Thursday, January 22, 2009

You Whittled What???

DS has been involved with Cub Scouts since first grade. He is now in 5th grade and preparing to soon transfer from Cub Scouts into Boy Scouts. He absolutely loves scouts. It has taught him many skills. Some skills are very useful. Some skills make a mom cringe. One of those skills is whittling. Yes, my DS learned how to whittle and became skilled enough (although that may be a subjective assessment!) to earn the "whittling chip" award and granted the privilege of carrying his pocket knife to scouting events.He has been reminded many times to be very careful with his knife, and for the most part has been cautious. There have been a few minor nicks along the way, but for the most part he has whittled safely. Until tonight. This evening after supper he had gone up to his room (and was supposed to be getting ready for his scout den meeting) and was whittling a stick. Well, he whittled more than that stick. He whittled his finger! His right index finger to be exact. And since he's right-handed, I'm not sure exactly how he managed to do that since that's the hand that holds the knife. He claims to not know exactly how he did it either...... So off to the local Urgent Care we went because it was a deep cut, right on the tip of his finger and into the nail. Luckily they have this nice product called Indermil, kind of like super glue for skin, that they can use in some situations instead of stitches. That is what they used on DS tonight to his relief (he does not deal well with anything medical so he was greatly relieved to not have to get stitches!). So now we get to keep his finger dry for the next 48 hours and not let it be scrubbed or soaked for the next to figure that out when it's a finger on a hand that needs to be washed multiple times a day......guess he'll get to use some baby wipes to clean his hands for a few days. And there will definitely be no whittling for a long time while we review the safety precautions he needs to take so that he only whittles wood and not flesh.


Now that I have your attention....I'll get on with my story.

For all that you hear these days of kids not behaving in the classroom and the lack of respect and decorum that today's kids have in comparison with kids of a couple of generations ago, I have witnessed the complete opposite. Twice a week I volunteer at my children's school. One day I help out in DD's classroom and on the other day I help out in DS' classroom. I was in DS' classroom yesterday. Yes, they can occasionally get loud and off-track from what they are supposed to be doing. But DS' teacher has come up with an ingenious method of bringing them back under control that works amazingly well. I have witnessed many teachers over many years use many methods to try and bring classrooms under control. Let me tell you, I have never seen anything like this! I was stunned at how immediate the response from the students was. Not only was the response immediate, but it was with 100% participation....which is the key to its success. If they didn't all respond immediately and in the same manner, it wouldn't work. What is it that she is doing you ask? Well, she has this small desk bellthat she rings whenever she wants them to get back on task. All she has to do is ring it once and every single student immediately stands up wherever they are and are completely silent. They have immediately come to attention as if they were in the military. I haven't witnessed anything like that since the days when I was in the Air Force ROTC back in college and a senior officer would enter the room! Amazing! Very stunning to see that kind of response from 4th and 5th grade students (it's a 4th/5th grade mixed class). She even once accidentally bumped the bell when setting something on her desk and once again they were up on their feet and completely silent. All I could do was look on in wonder.......wondering if that would work with the kids when they were at home! Somehow, I think not. But it is obviously extremely effective in the classroom and more effective than any other method I've ever seen put to use. Kudos to Mrs. B. for such a simple yet completely effective method of controlling classroom behavior!

Monday, January 12, 2009

And The Award Goes To.....

Today my children's school hosted the awards convocation for the 2nd 9-weeks grading period. Now some of you may remember what happened with the convo for the 1st 9-weeks (if not, see the posts for October 20 & 29, 2008) amusing host of "Murphy's Law" in effect. So today I attended prepared for just about anything to happen. Both DS and DD made the A/B Honor Roll for the 2nd 9-weeks grading period and went up to receive their awards. Many other children went up to receive their awards as well. And thankfully nothing went wrong. I'm sure the principal was much relieved. It was a blessedly uneventful convocation with just lots of smiling faces and cooperating equipment. A good way to start out the new calendar year for sure. Congrats to DS and DD!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A Tale of Two Customer Service Experiences

Well, nothing like starting out the new year with dealing with customer "service" departments from various companies. In the latest dealings, at least they cancel each other out I bad experience with one company followed by one good experience with a different company. Does that put me at neutral??

It started out with our cell phone. The day after Christmas DH went shopping with my Dad (an interesting experience in itself, which I can't blog about because I didn't go.....learned that lesson many years ago after a 3-hour shopping trip to get my Dad one pair of shoes!). During this outing, DH dropped my cell phone and it broke apart.Poor guy, he tried to put it back together, but it wouldn't stay together. Interestingly enough it would receive calls and I could hear him talking on it (when I called him from another phone), but he couldn't hear me. So we needed to get a new phone. Now, unlike most other people with cell phones, we don't use our cell phone enough to warrant a "contracted" service phone, so instead we use a prepaid service through TracFone. This is much, much cheaper for us in the long run as we spend maybe $50/year for the number of minutes we use on average. So we ordered a new phone from TracFone to replace the broken one. Here's where it gets interesting. We selected 3-day shipping. Took five days to actually arrive....and that's with originating only an hour away! Tracking through FedEx showed they sent it 3 states away before sending it back where it originated, then finally sending it on to our fair town.....only to hold onto it for another 24+ hours before finally delivering it. Ugh! Once it was finally in hand, I went online as instructed to switch the same phone number from the old phone to the new one. It didn't work. Then came the fun of dealing with Customer "Service." They call it "service" but I'm not sure they understand the meaning of the word. It took 4 1/2 hours, 8 people (none of whom were native-English speakers which only made it that much more difficult to communicate), and much frustration to get the phone number switched to the new phone.......only to have it end up being able to make but not receive calls. A cell phone is not very useful if you cannot receive calls on it! One guy even tried to convince me it was a problem with the cell phone tower causing the issues. At that point I gave up and decided to call back a different day to try again with different people. Amazingly enough when I tried the cell phone 2 hours later (ummm.....that would be about 6 1/2 hours after starting the whole "quick and easy" process!) it miraculously was able to receive calls as well. Thank goodness because I really was not looking forward to dealing with more customer "service" people about this. Whew!

Now on to my other, much more pleasant, experience. DD received an American Girl doll (Mia) for Christmas, much to her delight. Mia had been ordered back in October and inspected upon arrival to make sure everything appeared to be OK. Everything appeared to be OK. The one thing I neglected to check was the toy doll-sized MP3 player she arrived with. It was supposed to play music at the push of a button. Unfortunately on Christmas morning DD discovered that this particular one did not work. Even changing the itty-bitty button battery (that DH made a special trip to the store to buy) did not fix the problem, so it wasn't just a dead battery issue. Also, one of Mia's leg warmers was sewn shut so it couldn't be put on the doll. So 2 problems for the price of one! So I emailed American Girl's customer service department (since I couldn't call on Christmas Day because they were closed). I wasn't very hopeful of getting replacements since Mia was 2008's "Girl of the Year"----dolls that are only made for one year in limited quantities, along with the accessories in limited quantities. Of course, that is why I had ordered her well in advance of Christmas...... Amazingly, I received an email back the next day stating they would be sending replacement pieces immediately! The new leg warmers arrived the following Monday (note that they arrived before the previously mentioned cell phone!), along with a new set of headphones to go with the toy MP3. Unfortunately, we did not need the headphones, just the MP3.....which was not included in the shipment. So I called immediately and talked to a very nice lady in the customer service department. She did all she could and was unable to locate a new MP3 in stock (not surprising considering it was at that point the last day of 2008 and all of Mia's accessories had long since sold out). She offered to have a supervisor do some research to see if one could be found anywhere and they would get back to me in a few days. I assumed I would not hear from them for about a week considering the New Year's holiday and weekend. Imagine my surprise when only 3 days later a box is delivered containing.......the toy MP3 player! And it worked!! DD was sooooo excited! I was thrilled with the rapid response to the issue from American Girl! They impressed me even more with their customer service when I received a phone call from them today checking to make sure that it had arrived in working condition and that we were pleased with the resolution to the issues we had had with Mia's accessories. I have never before had any customer service department follow up with a phone call like that. I must say I am extremely impressed with the level of customer service provided by the American Girl company. And of course, so is DD who now has all the working accessories she wanted to go along with her doll (which she has hardly put down since receiving her almost 2 weeks ago).

I am glad that the experience with American Girl followed the one with TracFone. I much prefer happy endings. And that was definitely a happy ending.