Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Being Careful to Find the Happy and the Good...

One of the things I was worried about when I first decided to start a blog was that I would end up using it as a place to carry on a continuous stream of ranting or vents. I saw right away that I could very easily use this space to complain about everything; businesses or services that I've had problems with, that annoying neighbor down the street, a bad day with the kids, bad hair days, or just a bad day in general.

Yes, I could see how very easily I could start a big old whine fest right here online. But that isn't what I wanted to do! That's why I named my blog Haunted Dollie's Happy Hideaway! I want to blog about the happy things that life has to offer and the happy things that occur in the lives of my family.

I'm not saying that bad things don't happen. They do. And when a product or service not only does not meet expectations, but falls way short of a consumers needs and wants, I believe that consumers should speak up in any forum they can. How else can other people be made aware of shoddy merchandise and shady business practices? In speaking out, the consumer is taking steps to stand up for themselves and to protect others from having similar bad experiences.

I had an extremely bad experience with a company yesterday. I am very unhappy right now. I do plan to post about this experience... Later.

Simply because I had such an extremely bad experience, not only with the product but with the customer service I received, it would be very easy for me to lose sight of the good experiences I have had lately. And there have been several of those! Just as I believe bad products and customer service should be exposed, so do I believe that great products and awesome customer service should be acknowledged, so people can benefit from these products and have happy experiences. It's all well and good to be warned away from the bad and actively avoiding it. It's so much better to be made aware of the good and actively seek that.

So while I will be detailing my bad experience, once I calm down a little and can (hopefully) be more objective (though honestly I don't think I can be more objective than to relate exactly what happened and the results,) I plan to first post about some really wonderful experiences I have had with some really amazing bloggers, wonderful companies with great products, and the customer service people working with these companies.

I want to focus on the good and the happy, first and foremost, here on my blog and in my life. I think part of the path to happiness is not to ignore the bad, but making the baddies accountable, and finding a way to improve or fix an unhappy situation. But focusing on and appreciating the good even before dealing with the bad is more important.

Be on the look out for my first three reviews (no giveaways associated with these,) over the next few days. I'm looking forward to the writing of them, not only because I enjoy writing and want to keep my blog updated, but because the reviews I am planning are for companies, products and people who deserve support. I look forward to supporting them now that I know about them and having been the beneficiary of their excellence and quality.

So here's to having found the happy and the good... The bad can wait!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

So Behind... And Catching Up Doesn't Look Like It Will Happen Soon...

Back to school time is usually filled with excitement and planning for children and parents. That's true in my house as well. All of the school supply shopping has been done, the kids love doing that, and we'll be loading them all up into the brand spanking new back packs in just a few minutes.

The new uniforms have been purchased, dimming the excitement somewhat for all of us. We loathe uniforms, but the school requires them, so what are we gonna do, you know? They've been washed, folded and put away.

Oh, and the boys got fresh haircuts over the weekend. So they will look presentable on the big first day.

So, I'm not behind, it seems on back to school. That's a good thing!

Back to school prep has left me behind on everything else, though!

My house is as close to a shambles as I have ever seen it. I have OCD, so this is not a good thing. It makes me cranky, so I'm short with the boys.

Add to that the fact that I haven't had time to work out in weeks and I'm more cranky. No feel good endorphins from the exercise coursing through my system makes me a less than pleasant person to be around.

I'm behind on my favorite hobby of entering sweepstakes and giveaways, behind on my writing. I've neglected this fledgling blog of mine (in the grand scheme of things, being behind on the blogging isn't huge. It's a new blog and I don't have an a large and active readership clamoring for my next post, but still!) I bought a new book to help teach me about the art of blogging and the technical aspects, too, and it's been sitting here for weeks waiting for me to crack the cover. I'm very motivated to read it, but I'm too exhausted to turn a page or to expect myself to be able to focus on the words swimming on the pages.

Mr. Dimple and Bowser, my youngest boys, are on a short tether, too. Hot, and bored and tired of the insect bites that the summer out here brings, they are more than ready to get back to school.

If I am to be totally honest, I'm way more than ready for it myself.

I'd like to think that I'll be able to catch everything up and get back to my normal routine, quickly, after that first day of school. I'd like to think that, but I just know that it will still be weeks before I am able to get it all together.

Mr. Dimple's ninth birthday is on the 15th of August. I already bought the ingredients for the cake and the presents, but that cake still has to be baked and the presents wrapped. I secretly sigh in relief that we didn't plan a party this year!

I have to catch up on all of the housework that couldn't be done properly with the boys in the house, especially the floors.  The floors are the bane of my existence during the summer. I can sweep them and mop them, but it is utterly impossible to keep them clean for longer than 10 minutes when two active boys are constantly around. If I send them outside so I can mop the wood floors, I can count on them to be waist deep in a pond catching tadpoles and coming in dripping wet and dirty just as soon as I've got the bucket rinsed out and the mop put away. I can't really be upset with them for being healthy, active boys and doing just what boys their age are supposed to do when they live in a rural area... But my heart breaks a little for my poor floor!

There are five sweet little kittens to find homes for in the next few weeks. I foresee quite a few tears shed over that. I've already been asked to keep them all.

With all of that to do, I have all of the regular, day to day, housework and errands to run... And Halloween costumes to plan for and possibly make. And Bowser's birthday is just a few days before Halloween.

Does it sound like I'm whining? Probably... I'm really not, though. I really enjoy this time of year. I enjoy the work and the planning and the mad whirl of excitement that all of it brings. I'm looking forward to Autumn. It's my favorite time of year! And the holidays are coming. We all love the holiday season with the wonderful food and shopping, presents and socializing it brings.

Tomorrow is the first day of school, and the start of great things!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Just One of Those Day!

Do you ever have just one of those days?

It's not like it was a bad day. Nothing bad really happened. It wasn't one of those tragical days.

It was just one of those days when it seems like I did tons of things and yet absolutely nothing really got done. Do you know what I mean?

Right now, I'm taking my alone time. The kids have gone to bed, all of the housework is done, all of the errand and everything else I planned to do... But I'm not enjoying my usual leisure time. I'm just too tired.

It doesn't seem like I should be this tired. Honestly, it seems like I accomplished nothing today. I'm even too tired to whine about it much, which makes this the end of my post! :o)

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

I Would Have Voted No...

School will be starting up again here in just nine days. We, in my family, are pretty much set and ready to go. There were some great sales online for school supplies, so boxes are arriving daily. That makes the boys happy. They like to open boxes (even if the contents are only pencils, folders, packets of lined paper and high lighters,) pop the bubble wrap and do crafts with the boxes.

In the not so rushed preparations to get the kids ready to start this new school year, I had a few other little unpleasant tasks to do besides making sure the school supplies were all purchased and put into the new back packs. I had to buy then wash, dry, fold and put away the school uniforms.

There are a lot of arguments to back the benefits of uniforms for school. They're supposed to keep  inappropriate clothing out of the school environment, prevent competition among the kids, promote neatness and orderliness, and be more cost effective and, therefore, less of a financial burden to families.

I'm sure there are other merits to add to that list. I just can't think of them. I can, however, think of a whole host of reasons not to require school uniforms. Had I been given a chance to state my opinion on whether or not to require uniforms for the schools my children have attended, I would have voted a resounding no.

When I was growing up, I attended both public and private parochial schools. I know what it's like to be a child forced to wear a uniform. Kids don't like it. I (and my fellow uniform wearers) did not like it then and I know that kids (mine, and I'm sure others) don't like having to do it now.

We all longed for those very few "free dress" days, usually limited to picture day and field day and the student's birthday (bummer for kids born during vacation times.) We got to be individuals then, wear our favorite colors, express a sense of style and, most importantly, have a whole day free of those ugly, unflattering and uncomfortable uniforms!

Children have very few opportunities to exercise personal options and to make good choices for themselves. They are told what to eat and when, where to go and when, when to study, where to attend school, when to go to bed, where and with what and with whom they may play, what they can and should read, what they can watch on television and for how long. These are not necessarily bad things! Children should have structure and rules and to learn to follow boundries.

But kids should also have some options. How else will they learn to make good choices? To discover who and what they are and to develop a sense of themselves? I believe that school uniforms rob children of one of the best forms of self expression available to them. I, and I'm sure I'm not alone, wouldn't purchase anything for my children that wouldn't be appropriate for them to wear at school, anyway. If the parents are  providing only appropriate clothing, there is no reason for kids not to wear what they select, from among those wardrobe options provided, to school.

My thoughts always run along these lines when this time of year rolls around. I think back to my childhood (when I went to a uniformless public school) and memories of back-to-school shopping trips are kindled. I recall trips to store after store with my mother and my siblings, Mom shopping for bargains while keeping our sizes, favorite colors and current styles in mind. She would allow us to present things to her, but she had the final decision based on price and what she thought was appropriate for children of our ages.

These are fond memories for me. I would hate to think my own children would lack the same kind of experiences because they are required to wear uniforms and there is no reason to shop, except to see if the same-old-same-old fits. There's nothing exciting about back-to-school shopping in that for a child.

My children are not deprived of the shopping experience though. Despite their school requiring uniforms, we still need to go shopping for every day clothing for them. Which leads me to say that a school uniform policy does not lessen the expense to families when it comes to purchasing clothing for its younger members.

To preserve the school uniform from stains and the wear and tear caused by every day play, my kids have to change out of their uniforms when they get home from school. That means they have to wear regular, every day clothes, every day. And they, obviously, won't be wearing uniforms on the weekend. Clothing has to be provided for their daily wear whether or not uniforms are worn. So uniforms are an extra expense not a savings!

Add to that the fact that almost all schools require a white shirt as part of the uniform ensemble. Just wearing these white shirts to school, my two elementary aged boys gather pencil and ink marks, food stains, smudges from activities on the playground... I pretreat every stain, bleach every load of whites but by the time we move into winter break, ten shirts (between two boys) still have to be replaced because they look dingy and no amount of careful laundering got the stains out. I point out again that this is not a savings!

And since I've brought up the subject of laundry, I need to say that school uniforms put a serious burden on the family when it comes to that!

My children wear three different sets of clothing a day. Their school uniforms are put on in the morning and worn to school, play clothes are donned as soon as they get home and worn for about four hours and then, after baths, they change once again into pajamas. All of that laundry has to be done, plus towels, bedding and the laundry of the other members of the family who aren't required to wear uniforms. With two school aged uniform wearing children in my home, my laundry is increased by at least one quarter because of those uniforms. Those are extra clothes to pretreat (especially the whites,) launder, fold and put away. This does not make things easier for a parent. It makes it harder.

The worst part about uniforms when it comes to laundry, though, is that it takes good quality time away from family. During the school year, it is absolutely impossible for my family to take weekend excursions. Purchasing school uniforms and regular clothing, too, is already expensive. I can't afford to buy extras. My children have enough uniform shirts and pants to get them through one five day week of school  and those clothes have to be washed every single weekend. I can't miss a day of doing the uniform laundry, so we can't go anywhere for weekend get-aways. If I didn't have to purchase an entire week's worth of uniforms for two boys, I would always have several extra things for both to wear. I wouldn't be held to such a rigid laundry schedule and we could spend more and better quality family time taking short trips away from home.

I've talked to a lot of parents and they have the same issues with uniforms that I do, and yet schools still require them knowing that parents are unhappy about them and that children don't like them, either. They must know that children would much rather be wearing street clothing, at least at my kids' school. They must know that not wearing uniforms is a valuable commodity since they charge for the priveledge of free dress days! Our school schedules those days and then put out notices that if the kids want to participate they can pay a dollar to wear jeans or have total free dress. The school uses free dress as a fund-raising tactic. Those dollars raised go to support our troops, or to children with special needs, or to some other worthy cause.

I don't mind the ocassional fund raiser and I am all for donating to worthy causes. They are welcome to those dollars from me... What I do mind is how they go about "asking" for those donations. Uniforms take away my choice to donate to the charities of my choosing. If I should choose not to support a particular cause they are promoting, my children would suffer. They would lose the chance at a day of comfort in clothes they enjoy wearing and they would be left out and the only ones not permitted free dress when all of the other kids had the chance at the cost of a dollar. To me, that is tantamount to emotional blackmail. They hold my children's happiness and comfort hostage for a buck. I believe that "fund-raising" like this can promote the very kind of competition uniforms are suppose to suppress as well as helping to ostracize children and adding a cause for bullying.

If it was my choice, schools would not require uniforms, but the trend seems to be for all schools, private and public, to adopt a uniform policy. Even if my children were to change schools due to a move or for any other reason, I can pretty much count on the next school to require a uniform, too. But all schools have a different uniform. Chances are the new school won't have the same one as the last. (They didn't when we changed schools this past year.) So, even more expense. My children and I wouldn't have anymore say in this when transfering to a new school than in the previous one.

There is an opt out for the uniform policy in some schools, but if all of the other kids are wearing the uniforms, how can a parent choose this option for their child? How can a parent make their child the one child in an entire school of uniform clad kids to be wearing street clothes? That seems to be the only option to express a desire for a no uniform policy, but how can a parent exercise that option without making their child a social outsider?

When it comes to uniforms in schools, parents and children have no vote. It's all up to the school. I wish it was up to the school to pay the extra expenses for the decision they make for all of us and to do the laundry, too.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

A Productive Day???

Well, I hope it was, anyway.

I spent the majority of the day today studying up on templates, how to apply them to my blog, and gathering some from various sources on the web. I think I'm set and ready to try putting a template up on my little hideaway, but I am so nervous that I will go to try it and I will mess up the little I've managed to accomplish here so far. Well, it's said that fortune favors the bold, so I will be bold... In the next day or two...

When I wasn't researching templates (researching makes it seem so in-depth. It's probably a no brainer thing that other bloggers can do in their sleep!) I was doing many loads of laundry, refereeing squables between the boys (They are so bored and ready for school to start again!) cooking the meals and trying to keep my tender skin away from five very rambunctious five week old kittens. They've decided the best place to rough-house and wrestle is on top of my bare feet and I'm covered in kitten claw scratches.

All in all, it was a very pleasant day. Now, kids and kittens are sleeping soundly and I can kick it with a friendly glass of Merlot, some reruns of Supernatural on NetFlix and my trusty laptop. Time to say good bye to another summer weekend!

Hope you all had a good one!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Blogging is Hard!


Blogging is Hard!

It really is!

I am really new to blogging (except for a few very old MySpace posts that no one really looked at anyway) and in the past few weeks since I started actively working on my blog and , before that, while was considering what to do with it, I discovered that it is no easy task!

Blogging is hard!

I fancy that I am a good writer. I can even find quite a bit to write about. The writing isn't what I consider hard, though I am sure it can be for some people and I will probably go through stretches where I will be pulling my hair out while I think of topics.

No, it isn't the writing that I find hard. It's pretty much everything else! And believe me, there is so much else to blogging that goes far beyond actual writing.

While I was merely inspired by other bloggers prior to actually putting up my blog, I am now awed! My respect and admiration has grown by leaps and bounds! How do they do it all? How did they learn to do it?

There is so much to this blogging endeavor. I see that... NOW!

Take a look at my blog page. It is so plain and simple and basic... It's sad! Of course, I don't want it that way, but I have to face it. I am at a loss when it comes to more than basic HTML code. I can make text bold or italicize it and I can change font colors, but adding a button to my page or creating one of my own are skills I long to acquire. So far, though, they have eluded me. I figured out how to put a header up, but I can't make it look right! That's why there is none there besides the name of my blog.

As for the giveaways and reviews... Well, I don't even know how to start to be involved in those things, let alone listing them on my page and making them look so pretty and slick as they are on other blogs.

I have learned that there is a lot of networking involved in blogging. I think that is a great thing but, again, I'm not sure how to get started doing that. The more experienced bloggers must be so busy if they can do all of the things I can't. They have family, friends and other things to look after, and their blogs, too. I don't want to be a bother to anyone and I have no idea how to approach other bloggers without saying, "Hey! I'm new and pathetically unknowledgeable but want to learn, please be my friend!"

I suppose the upshot of all of this is to say that bloggers are amazing! They do so much and people, when entering those giveaways, should keep in mind all of the work and know-how involved in blogging and providing reviews, giveaways, other content to read, and just maintaining a blog.

I, for one, really understand now why bloggers deserve those votes on Picket Fences, the likes on Facebook and the follows on Twitter and Pinterest, and other things that might be asked for on a RaffleCopter form. Bloggers who go to so much work really do deserve the recognition for their efforts!

Someday, I hope to grow into a blogger like those whose work I already enjoy... I hope, someday, to be able to say, "Yes, blogging is still a lot of work, but now it isn't so hard!"

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

What's New with Us...

What's new with Us...

First, I moved my introductory post. It can now be found under the About Me tab. So please, if you would like to know about me, my family and our pets and our lives, look there.

I put up some links to giveaways that I've come across and entered myself. Those can be found under the Reviews and Giveaway tab.

Electronic woes are abounding here at our house. The microwave (less than seven months old) went ka-flooey a few weeks ago. I almost never used it, except to heat water for tea or to reheat the ocassional left over, so I don't understand why it would give out like that.

The cable box in the kids' room is having all sorts of issues. I was on the phone with our cable provider for about an hour this morning and we couldn't fix it via a phone call, so they're sending a tech out tomorrow to see what he/she can do.

Worst for me is that the monitor on my laptop died yesterday. It's only a year and a half old! Not happy. Trying to blog, enter sweepstakes and check web based email on my handy dandy smart phone was not working for me. Thankfully, after sleeping on the problem, I realized that I could plug my computer into  a TV and use that as an external monitor. I have a little extra flat screen that the kids and I use to play around with our home karaoke set up, so I'm using that for a monitor until I can replace my laptop and transfer all of my work (writing projects in progress mostly) onto my new computer.

My cell phone is having some issues with chargers (I've purchased three in the past month) just not doing the charging job. The first one kept falling out, the other two worked for a couple of days and then stopped. Now, it seems, the battery is just not taking or holding a charge, so I'm working on replacing the battery.

I think Mercury must be in retrograde... At least in my little part of the universe.

Not everything is about uncooperative electronics! School goes back into session out here on August 9th. I'm happy to say that back to school shopping is going well. I'm getting the boys set up with new uniforms for the school year and school supplies. We're also trying to ease them into their regular bedtime schedule for the school year. I've been bad and let them stay up way too late because it was summer vakay.

Fanny, our sweet cat, had kittens a month ago and they are all doing well. They are adorable little balls of fluff who are now starting to happily explore their environment and play with the boys.

Finally, I've had a eight small wins in the past month. I just returned to my sweepstaking hobby after a six year hiatus, so to have so many in so short a time after only a month of entering is very exciting. 

So that sums up what's going on here! Hope you, friends and readers, are all doing well and enjoying the summer!