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Have you ever wondered what a toddler can teach you?

It is true that you can teach a toddler a thing or two, or at least you can try. But the lessons you get from a toddler are priceless.

 

Here are some lessons, beyond the usual ‘sleep is priceless’ crap. It is true, though, that after having a kid, one starts wondering ‘what the heck was I doing with all the time i had before I had the kid’. But it is too late to wonder now, eh? :)

Lesson 1:  tantrums experience

Yea, yea, tantrums. Tons of literature, of course, everyone has their opinion on how to deal with them. Not a pretty sight at all. Right?

Well, wait a second. Look around your world and start counting the tantrums the grown-ups have. ‘I don’t want to do that’, ‘I don’t like this food’, ‘I am too tired’… in reality, the truth is, that grown-ups have not learned how to deal with tantrums, but have learned how to ignore them.

Well. This does not fly with a toddler. In a toddler tantrum situation you can’t ignore it – can’t really walk away, cant say ‘deal with it!’ and you can’t just do nothing. The only thing to remember is that you as a grown up have 20 – 30 more years of experience of throwing tantrums than your toddler. Good luck with that. Throwing a tantrum over a tantrum does not work. Repeat: does not work.

Lesson 2:  master of distraction

‘Oh, dear. You are playing with my phone. Oh look – a birdie! (gimme that thing NOW!)’.

Ha, good one. Mastering the art of coming up with distractions is crucial. Hundreds of times a day distractions will come handy. And sometimes they would wear off. So the set of distractions has to be carefully maintained, filtered, renewed.

But wait, this is not something you learn from a toddler. Distractions are a very common event in our lives. Whether it is us distracting ourselves from something important or unimportant, whether it is a distraction called to avoid another person’s opinion.. it is all there. Toddlers are probably a year away from mastering the art of distractions themselves.

Lesson 3: ‘do not trick the baby’, they say

Cheap trickery with babies is not always cheap. Let’s take this example of a toddler not wanting to eat. There you sit, with a spoon full of food – who knows what tasteless mush it is, anyway – and a toddler nodding their head in all directions. There are a few options, but you choose to find a way and shove the spoon in the toddler’s mouth somehow. Guess what’s next:

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaapppppchoeeeewwwwwwww!

And the food flies around and sticks to everything. You laugh like a madman. The baby wins the battle.

 

Lesson 4:  poo smells, farts are a bliss

It is what it is: the essence of human nature. Some even say it’s the meaning of life. In reality, toddlers are honest about it.  There is nothing wrong with going around farting. For all I know, i have seen toddlers propelled by farts and this way crawling or walking faster because of them.

Farts are fun, but every funny thing has to come to some grand finale. Poo smells. I wonder why does it have to. Wouldn’t it have been so much better if it could smell nice, or if it could be used as a fuel to take your car to work and back? But no, instead, it has to be a pile of useless crap. I protest! (And, for the record, i didn’t learn this from a toddler either. Mine smells way worse, but that is a whole different story.)

Lesson 5: if you didn’t know what that button does

It turns out that electronics have much more functionality than expected (probably more than even mentioned in the manual), and toddlers are there to show you. Every once in a while i find myself slapping myself on the forehead and saying ‘ha, i didn’t know this button turns on this feature of my tv! Nice!’. Or the phone. Or the washing machine.

Quite useful, really. Listen to the toddler. They may not be able to talk, but will certainly show you the way forward.

———————

Time to sleep now. Who has time for blogging…

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Funny enough, I am writing this at a Starbucks cafe. Some 7-8 years back I would have not even considered going in a Starbucks.

Many years back, as a broke student I was walking around a shopping plaza somewhere in SoCal, trying to solve permanently the immediate income problem I had at the time – by finding a job.
As I was walking between Target, Albertsons, Subway and Haircuts (a progressive haircut salon) I knew I wouldn’t work for most of the above but I also knew that I would if I had to.
Then I walked into a coffee shop. I had some experience of coffee making, I liked coffee.

So I got in and asked for a job application.
The manager at the time, Chris, seemed a bit puzzled, but asked me to sit at a table and came with a paper pad in a few minutes.
He gave me a job application form and asked ‘when can you start?’ I didn’t know what to say, but rolled ‘umm, right now?’ .

He smiled and said ‘how about tomorrow morning? Do you have some polo t-shirt and  black pants?’

‘no,’ I mumbled.

‘Then buy some and come tomorrow.’

I frowned a bit to myself – it was yet another catch 22 – I needed to find the money to buy these and I needed to buy these so I could have the money.

Chris sensed that and said ‘you can’t afford them?’

Then he opened his wallet, gave me a $20 bill and said ‘8 am tomorrow. You should shave.’

I got out quickly – it was one of those blurry feelings when you feel happy that things worked out and at the same time your ego feels a bit tarnished, but the former feeling prevails (poor people can’t afford too big of an ego anyway, so in the end it’s just a small tarnished dot).

As I got out, I read the sign “Diedrich’s coffee”. Hm. I knew NOTHING about it.

I did start work the next morning. At a minimum wage. But as a bonus I got to take the leftover pastries at the end of the day – mostly bagels and some scones, which as it turns out later on, contributed to my extra 10 kg I gained over some years.

Chris was extremely nice to me, and to all other people who worked there. Here is how the staff looked over the years: me – a very skinny eastern-European with a thick accent, 2 Mexican ladies, one very sour and almost growling Chinese guy, but he was the fastest guy working the espresso machine I have ever seen, and there were whole bunch of people who were coming and going every week or two. (people didn’t like working at coffee houses because you have to walk a lot, your hands get dirty and there are some really annoying customers, so most of the short-term employees were either some people in transition, trying to figure out their next job or some teenagers sent by their parents to get a first job)

The permanent staff, though, were mostly foreigners – whether legal or illegal and some of them had been there for years.

The Mexican ladies were nice – always chatty, always smiling, no matter what time it was – and yes they were coming to open the store every morning at 5.30.

One of them, the older one – she was in her 40’s and was raising a daughter as a single parent – had been faithful to the company for almost 10 years, until one day the INS decided to raid the coffee shop. At that time she was making a bit above minimum wage – about $5.30 or so per hour. One day, the manager called her in the back room and then she came out crying, picked up her bag and left. We didn’t know what happened until couple weeks later when she came to the coffee shop as a customer, sat at the side, smiled and said: “I got fired for not having legal documents, but now I am quite happy because I make $8 per hour and the restaurant down the street, without paying taxes.”

The people kept coming and going. Even the managers kept coming and going. The corporate office had this management bonus program, which stated that the managers get a big bonus only if the coffee shop was 10 or more percent more profitable compared to the year before. A lot of managers tried, and as a result, Diedrich’s coffee was hiring for new managers every year. I learned a valuable business lesson: if you set impossible goals you will annoy people.

It only got worse. The corporate was trying to test new drinks all day and to come up with 4 colorful adjectives describing each kind of coffee: nutty, berry, mellow, robust… Just get the dictionary and pick all nice sounding words, damn it – the customers could not care less about the adjectives. The customers wanted a quality, consistent product.

The corporate, in the end, needed a happy paying customer. As simple as that.

And the biggest profit margin possible, of course. But no, not so easy to do.

The company had some history – the Diedrich family owned their own coffee plantations since  1920s, Carl Diedrich was running around with his VW to South America and back and roasting coffee since the 60s, in the 80s the business picked up, in the 90s it went public… The roasting of the beans was great, the product was great, just the marketing and the business decisions were poor.

Starbucks, on the other hand, had terrible product, had no who knows what history and did not become popular until early 90s. And then it really persistently picked up. And eventually bought out the corporate owned Diedrich stores.

So, today I really had a classy experience at Starbucks. It is not about the product only. Their coffee was mediocre. But the service, the atmosphere, the cleanliness, the organization were top of the line.

So where did Diedrich’s go wrong? Was it the purchasing of the extremely expensive coffee grinders from the company which was owned by the owner’s brother? Was it the flow of new managers all the time? Was it the poor training of the staff and lack of coordination between the corporate and the poor workers?

I am sure that Starbucks must have faced the exact same problems. But they somehow managed to go through, even with a way worse product.

So, it is not about the product only. It is about the presentation.

 

 

 

 

 

It has been a while since I last blogged.

I have been busy, though. Got a young one. Or the micro-me, as another kid said once.

It is so not easy being a parent. It is not the smell – after 35 years, I am still working on refining my own smells; it is not the lack of sleep – sleep is overrated anyway, right; but it is the constant consideration. It is that sense of duty, I think, which has been so elusive for the past few decades.

And I am still waiting for the parental instincts to kick in. Go figure. I read in a book that “if you do not get your parental instincts by the time you have your third kid – just forget it. You will never get them.”

I guess we get better as we go. Who knows how my parents figured it out back in the day – they were 4 people and a baby in a one room house, which was not too much bigger than the chicken hut adjacent to it. And they had to work the next day. As my mom said “Well, I bought myself a snack on the way to the hospital and then I went and gave birth. Your dad had to go for a night shift. But he was the happiest the next morning. ”

Must have been tough – no diapers, no too much of hygiene, no fancy tools… Just some linen pieces for wrapping the baby and good faith… Blah. Brrrrrr. Scary.

The birth was interesting, though. My mom worked at an emergency room for some 20 years when I was a kid, and I used to spend plenty of nights in the back room during the night shifts. I have seen almost all – blood, guts, bones… I hadn’t seen birth.

Now I have. I was a bit worried that I was going to faint after a few minutes (I did faint about a year ago when a nurse was taking a blood sample). But I didn’t. I even managed to take a picture of the placenta. Due to a high demand I will not post the picture here.

It happened way too fast. In the afternoon we were joking with a friend of ours who had given birth a few months earlier that eating pineapple and walking on the stairs starts the labor. Hehehe, very funny – it actually turned out about right – or it is a coincidence. The baby was born some 15 hours after a can of pineapple and a short walk on the stairs.

Anyway, it still feels new. Every day is like it just happened just now…

We tried the baby gym, some trendy clothes, have been walking at least some kilometers every day, driving a lot because some days the baby does not want to sleep at home…

The cat is quite curious, and has been trying to smell the baby – by the way for now the cat is bigger than the baby almost 2 times…

And yes, we have been farting and burping together. Sometimes we even cry together. Watched the entire Roland Garros together. Got a brilliant book which we have been reading. “My Animals” by Xavier Deneux – it has some flow in it and some brilliance. I recommend it to most grown-ups as well. Many of the people I have met can actually learn something from it.

Anyway, these are some random thoughts.

Wish us luck! :)

 

When I was a teen I really liked to spend time at the music library and one of my favorite things was to ask for the score of a composition and to request all LP records they had of it. Then I would listen to the music and follow the score and compare the interpretation.
This was in the mid-90s in Sofia, Bulgaria.
Bulgaria in the mid-90s was one of those post-communist countries in the eastern block which had just emerged from the 40-something year totalitarian rule.
So, one day I had requested Mozart’s Coronation Mass in two versions – one record was recorded by the Bulgarian Symphony Orchestra and choir in the 80’s and the other record was by some german orchestra, also from the 80’s.
Even before I played the records I noticed that the German recording had the Coronation Mass on one side of the LP and on the other side there was some other music. And the Bulgarian recording had only the Coronation Mass on the LP.
So, I listened to both recordings, and I noticed that the Bulgarian recording was significantly slower, and most of it was full of those orchestral ‘deep breaths’, i.e. pauses between phrases and passages.
I went on being puzzled for a while, until a music teacher explained to me one day: “Well, you see, in the 80s there was only one orchestra which could have recorded this work. And at the time the musicians and the conductor were getting paid by the minute of recorded music. So, of course they would have recorded the music in much slower tempo.”
I guess this explains it.
I still remember the prolonged vowels of the choir – so prolonged at times that they were almost running out of breath. Kyyyyriiiieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.
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