wan-na find something?

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

a little kindness goes a long way

on sunday, we were invited to join my co-leader, her family and a couple of friends to celebrate her daughter's birthday at universal studios.  since she and the bean have both been reading the first harry potter book, they wanted to check out harry potter land together.  and so the bean busted out her wand and a robe i found on amazon and we headed out to universal city.

because the bean wanted to ride to the park with her friends, the old lady and i dropped her off at my co-leader's house.  and i somehow managed to lose the bean's season pass, so we went on ahead so that we could get a replacement and hopefully not hold up the rest of the party when they got there.

we got there not too long after they opened, so the line at the box office wasn't too bad.  we even ended up with some extra time to look around citywalk a bit.

the girls were all pretty excited to spend the day together.

i keep cracking up at the person in the background of our selfie.

while the rest of the group went for a restroom break, the old lady and i happened to walk by the lunar new year celebration.

harry potter land was pretty crowded.  and it was an unusually warm day.

i do love the details and the theming in all of the shops and things in this area.  it's all just so well done.  here's where the birthday girl picked up her fancy gryffindor robe, complete with a special little pocket to hold her wand.

the simpsons area is really cute too.

tram tour time!

it was fun to see parts of the sets for "hairspray live" and one of our favorite shows, "the good place."

the bates motel always creeps us out (obvs).

between all nine of us, we rode everything in the park - the mummy ride, jurassic park, transformers, both harry potter rides, minion mayhem...it was all super fun.

it was after riding the transformers ride that one of the girls realized that her wand was missing.  we backtracked and tried to find it based on when she remembered having it last, but it was nowhere to be found.  my co-leader said "well, i still have my receipt...let's go back to the wand store and see if there's anything they can do."  and so back to ollivanders we went.

the cashier listened to the story, but said that there wasn't any particular policy in place for wands lost in the park.  she offered to get a manager to talk to us and see if there were any other options, and while the manager didn't have any other solutions she did offer to call guest relations to see if anyone had happened to turn in a wand within the last hour or so.

as we waited for her to come back, another customer in the store who had apparently overheard the sad tale approached my co-leader and told her that he wanted to buy a replacement wand for the little girl who'd lost hers.  just out of nowhere, a total stranger, a complete random act of kindness that touched all of us and reminded us that there is still good in the world.  and so he walked them over so that she could pick out a new wand, took it up to the register and paid for it, and then handed the bag to her with a smile and said "here you go, and enjoy the rest of your evening."  amazing.

and wouldn't you know it...two seconds after all that happened the manager returned with a big grin and announced "i have fantastic news for you!  guest relations reports that a hermione granger wand was returned just a little while ago, and i've already let them know that you're going to head over there and pick it up."  so someone found the wand (or A wand, who knows if it was actually the same one or not), picked it up and instead of being all "welp! finders keepers, suckas" took it all the way up to the front of the park and turned it in to the lost and found.

my co-leader took the bag back to that kind stranger who was still in the store with his girlfriend, thanked him again and explained what had happened.  when i turned around i saw him hand the bag to his girlfriend, who gave him a giant hug and a beaming smile.  the whole thing was just so sweet and pretty much the most awesome way to end what had already been a pretty great day.

we took one more group photo on the way out:

grabbed some dinner, and then said our goodbyes and parted ways.

given all of the craziness and daily absurdities that are happening in our world today, it takes just one gesture out of the kindness of one's heart to help restore a little faith in humanity.  and so when things like that happen, it seems only right to pay it forward.  as much as being the recipient of a nice gesture can touch you, it's even more rewarding to be the one to spread a little happiness.  something to keep in mind, right?

Monday, January 30, 2017

half day at school = disneyland

since parent-teacher conferences started last week, the bean's school operated on a half-day schedule on thursday.  and with a birthday party to attend this weekend, we decided to head out and do a little shopping for a gift.  she already knew what she wanted to buy, and the sanrio store at ontario mills was the place to go.

after we grabbed lunch and relaxed at home for a bit, it was time for her weekly piano lesson.  it just so happens to fit right into the schedule for her sister to pick her up on her way home from work, and then as soon as they got home i grabbed a few things and got in the car.  no school on friday gave us a great opportunity to head to our favorite place for a few hours:

the main street electrical parade just returned to disneyland a week or so ago, and we wanted to see it.  i thought that maybe a thursday evening might be a good time to go - random weeknight, chilly weather, work and school night for most.  and of course i was proven totally wrong as we arrived and found ourselves waiting in some pretty long lines just to get into the parking structure.  guess everyone else had the same idea.  oh well.

as we made our way up main street and through fantasyland the sidewalks were fully lined with people who'd staked out a great spot to watch the parade.  i'd checked the app earlier in the day and found that wait times were really short for pretty much everything, but as the afternoon turned into evening and people got home from work and school they all streamed into the park. we headed over towards small world, where the parade begins, and found a spot on some stairs leading up to a platform where the overflow line is usually set up.  it wasn't the best spot and there were tons of people in front of us, but at least we were elevated a little and would get a somewhat decent view of the parade.

i remember watching this when i was about the bean's age.  it's bounced back and forth between disneyland and disney world in florida quite a bit since then, even making a brief appearance across the esplanade at california adventure for awhile.  since it left disneyland in 1996, the old lady's memories of it are only from the handful of times we've seen it at disney world, and the bean had never seen it at all.  when the familiar music started up, the nostalgia hit hard and i felt like i was a little kid again.

the parade hasn't changed a ton from what i remember.  they use a lot of classic characters like alice in wonderland, peter pan and tinkerbell.

elliot from "pete's dragon" was always my favorite float.  vintage, so adorable.

the patriotic float was always the closer.

the bean and i decided to share a turkey leg, while the old lady opted for a corn dog on main street.  i threw in a cream cheese-filled pretzel, which was surprisingly good, and that was dinner.  heh.  and despite the chilly temperatures, the girls talked me into getting them a couple of scoops at the gibson girl ice cream parlor.

being a thursday, the park closed at 9:00 that night.  it was kind of fun to hear the closing announcement over the loudspeaker as we headed towards the exit, since we don't often stay till they kick us outta there.

the main street electrical parade is at disneyland through june, so maybe we'll go back and stake out a good spot so we can have a better view of it one of these days.  that'll require a lot of patience and sitting on the ground for a couple of hours, but i'm thinking that snacks will make the time go by fast.

snacks always make everything better, don't they?

Friday, January 27, 2017

happy girl scout cookie season! NOT.

it's hard to believe, but it's almost girl scout cookie time again.  today we pick up our initial order of product to distribute amongst the 14 girls in our troop, and the official sale begins on sunday.

while i still love spending time with our girls, going on outings, helping them earn badges, doing all the fun stuff...cookie season only serves as a reminder of how disillusioned i am with girl scouts as an organization.  because it was about this time last year that my co-leader and i had our eyes opened in a pretty awful way as to how horribly run they are.

if you don't know anything about girl scouts, let me give you a little info.  troop leaders are all volunteers.  every troop is part of their local service unit, which is run by other troop leaders who hold positions like service unit manager, treasurer, school organizer, recorder, etc.  and then the service units all report to the council - in our case, girl scouts of greater los angeles.  the councils then report to girl scouts usa.  i think.  i don't honestly know the hierarchy past the council level, but whatever.  anyway, in order to become a troop leader you have to fill out all sorts of forms, go through a background check and endure hours of training.  you have one person designated as the 01, who's the troop leader, and then you have an 02 (this can be more than one person) as an assistant leader.  other troop volunteers can be designated as 03, blah blah blah.  you get it.

in december 2015, my co-leader (who was our 01) received a letter in the mail from GSGLA letting us know that our troop was being audited.  what they were looking for and what they needed us to do wasn't explained, and so in the holiday rush we just brushed it aside and figured we'd wait for further instruction.

it wasn't until we were in the middle of last year's cookie season that we finally heard again.  this time, they were asking us for information on how our troop funds had been spent...when we were daisies, which was the previous year.  still no indication of what they were looking for, and this time my co-leader contacted our service unit manager to see if she knew what was up. come to find out, she didn't even know that we'd been contacted for an audit at all and assured us that it must be random and that there was nothing to worry about.  so we gathered up the paperwork they asked for - bank statements, receipts, explanations of what was spent from the bank account.  mind you, we had already complied with the regular bi-annual troop financial reports that each troop is required by council to submit.

now, some of this is kind of fuzzy in my head because again - we were in the middle of the insanity that is girl scout cookie season.  i remember that we were asked to explain in more detail the expenses listed on our financial reports along with receipts from each and every transaction on the bank statements.  during our daisy year, we'd done our best to keep good records and hold on to everything that was related to the troop, and it was while we were trying to gather up the requested information that we of course found that there were some receipts missing.  but because we took pictures at every outing, we were able to provide them with photographic evidence of where the money had been spent and even which girls had been present for them.

more and more time went by and we heard nothing from anyone as to what was happening with this audit.  we'd ask our service unit manager, and she didn't have anything to report.  we'd try to get ahold of the woman at GSGLA who'd been requesting all of the information from us, and get no response.  and so we continued on with our year, figuring it must not be anything to worry about.  it wasn't until the school year was ending and we were getting ready to go on our disney cruise vacay when they finally decided it was time to return our calls and schedule a meeting.  psh.  as if we had time to deal with that shit then.  and so we told them we weren't available at that time and went on our vacation and had a great time.

when we got back, we found an email from GSGLA asking for a meeting.  so we pulled out our calendars, found a date that worked for all of us (including our service unit manager) and then in the 11th hour the GSGLA contact pulled out and asked to reschedule.  and now i don't remember why, but when the new date came my co-leader told me that she'd been told by our service unit manager (who all this time had continued to reassure us that it was no big deal) that i didn't need to attend as the 02.  okay, fine.  and when that morning came my co-leader came to drop something off and i asked her again if she wanted me to come with her, she said it was no big deal and not to worry and she'd fill me in afterwards.

YOU KNOW i totally regret not just jumping in that car and going along with her anyway.  because what ended up happening could pretty accurately be described as an ambush.  they interrogated her about each and every expense from the previous year's troop funds, and the meeting took on somewhat of a hostile tone when there were things that she either didn't remember or couldn't produce a receipt for.  not to mention, they questioned her about why i wasn't at the meeting and basically insinuated that i had left her out to dry and wasn't there to support her and obviously could not be trusted.  apparently there were some questions about "missing money" from our bank account that our paperwork and receipts and financial statements couldn't answer, to the tune of a couple of thousand dollars.


they showed her some spreadsheets or some sort of paperwork with numbers on it that supposedly showed where the discrepancy was, and because she was so frazzled and blindsided she wasn't able to fully take in the information that was being thrown at her.  they wouldn't let her have a copy to take with her and the confusion and anger she was feeling didn't allow her the presence of mind to take a picture of it.

a few weeks later, after we'd attempted for a third time to find information backing up this alleged missing money and where it might have gone, we were requested to attend another meeting at GSGLA.  this time, you know i for damn sure was there.  even the old lady, who was our 03, volunteered to come, but we decided we could handle it and headed on out.  that room may as well have been pitch black with a spotlight shining on the two of us, because it sure felt like we were being interrogated by the police.  we were questioned again about the supposed missing money, and all we could do was answer those same questions with the same answers we'd given all along.  all of our income during our daisy year had come from dues and the cookie sale, and all of our expenses were recorded along with photographic evidence that apparently wasn't good enough.  when my co-leader asked if she needed to hire an attorney, there was some reference to "no, but other leaders have been arrested for smaller dollar figures."  our service unit manager, who'd been so supportive and encouraging, turned into a whole different person who apparently decided that nothing we said was true and we were obviously not individuals worthy of being trusted with anything.  and yet when i asked for numbers, evidence, spreadsheets, anything that would show me this money that was apparently missing and obviously squandered by me and my co-leader...they didn't have it to show me.  it was an ugly, ugly hour during which i literally wanted to throw things.

the final outcome?  my co-leader was removed as 01.  we were to find someone else to be our 01, and we needed to have parent volunteers who are registered as girl scout adults with cleared background checks to handle the bank account.  i decided to step down as 02, not wanting to have anything to do with girl scout leadership at that point, and after a lot of reorganizing and discussion we ended up with the old lady as our official 01 and one of our trusted parents as the 02.  now, had i wanted to be the 02, i wouldn't have been allowed as the 01 and 02 can't live in the same house.  why?  i don't know.

we had to come together for one final meeting to inform them as to how we'd decided to reorganize the leadership of our troop.  this time, the old lady came and got to see for herself how incredibly unorganized, hostile and fucked up the whole situation was.  it was a tense, uncomfortable meeting and at the end we were told that the audit was being closed despite the fact that we hadn't come to an actual resolution.  the supposed missing money was going to remain missing, and our troop would forever be under a microscope and be watched closely from then on.  sounds fun, right?

this means that the old lady has had to be present at each and every one of this year's meetings.  and the two of us can't be the only adults at any girl scout outing, because apparently we can't be trusted together and obviously would be touching the girls inappropriately or some shit.  now, as far as the girls are concerned nothing has changed.  all of this bullshit has taken place and we have done everything to make sure that they didn't notice a thing.  we did get all of our parents together and told them everything, though, so that they would know what had changed and why, and because they are rational, normal human beings they did nothing but rally around us, supporting us and raising fists at the insanity of GSGLA.  my co-leader and i still do the majority of the work in regards to the meetings and organization and such, but we've also started assigning jobs to our parents to ensure that we aren't the ones solely responsible for every aspect of the troop anymore.  it's worked really well so far, and the girls are still enjoying their meetings and the time we all spend together.

but as for cookie season?  well, while the manual says that we can't force anyone to sell cookies we also don't have the option to opt out of sales either.  and so when it came time to place our starting inventory order, we went with a very low number.  we sold almost 6,000 boxes last year, with five girls in the 500 club - this year, we placed an order for just 80ish cases of cookies.  with 12 boxes in each case, that gives the girls roughly 60 boxes each to sell.  we aren't doing any cookie booths and we aren't setting any crazy goals.  you know why?  for each box we sell for $5, our troop gets $.95.  the rest of that goes to the girl scout organization.  NINETY-FIVE CENTS OUT OF FIVE DOLLARS.  and in the case of our gluten-free and the new s'mores flavors, it's out of SIX dollars.  so last year, we raked in approximately $30K in cookie sales, which means the girl scouts took over $24K.  sure, that means we had almost $6K for our girls, which is a lot of money.  but the notion of pimping out little girls to make a shitton of cash for an organization that is so unorganized and poorly run, who treats their volunteers like shit, and doesn't always look out for the best interests of the girls?

bull. shit.

so yes...we are still girl scouts.  we are still having a blast with our girls.  and we are selling cookies starting sunday.  we still appreciate all of the support we get from our friends and family when we sell GS products.  but are we still RAH RAH YAY GIRL SCOUTS ARE AWESOME!??

that would be a heeeeeeelllllllll NO.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

more hugs, less guns

every day on the way to school, the bean and i have a good 10-15 minutes together.  some days she'll crack open the book she's reading, on other days we'll sing along to whatever's playing on the radio, sometimes we'll just chat about what's going on that day and whatnot, or if she has a test coming up we'll go over the material one last time.

we listen to ryan seacrest's radio show every morning.  i mean, you know how much i love me some seacrest, right?  anyway, we happened to tune in yesterday when they started discussing that day's news headlines.  the topic of the wall came up, and when they moved on to the next thing she expressed her dismay over what she understood the purpose of that wall to be.  she's asked me before if that meant that her friends were going to have to go to another school and told me that she was worried about them.  sigh.

she'd aced a pretty big social studies test last week where they'd learned about some basics - the concept of government, the declaration of independence, the constitution, you get the gist.  and so we started discussing things like freedom of speech, citizenship, immigration, freedom of the press...and then i asked her if she knew what the right to bear arms was.

"that's about hugs, right mom?" she said.

oh, my sweet girl.  i told her that i much preferred her interpretation, and then explained what it really was about.

is there a bubble i can get to keep her in for a while?  i just want her to stay this innocent and optimistic for as long as possible.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

random weekend roundup

as for the rest of our weekend - well, it was pretty awesome.  we got a break in the rain on saturday, which worked out perfectly for a birthday party for one of the bean's friends.

and then we continued the fun later as we put up the tent in the office again and had a sleepover.

the next morning, i headed off to finally take a sunday morning barre class.  with new management at the studio, they started offering sunday classes and this was the first time i'd been able to get out there to take one.  when i got back, we made some waffles and that was pretty much the extent of my activity of the day.  after her friend got picked up, we just hung out and enjoyed lazing around the house while the rain pounded the ground outside.

i did manage to do one more thing, though.  in my first attempt to fulfill my "sew 3 things per week" goal, i cut out some sweater knit and made myself a new top.

oh, and my co-leader managed to score us a couple of upgrades to our die cutting machines at a super deep discount thanks to the clearance table at a local craft store.  we were both pretty excited for the wider cutting area, and so now instead of the silhouette portrait, which offered a letter paper-sized cutting mat, we've got the silhouette cameo.  the machine comes with a 12" x 12" mat, although i know there's a 12" x 24" available too.

when i opened my box, though, i realized why it'd been on clearance - it had obviously been purchased, used like crazy for a time, and then repackaged and returned.  i mean, look at this shit - there are FOOD STAINS crusted on it.

and the blade, instead of being packaged separately, was already installed.

oh, oh, oh - and the last telltale detail?  the cutting mat was all chopped up and still had pieces of leftover weeded paper stuck to it.

after i got over my annoyance, i cleaned it up, plugged it in and gave it a test run.  all of the pieces listed in the manual were in the box, it worked just fine, and i had gotten it at less than half of the original retail price.  not to mention, it's likely an as-is sale anyway.  and so now it's found its home on my desktop, waiting to be used and abused.

oh, don't you worry, silhouette cameo.  it's coming.

squeezing in all the sightseeing

this was our NYC home for a whole week: it was one of only a few hotels that i could find that offered two beds in a room rather than, say, ...