Canaan’s Mustache Bash!

Today my sweet Canaan is one year old. It’s true what they say; it really does go fast. Of course, I had to celebrate this milestone in a big way. Sometimes I get in over my head. This is quite possibly one of those times.

I started planning his birthday party in June. Yes, June. He wasn’t even sitting up yet and I was making plans for him to be eating cake. Because I’m a nerd and I like things to be perfect.

The theme I chose was “Mustache Bash.” I THOUGHT I was being really unique. Turns out mustache parties are all the rage right now. Ironically, it was tougher to find mustache items than one would think.

Image

I figured I’d better get in the theme that I like now, before C starts begging for a pre-packaged Spiderman party. I have this thing about being different, and I hate “parties in a bag,” if you will. I don’t hate you if you use them for your kids, and I’m sure I’ll have to cave at some point. I mean, let’s be real; C comes from a home with two working parents. And it’s much easier to walk down the party aisle at Target and toss in an 8-pack of Batman plates with matching cups, napkins and favors. I get it. Once he starts playing football and polo and badminton and God knows what else, I’m sure some of my creative details will fall through the cracks. But man, I hope not. This is my solemn vow: I hereby pledge to put off buying pre-packaged parties as long as possible. Amen.

Anyway, I chose Mustache Bash. And then I jumped on Pinterest and copied a bunch of ideas. The big thing that got me was the menu. I needed a lot of food for a lot of people (even though we did “just family” this year, we still had 32 folks in our house), and I needed it to be real food, since the party was at 1 p.m. I decided on “root beer pulled pork sliders on King’s Hawaiian rolls.” Because who doesn’t love King’s Hawaiian? (And I could call them “manwiches” in honor of the theme.) I found a recipe, and following it, bought a four-pound pork roast. I mentioned that to Justin the afternoon before the party and he said, “What? You thought a four-pound roast would feed 30 people?” Okay, so here’s the thing. I get a recipe and I tend to FOLLOW IT. I always measure, and I don’t think (sometimes) about how many people it will feed. So I got to make a late night run to Reasor’s for another roast. (store trip for forgotten item  #1.) (On the way home from Reasor’s, I realized that I needed another can of root beer for the second roast, and I only had one that I had been saving. I had to stop at another store to get root beer. When I got home, it turns out I had two cans in my stash, after all. Anybody need some root beer?)

I made baked beans, (Big Boy Baked Beans, as I called them…it’s all about keeping in theme, people!) also, and they actually turned out pretty well. I was nervous because every single item that I made was a new recipe. This caused an intense amount of additional stress that I really didn’t need. So if you’re hosting a shindig, it may be better to stick with mainly tried and true recipes, for your sanity.

The night before the party, I made some “S’mores Puppy Chow.” It took less than five minutes, and it was AMAZING. If you like peanut butter and chocolate and marshmallows…this is a must for you. I’m not even a huge marshmallow fan, and this stuff is like crack. Legal, chocolatey crack.

Image

After that success, I decided to try this fruit dip that seemed easy, healthy and delicious. It called for orange liqueur, but I didn’t have any. I had some orange extract, and I figured that would work just as well. It’s orange, right? I whipped up the Greek yogurt, and honey and orange extract, and then made the mistake of tasting it. It was akin to shoving an entire orange rind in your mouth and chewing it up. But worse. There goes an entire container of Greek yogurt, plus nearly a cup of honey. That bee juice ain’t cheap. This resulted in a frantic phone call to Lezly, because I just knew she had an easy fruit dip recipe up her sleeve. The next morning, Justin got to go to the store and buy some marshmallow cream. (Store trip for forgotten item #3.)

Another new recipe that I was testing out involved a crock pot dip. I was planning on making it in a healthier version, so I had bought Greek yogurt to replace the cream cheese. (I made  an extra Greek yogurt run that morning. Store trip #4? #5?) When it came time to make the dip (at 5 a.m., mind you) I couldn’t find the yogurt. I tore that fridge apart, trying to think of what I had used it for by mistake. I used one container on the failed fruit dip, but that was it. With it hiding somewhere in the bowels of the refrigerator, I had to use cream cheese. This means the recipe was made with all of its full fatty goodness. Darn. But, you see, I had to make another batch of fruit dip still. Which means I needed an extra block of cream cheese. (Random store trip #…fill in the blank.)

I made the cupcakes for the party myself; I just had this weird urge that I wanted to be the one responsible for them, rather than hiring someone. I have no idea why; I’m certainly not a professional baker. The first batch, I overfilled by a long shot, even though I did my best not to. Luckily, Lezly saved the day on that, too. Nobody will ever know. The second batch (a different flavor), I thought seemed awfully thick. At the last moment, I realized I never added the eggs. Sheesh. These I did not overfill. But honestly, these cupcakes were turning into a disaster.

I made the frosting from scratch. I had a recipe for cream cheese frosting for my red velvet cakes that literally had four ingredients. How could I possibly screw that up? Well, it happened. It was runny, no matter how much sugar I added. (Note: putting it in the refrigerator didn’t help.) The second flavor turned out quite well, if I do say so myself. If you’re keeping track, this means that I had one batch of good cupcakes with crappy frosting, and one batch of good frosting with crappy cupcakes. At least Lezly owns a frosting bag that she let me borrow; that helped them look a little better than they had a right to.

Image

I had purchased bottled water for the party, and I had labels designed by Letter 10 Productions (they also did my invitations). My husband happens to own a printing company, so he printed them off for me. Of course, everyone already had their food before someone asked if we had any water. Oops…I forgot to put it out. Glad someone reminded me!

Image

In addition to the forgotten water, I made some punch. I found a recipe online that I doctored up a little bit. It was shades of yellow and orange, and I added blue coloring to make it blue. Duh. Apparently I forgot about that day in second grade art: yellow and blue make what? GREEN. Adding purple makes it….DARK SEWER SLUDGE GREEN. But it tasted pretty good and everyone drank it. Probably because they thought that was the only beverage we had, since the water was still hiding in my refrigerator (along with the Greek yogurt).

If you’re wondering, I also made chocolate mustaches and dipped Oreos (which were pretty damn delicious). I managed to make all of those without any major catastrophes. The only problem I can see is that I may have made more than my lollipop stand had a right to hold.

Image

Since I knew we’d have a lot more adults than kids, and the kids would all be a variety of ages, I decided to skip the traditional goody bag. I had the chocolate mustaches and dipped Oreos, after all. (And stick-on mustaches.) But that wasn’t enough. I purchased some plastic test tubes, and decided to make a dry hot cocoa mix to put in. It’s a good item for this season, and I thought it made a nice spin on the theme (cocoa ‘stache, get it?). I knew that my sister had a mix recipe, which she dutifully mailed to me. And then I couldn’t find it. This is why I rely on email; it’s a lot more responsible than I am. After much digging, I found the paper, and bought all of the ingredients. I remember thinking, “Wow, some of these things are more expensive than I thought they’d be.” When I mixed up the batch, I realized why. This hot cocoa mix is apparently designed to feed an army. Or an entire elementary school. I filled all of my test tubes, and still have two big Tupperware containers full. At least I won’t be spending money on Swiss Miss for a while. (This is another example of me following the recipe EXACTLY. The first ingredient called for an amount of 24 ounces; that should have been a clue.) Unfortunately, I didn’t take a pic of the finished tubes; they turned out pretty well. I filled the tubes with the dry mix, then made tags with a mustache graphic that said “Thank you! For a cocoa ‘stache, add to 8 oz. hot milk.” Tied them on with some ribbon, and that’s it. Here is the pic that inspired me, though: http://frogprincepaperie.com/2011/12/hot-chocolate-party-favors.html

Image

I think it jumped out at me because these are the colors we used for the party.

Of course, we had a smash cake for C.

Image

Image

He seemed to enjoy it.

We ran him straight into the bath afterward. Literally. So quickly, in fact, that I didn’t even realize that we was wearing his diaper in the bath until someone pointed it out. (I would guess I was still a little frazzled at this point.)

I was so concerned about the menu and tiny details, that I didn’t think about things like decorations. We grabbed a roll of crepe paper and a couple of lanterns the night before the party. I actually Googled “interesting ways to decorate with crepe paper.” Martha Stewart I am not, so none of the ideas I found actually helped me. Besides, most of them involved sewing or months of prep time. I figured I’d grab some balloons and call it a day. I looked online at our local party store, and the good ol’ Internet told me that they stayed open until 7 p.m. I squealed into the parking lot at 6:35. The store was dark. At first I was pissed because I thought a lazy employee just closed up shop early because it was Saturday night. No, the store is gone. Out of business. No balloons in sight. Okay…think, think. I didn’t have time to run back into Tulsa, so where in my suburb could I get balloons? I headed off to the grocery store (because I had to buy that extra roast, anyway), only to be told that they are out of helium. What?! I asked about their other location. No helium. Then I was told by another customer that there is a nationwide helium shortage. That’s a new one!  So no balloons. But you know what, I don’t think Canaan even noticed.

I’ve mentioned a couple of times that Lezly saved me yesterday. Just for fun, let’s recall all of the things that she loaned me: an extra crock pot, sprinkles, frosting bag and tip, cream cheese, cupcake tins, cooling racks, fruit dip recipe and blue food dye. I keep thinking I should go buy things like frosting bags, but why would I, when she’s so generous? She also rescued my blue cupcakes. Oh, and she pointed out that C was rocking his diaper in the tub. Kind of like swimming, right? My mom also helped tremendously by bringing some stuff for the older kids to do. Thank goodness it was a nice day out, and that we had the foresight to scoop all of the poop in our backyard. Another ‘thank you’ to Justin’s mom, who kept C the night before and all that morning. I doubted he would have been patient enough for all those trips to the store. She also (under my strict orders and threats) made sure that C got a nap before the party, and she loaned me yet another crock pot.

It was a great party. Most everything turned out as expected, but we had a few hiccups along the way. My point in all this; this was hard work. I wouldn’t have had it any other way, because I wanted to have it at home, and I wanted it to be fun and creative and special, since it’s the first celebration in C’s honor. But man, it was hard work. I didn’t realize it until Justin and I were both falling asleep on the couch at 8 p.m. last night.

I hope kids appreciate what their parents do for them. If you had cool parties as a kid, thank your parents now. It’s not too late. And next time you go to a party, be sure to have some sympathy for the parents; they worked hard to feed you and your kid and keep you entertained for a couple of hours. I never realized the level of stress and pressure that comes with having a party like this. Maybe it was because this was our first time throwing a kid’s party? Maybe it will get easier. Somehow I doubt it.

Oh, and I found the missing container of Greek yogurt this morning. Guess what C will be eating for breakfast for the next month?

Image

Advertisements

Walmart woes

I am truly my father’s daughter, since I have a hobby of writing my feelings to companies when I feel they have mistreated me in some way. Being that this is new to me, I can only assume it’s a trait that crops up in the May family after the age of 30. I remember making a remark to my dad once that I hadn’t been able to find the Pepsodent tooth powder we both favored; he took it upon himself to find the answer, going so far as reaching the vice-president of marketing at Unilever. As this was several years ago, before the Internet was as popular as it is today, this was no small feat. (They don’t make it anymore, from what I remember.) I always teased my dad about writing to these companies, because honestly, do they really care? From my recent experiences, the answer is ‘no.’ They don’t. But it doesn’t stop me from venting.

It started innocently enough with an email sent to my local Sonic Drive-In.

This location is TERRIBLE. Absolutely awful. I am a regular Sonic customer (at least three times per week), and I dread going to this location nearest my home. I have been visiting this location for more than a year and a half, and I have had TWO occasions when my order was actually correct.

 When I stopped this morning, it took more than TEN MINUTES to get a soft drink at the drive-thru. When we asked why it took so long, the employee informed us that she was the only person on duty. That has been told to me before, too. WHY ON EARTH would there be ONE employee running the entire restaurant EVER, especially during the morning rush, when people stop for breakfast and .99 large drinks? I can’t imagine that anyone has plenty of extra time to wait around when they’re on their way to work. Not to mention, it seems like a safety violation, as well. Also, this is the second time that I have had to take my soda to a different Sonic to trade it for a new one. This morning’s had absolutely zero syrup or carbonation. Luckily, another location that I passed on my way to work swapped it for free. Seems pretty difficult to mess up a plain Diet Dr. Pepper.

 As I mentioned, I frequent Sonic a lot for Diet Dr. Pepper and lime water. This location is absolutely the worst I have ever experienced. The order is always wrong, the soda is bad, the service is ridiculously slow. Also, I’ve included a link to the Google reviews I found for this Sonic, too. Thought you might find it interesting.

https://plus.google.com/105306364346465649456/about?hl=en

If you even read this, thank you. 

Know what they said?

We are very sorry that your 08/29/2012 visit to the Sonic Drive-In in Owasso, Oklahoma did not live up to expectations and are grateful to you for telling us about it. If people like you did not bring these matters to our attention, we would never be able to fix them. We have forwarded your comments to the appropriate drive-in supervisor for the location that you visited. If you have any further concerns in the future, please share them with us. Our goal is to continuously improve the Sonic Drive-In experience and to keep you as regular guest.

 Sincerely,

Sonic Drive-In

In other words, go jump in a lake. That was the last I heard. They didn’t even send me any coupons.

I have been back to that particular Sonic exactly once since then. Here’s what happened:

Last night, I caved and went to the terrible Sonic that I have complained about in the past. I ordered two waters with lime. She repeated the order back correctly. When I pulled up to the window a good 10 minutes later (two cars ahead of us, both ordered just drinks), I was handed two waters….with lemon. I said, “Excuse me, I ordered limes.” The employee said, “It said lemons” and stared at me. 

(Does it really matter? I KNOW what I ordered, and I’m telling her it’s wrong. Isn’t it her job to fix it?) I finally convinced her to give me some damn limes, during which time I looked at the receipt. I felt obligated to show her that she was wrong (and rude) and she gave me a dirty look and slammed the window. THIS PLACE MESSED UP AN ORDER FOR WATER!!
And just to prove my point, I took a photo of my receipt to show that in fact, it DID say limes. Because I’m kind of a bitch like that.
Yesterday I had an experience with Walmart.com that I felt the need to share.
I was a recent victim of identity fraud. When the incident first occurred, I applauded walmart.com for your swift actions in freezing my account and preventing any further action from being taken, as well as your advice on how to file a report with law enforcement. Fast forward three weeks, to yesterday morning. I had been hunting all over the web for two particular items, and my goal was to purchase them both from the same place. Much to my surprise, walmart.com had both items in stock. I was so pleased…until I placed my order.

The first time I placed it, I received my confirmation email. A few moments later, I got an email stating that my order had been canceled due to a payment issue. I had to do some serious online searching to find a phone number to reach a REAL, LIVE PERSON at walmart.com, but I finally found someone. She told me it was a bank issue, and that I needed to call my bank. After another half hour was wasted getting through to a REAL, LIVE PERSON at my bank, I was told that it was a walmart.com issue. (You’d think the associate I spoke with at walmart.com could have told me that instead of redirecting me to my bank.) The bank thought it was some kind of electronic disconnect, and I should try placing my order again. I did, with the same results. Now, I was using my brand-new debit card, so I tried using my husband’s card. Same thing. A second call to walmart.com finally shed some light on the issue that it’s due to my recent fraud experience. I asked if I could place my order over the phone, and was told the same thing would happen. Basically, there is no possible way to order from your company, because MY information was stolen, through NO FAULT OF MY OWN. I asked if I could open a new account with a different email address, and was told that wouldn’t work, since my billing address would be the same. So I can’t order from your website unless I move. Fantastic.

The associate told me that she could pass my order on to the billing department, and it would take two to three business days for them to go in and alter my account so I could order. I asked how I would know when the issue was resolved, and she told me I would have to call. Well, I’m sorry, but I don’t have endless amounts of time to sift through your automated system only to be told that the issue isn’t fixed. (The only reason I was able to spend THREE hours on this yesterday is because I was home sick from work.) I asked if I could be notified via email or phone when I would be able to order, and was told that a note would be made on my file, but no guarantees.

This is the WORST example of customer service I have ever seen. As I live in an Oklahoma suburb, I spend a lot of money at Walmart. I do at least 95% of my grocery shopping with you. I cannot believe that it’s such an ordeal for me to order online. I cannot believe that there is not a better system in place for fraud victims. Is it not possible to close my account and allow me to open a new one? Obviously not.

Don’t worry about passing on my order to billing. I placed my order elsewhere. Thank God for eBay.

I was shocked when an email showed up just a few moments later. I was almost impressed, until I read it.

Ashley, We are very sorry your order was canceled. We have escalated the matter of your account/order cancellation issue to our Billing Department for reconsideration.  We do apologize for any frustration in the matter, and ask that you allow 2-3 business days for the department to review the request.  After the timeframe has passed, please contact us to follow up on their decision on reconsideration.

Due to your order being canceled, the authorization hold will be released within 3-5 business days depending upon your financial institution.  Please contact your financial institution for information regarding their authorization policy.

 If we have not fully answered your question or you have additional questions, please reply to this email.

 Sincerely,

Walmart.com Customer Care

Well, that pretty much pissed me off. They didn’t even read my complaint, obviously.

Wait…what? Did you even read my email?

 I specifically said that I have an issue with the fact that it will take two-three days for Billing to “consider” letting me order. And what did you say?

“We have escalated the matter of your account/order cancellation issue to our Billing Department for reconsideration.  We do apologize for any frustration in the matter, and ask that you allow 2-3 business days for the department to review the request.”

 And THEN, I asked “how I would know when the issue was resolved, and she told me I would have to call. Well, I’m sorry, but I don’t have endless amounts of time to sift through your automated system only to be told that the issue isn’t fixed. (The only reason I was able to spend THREE hours on this yesterday is because I was home sick from work.) I asked if I could be notified via email or phone when I would be able to order, and was told that a note would be made on my file, but no guarantees.”

And now, you have so helpfully told me “After the timeframe has passed, please contact us to follow up on their decision on reconsideration.”

THAT WAS MY WHOLE POINT. I DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THAT. The least you could do, after making me wait THREE days, is to send me an automated email telling me that my account is active again!

And then, another helpful statement from you: “Please contact your financial institution for information regarding their authorization policy.”

Uh, I already contacted my bank yesterday, and they said this is on YOU. Not them. YOU.

 I also, very specifically, said “Don’t worry about passing on my order to billing. I placed my order elsewhere. Thank God for eBay.”

YOU are the ones that have frozen my account and made it impossible for me to order from you.

 I know that my $45 order means nothing to you. Or the several hundred dollars that I spend each month on groceries and dog food and baby formula and diapers. In the grand scheme of things, my business means jack to you. But I’ve got numerous people on facebook that are keeping up with this little exchange. And a lot of them have already weighed in on how bad this customer service situation is. And the fact that you very obviously didn’t take three minutes to actually read my problem before sending me your scripted response, well…that doesn’t affect my opinion of you very much.

Thanks for nothing.

Well, that certainly lit a fire under them:

Hi Ashley,

 Thank you for contacting Walmart.com regarding placing orders on Walmart.com.

 Ashley, we sincerely apologize for any inconvenience you may have experienced while attempting to place your order on Walmart.com. We are happy to inform you that our Billing Department has provided us with the feedback of their research. They have advised that all issues with placing your order have been resolved and you should be able to successfully place your order. Ashley, your satisfaction is truely important to us and while we strive to deliver the best experience possible, we apologize that certain conditions sometimes prevent that from happening.   

 If we have not fully answered your question or you have additional questions, please reply to this email.

 Sincerely,

Walmart.com Customer Care

So basically, it’s a LIE that it takes Billing two to three days. Because they just did it in like, 15 minutes. Oh, and you misspelled “truly”, genius. Apparently Walmart doesn’t have spellcheck.

And the final exchange:

GEE, thanks.

Considering I already placed my order with eBay.

YESTERDAY.

Now I’m just wondering if they’re somehow going to push my order through anyway, and charge me for it. Wouldn’t that be nice? Something tells me that Canaan doesn’t need duplicates of his Halloween costume.

I know this isn’t my typical blog, but you know, sometimes a gal just needs to vent. And spread a little smack talk about Walmart. It’s time to share the wealth at Target a little more often.

Update: Now I get emails from Walmart.com on a regular basis, informing me that I’ve left an item in my shopping cart. You think? It’s going to stay there…forever.

Fear dot mom

I’ve always heard people say they would die for their child. My mom has told me repeatedly that until I had children, I would never understand her love for me. Now I do.

My little family was on the way home from dinner earlier this evening, and at the last major intersection before our house, a truck barreled through the red light, and in a hail of smoke and screeching tires, narrowly avoided hitting our car. It took a few minutes to sink in, but when it did, I was overcome with tears and the realization that I would never forgive myself if something happened to Canaan while I was driving, my fault or not.

A few miles down the road, I mentioned to Justin that I would like to go back and find that driver and give him a piece of my mind. (I think my actual phrasing was, “I’d like to find that driver and kick his ass.”

Because seeing my sweet baby’s sleeping face in the rearview mirror tonight made me realize how much our lives have changed in the past six months. Of course, I always look out for my baby first. His needs are always more important than mine, even if my bladder is full to bursting and he has an entire bottle left to finish. When he spits up everywhere, I wipe HIS face first, and then my shoulder.

I make certain that his clothes are clean, his britches are dry, he’s eating the right foods at the right time, and that he’s properly and educationally entertained. He is my number one, he is my everything. Justin and I have proudly added a new little member to Team Orf, and now we have two coaches and one player. As God is my witness, our son will never go without, no matter what we have to sacrifice.

That battered old truck on Highway 20 opened my eyes tonight and taught me something: I would die for my husband. But I would kill for my child.

And I hope Canaan knows that his mom and dad are always ready and willing to go to battle for him.