, so it’s not the most exciting roundup of things, and, yes, there was definitely some TV in there, but we Did Things.)
Donut

This was Carla’s donut. I ate mine too fast to photograph it.

  • Playdates are not the solution. Perhaps you are giving me the side-eye, because this half of the break would have been much better and more enjoyable for Carla if I had managed to set up some playdates. This was my husband’s feeling, in fact. However, the execution is not quite so simple. First of all, the vast majority of our friends are also on spring break, in exotic locations like Australia and Bermuda. By “our friends” I mean families that have a kid that Carla knows and likes and a parent that I know and like. Second of all, of the families that are or may be in town, they all have multiple kids. And I really still don’t “get” how to do playdates with those families. If you invite one kid, are you automatically inviting ALL of the kids in the family? Seems like that’s only fair. But that means a playdate at my house isn’t a great idea; our house is small and we don’t really have toys for non-five-year-olds. Plus I am not of a mental state to have a bunch of people in my house (see above re: introvert). Which means that out-of-the-house playdates would be the best solution, but… that requires planning. And THAT’s exhausting. What can we do? Where can we go? Can I really handle chasing my kid and her friend and possible siblings through the natural history museum? Do I really want to drive 30 minutes to the indoor playground? It’s been rainy the past couple of days, so outdoor playgrounds are out. And most of these families are people I’m not super familiar with. There’s one friend Carla would love to play with, but I have never met either of her parents. It is so hard to gear myself up for meeting a brand-new person on a regular basis, and I am definitely not up for it this week, when I have already exhausted my small-talk stores on conversations with my in-laws. I don’t think sitting across from another parent, staring blankly and fretfully into the ether as I try to think of something halfway interesting to say, would make such a great impression. So! Nothing it is!

 

  • Plus, as I mentioned, I have already shot myself in the foot by scheduling additional adult interactions this week. The window madness continues, for instance. A friend had recommended someone she’d worked with, and he – no longer at the window company – had passed my name on to someone else who still works there. Apparently my friend had told him how frustrated I’ve been with the Hard Sales tactics, so they sent me their lowest pressure person very best salesman. And truly, he was excellent. I know that he was using tried and true sales tactics, just as the other salesmen had done. But his were invisible. By the time he left – THREE HOURS LATER OMG – I was completely sold on the idea of fiberglass windows, when before I had only wanted to consider vinyl. And I was willing to strongly entertain his bid, which was three times as high as several of the other window people I’d met with. He was that good. And he was very nice, as have been all the other window salespeople I’ve talked to. But THREE HOURS is much too long to be talking to a stranger, feigning interest in Window Facts that you’ve heard several times already, wondering how many times you need to offer someone water/soda/a sandwich over the course of three hours, and deflecting bored-child questions. When it was over, I felt mentally drained. And of course, my poor aforementioned bored child had to watch TV the entire time because when it was off, she kept interrupting. And this guy wasn’t really a Kid Person, so he had no idea how to interact with/deflect her, and kept getting flustered when she’d do something totally normal, like ask why the window he brought was so small or volunteer that we’d had donuts for breakfast or complain, “WHEN is he going to LEAVE?” After I discussed things with my husband, I remembered that our house is not a three-times-as-high-as-other-window-bids kind of place, and I have one more  window sales call to endure before we either make a decision or I run screaming into the sea.
  • As our one non-shopping excursion this week, we went to a Cat Café. If you are wondering what a Cat Café is, it is an establishment that has a tiny coffee-shop space on one side, and then a much larger Cat Habitat on the other, and people can pay to spend time with the cats. It recently opened in a nearby town, and I knew Carla would be over the moon to go. And the weather was obligingly dreadful, so there would be no bike riding or playing on the backyard playset. We had to make a reservation, and when we arrived there was a long line of other cat fans so I’m glad we didn’t try to wing it. The café part was truly minuscule. You could order coffee or tea and the staff would bring it to you in the cat habitat; we didn’t order anything; I would be terrified that I’d spill tea on a cat. The cat habitat was like an enormous living room, with lots of human seating and bookcases and tons of cat-friendly apparati to climb on and play with.
Cat cafe1

That orange cat didn’t budge from his perch the entire time, even when a tween-age boy started throwing cat toys at him to “get his attention.” And this may be the closest you’ll ever get to seeing a picture of me on this blog, so savor it, Internet.

Carla was the youngest person there that day, and I discovered that she doesn’t really GET cats. She loves them, that’s clear. And I don’t know why I’d expect her to GET cats, when she hasn’t spent any time around them outside of Pet Smart.  But she thought they would be snuggly and friendly in the way that dogs are. Oh, Carla. Cats are SO not dogs. She immediately went up to a cat that was playing with one of the café staff members (who was in the habitat with us the whole time, introducing the cats, telling us about their personalities and backgrounds, trying to get them to be playful) and tried to pet it, and the cat, who was in the middle of playing, bit her on the arm. She was FINE, it didn’t break the skin. But of course she was surprised and betrayed and it probably hurt a bit and so she cried for quite a while. I took her to the bathroom to wash her arm and tried to talk to her about how cats are. Independent. Feisty. Unpredictable. Claws and teeth. I’d done a little of that before, but it’s one thing for your mom to drone on and on about cats in the car and another to be confronted, face to face, with a cat-being-a-cat. She calmed down and we went back in and eventually she got some cats to chase balls and attack little cloth fish and she even got to pet some of them. She was much more interested in playing with the cats; I would have preferred to have a big purring cat on my lap, but they were (understandably) a little wary of all these new humans milling about and seemed more interested in playing, hissing at each other, or sleeping in nooks that humans couldn’t reach.

Cat cafe 3

This cat was very amenable to receiving scritches and pats.

I wasn’t sure that it was a successful visit. There was the rocky beginning. And not a single cat snuggled with us. We were there for an hour, though, which was enough time for the shock of being bitten to wear off. By the end of our appointment, Carla was begging me to take her back. We’ll see. I think it would be much more satisfying if it were just you (and your kid) and the cats, rather than being one of twelve additional people. But it was still a fun, novel experience.

Cat cafe2

All the books were cat themed, as was the decor.

  • One of the other ways I tried to Make Things Fun this week was by throwing a couple of Movie Nights into the spring break mix. Movie Night, Movie Afternoon, whatever. We’d make popcorn and snuggle up and Carla was pretty delighted by that. I think we may make Movie Nights a weekly event, she seems to get such a kick out of them. One of the movies we watched was the live action 101 Dalmatians starring Glenn Close and Joley Richardson and… Jeff… Not Bridges… Jeff… Daniels. Jeff Daniels. I don’t know why I get them mixed up. Oh! And Hugh Laurie is in there as well, pre-House days, I guess. This movie is from 2000, but it holds up pretty well. There are some mildly violent acts – Home Alone style. And some salty language (you, know, like “butt” and “shut up” – nothing too outlandish). Glenn Close is fantastic as Cruella De Vil. Her outfits alone make the movie worth watching; she wears press-on nails on the OUTSIDE of her gloves! And the whole time I was watching it, I was marveling at a) the sheer number of animals featured in the film and b) the dogs’ (in particular) stellar acting ability. Pongo is one well-trained pupper, that’s for sure. It was an entertaining movie, but the part that I found most scoff-worthy is that the Joley Richardson and Jeff Not-Bridges characters meet and then immediately, on their first “date,” decide to get married. I mean. What?! I get the whole love-at-first-sight thing. And falling in reckless, lifelong love seems perfectly acceptable for DALMATIANS, or, like, animated characters like Anna and Hans (although at least in that movie, Elsa and Kristof both object strenuously to getting engaged to a stranger) but… come on. Seems like a lazy way to move the plot forward. Couldn’t they have already been married… and then Pongo spots Perdita out at some adopt-a-thon event, and that’s how the dogs get together? Or maybe both dogs live at Joley Richardson’s house and Jeff Not-Bridges visits them as he’s getting to know Joley? Well. Aside from that ridiculously unbelievable plot point (yes, more unbelievable than animals talking to each other), it was a very enjoyable flick.
Dalmatians

photo from amazon.com

  • Did you know that there are no Os in the word “Dalmatians”? I did not, until I just wrote the bullet above.

 

  • I am really looking forward to getting back to my writing next week. Two weeks away from my work in progress is a LONG time. I did work on a story while I was out of town – a continuation of a story I started writing last year over spring break. But it feels like a distraction from the main project rather than anything meaningful.

 

  • And now, I must go start on The Folding of the Spring Break Laundry. I have been very successful in washing the clothing. Where I have been less successful is in the folding, which is really the ABSOLUTE WORST.
Laundry

My personal shame.

Did you have spring break this year? If so, did you do anything fun?

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Windows! Windows! Windows!

I have a sharp pain pulsing just above my right eye and that’s what it’s saying.

Last summer, driving with my parents on a two-lane highway through one of the great forests of the north, we passed a giant sign propped up against the pines at the end of a narrow gravel driveway. You couldn’t see the house, but you could clearly read the sign, which was made of several plywood panels nailed together, and stood probably six-feet by eight-feet, if not even bigger. Someone had scrawled “DON’T BUY BLEEFBLORP WINDOWS” in angry spray paint letters across the wood. On both sides, I noticed when we made the return trip. (I can’t remember the actual window company named.) It made me laugh, at the time. But I am beginning to understand what drives a person to make such a sign.

It feels possible that I have mentioned this before, but I am too lazy/window-fixated to check. We had an energy audit performed on our house a few months ago (which was really, REALLY cool. If you are interested in making your home more energy efficient and have $50 or so to spend, you may want to see if your local utility company provides an energy audit.) which was fascinating and informative. The auditor sealed up our doors, set up a blower, and produced a light vacuum inside the house so we could walk around and find places where air was coming in. Guess what had the most leaks? ALL THE WINDOWS.

It’s not terribly surprising to me, that they are SO LEAKY. They are nearly 30 years old, after all. And it’s clear to me that some of them need replacing anyway, beyond the leaky-around-the-edges stuff; the seal between the panes of several of the windows has begun to fail, which produces unpleasant condensation that you cannot remove. So. We need new windows. Our utility company will give us some money back on each window we replace ($25 a window, I think?), up to $1,500 (we don’t have that many windows), as long as we replace them within a year from doing the audit. So, great, let’s do it.

I have been doing plenty of Window Research, and I feel fairly well-versed in the difference between vinyl and wood and aluminum. I understand U-factor and R-value and I know about double-pane vs. triple pane, and argon vs. krypton in between the panes. My husband read up on sneaky sales tactics to avoid, and so I feel good about spotting and avoiding those, too.

But nonetheless, it is A PROCESS and I am tired and annoyed and I am strongly in favor of just MOVING TO A NEW HOUSE where someone ELSE has made all these ridiculous window choices and let the next owners deal with this window madness themselves.

What’s driving me so crazy, you ask?

1. Sales tactics. Even the companies that SWEAR up and down that they don’t go for sales gimmicks are still trying to sell you on their company and their windows. As they should. So they are still using sales tactics. And sure, some of them are less in-your-face than others. But you still have to meet with someone and go over all these options and hear them pitch their windows and talk about how much better they are than their nameless competitors.

And I kind of think that the less in-your-face tacts are just… more sleazy and manipulative. This one guy from a company that prides itself on being a No-Sales-Pressure, No-Gimmicky-Tactics company was so laid back I thought he was going to fall off the barstool at my counter. Yet, despite his air of “hire us or don’t, we don’t care,” he was also clearly deploying very typical sales tactics. Like, he made this big deal about how, with him, “the price is the price,” and that other companies who offer One Day Only! sales or Act Now! discounts are really only able to offer those prices because they are jacking up the non-sales price from the getgo… But then he also slid in there, “If you’re looking for the lowest price windows, I might as well leave right now. That’s not what you’ll get with us.” We are all conditioned to think that priceyness is representative of quality, right? And, especially combined with his assurance that discounts and sales are representative of sleaziness, he’s clearly Being a Salesman and manipulating me! It just rubbed me the wrong way.

And YES, I know they need to make to money. I know they use sales tactics because they are effective. I know that we make a million choices a day based on overt or invisible manipulation by savvy marketers. I KNOW. I used to write sales copy! But that doesn’t mean that I like it. And I like it even LESS when I’m being assured that I am NOT being Sold To.

2. Choosing an installation company. I am only calling the companies in our area that are rated highly by Angie’s List, with tons of positive reviews… but still. You don’t really KNOW if they are a good company. And I am so irritated with the sales tactics that I find myself suspicious of EVERYONE.

One guy was here in my house for TWO HOURS, pitching his windows. He seemed very nice. But he was so completely focused on building up his credibility that he talked and talked and talked himself right out of my good graces. When he really does seem like a good guy! A person who built his company from scratch and really works hard and knows his stuff and cares about his product. But all I can think about is how the installation will take ten times as long as it should because he won’t be able to stop talking!

But also when I remembered that I hadn’t asked about U-factor, and said something like, “Oh! I almost forgot that I should ask you about the windows’ U value!” he gave me a simpering smile and said, “Did your husband tell you to ask that?” and I said, “No, I researched it.” And then he couldn’t even TELL ME. Well. A) MADDENING and B) Not good, Pete.

3. The windows themselves! Not only do you have to make sure you’re choosing a good company, but you have to make sure the WINDOWS are good. The company who sells the windows is going to make them sound like the world’s best windows, and they’ll have all sorts of awards and stamps and seals of approval to make you think they are super great. But then, you look up the manufacture online, and they are NOT GREAT. Maybe I need to work backwards, and start with the windows… and then find out who installs them?

4. The minutiae. Listen, I just want as close to the same thing we have as possible. Just… new and better quality. While others may care deeply, I do not CARE if my window latches are brushed silver or brass. I do not need internal shades in my sliders. (Especially not for an additional $800.) (Or an additional $450, depending on which company I ask.) I do not care if the latticework is flat or contoured. And when I choose, “white,” please do not then tell me, at length, about the different color options, for an additional $250 a window. If I say I want the standard handle on my slider, please do not tell me how easy the other $60-additional-cost handle is to operate. When I say, very clearly, I just want double paned glass because from what I read it’s FINE for our moderate climate, I do not want to hear how much better the U-factor is with triple-paned glass, and how much of a scam krypton is. I have already made my choice. And there are so very many choices. Latticework or no. Double-hung or picture window. Tempered glass or no (not required except in special cases). Half screen or full. And on and on and on before you are seriously considering boarding everything up and living in darkness for the rest of your life.

5. The price. I had steeled myself in advance that our 13 windows and two sliding doors would cost somewhere around $10,000 to replace. But being prepared to see that on a quote is quite a different thing to being prepared to PAY that amount. And! Some of the quotes are for MORE THAN $10,000!

6. The endlessness of it all! At what point and I going to feel like I have enough information to make this decision and actually BUY the windows? How will I ever decide between these window companies and the windows they sell and the pricing? HOW? I feel like I am ALREADY SO TIRED from researching potential vendors and calling these places and scheduling the meetings and listening to sales pitches… How will I know when I’ve done my due diligence? Hopefully before I DEFENESTRATE MYSELF.

I am ready to give up, is what I’m telling you. But I have two more companies coming to give me sales pitches, and we obviously still have all our very leaky windows from the 90s, so I must endure. And take some window-related Advil.

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