Archive for Travel

Third Time Burn

Why not? Tell me. Why not?!?

So, I own an independent retail store.  And I personally choose and order all the stuff I sell.  That makes me a “Buyer”.  (I only know that because it’s what my name tag says when I go to trade shows.)  Big giant chain stores have professional Buyers.  Buying is their job.  They went to school for marketing.  They know spending trends.  They track market demographics and geographical trends and make quarterly buying decisions a year in advance blah blah blah.

I run a small independent business.  I wash dishes and balance checking accounts and shovel snow and pour whole milk into sippy cups.  When I get a chance, I do some “market research”:  I talk to moms.  I surf the web.  I talk to other business owners.  In my own way, I am a Professional Buyer.  In my years of Professional-Buyer-Awesomeness, I have learned many things.  I have learned these things in My Own Way.*

Yet, some things I apparently refuse to learn.  Ask my staff.  They almost refuse to let me go to buying shows any more.  Last time, they made me bring my mom and TWO sisters with me as a safety net.  And my team did talk me down from some seriously ill-advised new products.  There are certain products that just won’t sell.  But that I just will not give up.  So, I’m throwing this blog out there so all you readers will hold me accountable.  I need to stop buying…….

1. Shoes (specifically SeeKaiRun)

2. Clothing (specifically Zutano)

3. Diaper Bags (specifically ANY)

There I said it.  These things do not sell. At least not in my store.  No matter how much I want them to sell.  No matter how awesome they are.  No matter how pretty they look against my brick wall.  I can’t sell them.  Professional Buyers learn their lessons the first time.  I learn my lessons the third time.  (The “charmed” time, if you will.) Why don’t they sell?  They don’t sell because my customers are thrifty and they are smart.  My store is not a boutique or a high-end registry store.  My store is more like a hardware store.  I pride myself in having really useful, really high-quality, really important baby products.  I stock things that moms tend to buy for themselves, because they need them.  And they know it.  You people are thrifty.  And you are smart.  Smarter than me, apparently.  If you want fancy expensive clothes and designer diaper bags, you will find them in Excellent Used Condition on Craigslist.  I love that about you.  You people use cloth diapers, for goodness sake!  You don’t want $45 booties for your pre-walker.  I know this.  But I forget…….

OMG!!!!!!!!! LOVE!!!!!!!!

I came home from the last trade show with a huge order for Newborn clothes from Zutano and a strong (but unconvincing) argument for why THIS time would be different from the first time.  And second time. That we got burned on Zutano.  Dang, I love Zutano.  SO SO SO cute.  And, when you go to the trade shows, their booth is so pretty and colorful and welcoming and they play nice music and they serve ham and brie crostini and brew espresso right there for you and offer you a chair and you’re so tired from walking and…………..see what I mean?   They get me every time.  I love Zutano.  You love Zutano too.  But you don’t come in to Mom and Pop Place to buy Zutano.  You need Snot Suckers and giant nursing bras.  That’s cool.  We’re not a fancy boutique.  We don’t want to be a fancy boutique.  We want to offer useful, quality products we can vouch for.  I can vouch for Zutano.  That stuff is adorable and solid.  It will last you through 14 children.  You will cry over the cuteness.  But the outfit is $56.  You will also cry over the price.  I can’t, in good conscience, suggest to your mother-in-law that she buy you that size 0-3 month outfit for $75, when I really think she should get you a Moby and a Sophie Giraffe.


You should ask my staff about SeeKaiRun shoes.  I love those shoes.  But, like I said, third time’s a charm.  Or a curse.  If you’re gonna sell $45 shoes, you have to have every size and every style and every brand.  Oh well.  We still get the catalogs.  I like to wander around the store holding the SeeKaiRun catalog to see how long it takes before a staff member rips it out of my hand.  Cute.

Diaper bags still mystify me.  I’m having a harder time letting go of diaper bags.  We should be able to sell diaper bags right?  Well we can’t.  But we should, right?  Right?!  That third time was close.  We did sell a few.  And, when we clearanced them out, they sold out in 1 day.  (See, you people are smart.  You’ll wait for the sale.)  It was the Third Time Burn………….But, since then, four people have stopped in asking about those diaper bags we used to have.  Wishing they would have bought one when they saw it.  Wondering when we will get more.

These people are not helping.  My resolve is slipping.  Maybe I need to bring back diaper bags.  Maybe THIS TIME will be different.  Fourth time’s a charm, right?

*”My Own Way” is to repeatedly buy large lots of ill-advised things on impulse only to regret them the moment that arrive by UPS and then try to talk them up on Facebook only to end up marking them 70% off and finally throwing away the remaining items just so I could stop them from taunting me from the back of the store.


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I think that most parents have a special little song they sing with their children.  Maybe it’s a tune they made up using their baby’s name, maybe it’s a favorite soothing lullaby,  maybe it’s a silly song they learned as a child themselves.  I know that my husband,  Shiloh, and I had a very special song that we sang to our oldest son, Solon.  We started before he was even born and we continued well into the preschool days.  It was always the same song that would soothe his boo-boos and help him fall asleep and ease the pain of long car trips……….a tender, heartfelt lullaby:

“The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers.

See, nothing says “Parents of The Year” like a lullaby that includes a dozen references to illegal gambling, glorifies whiskey-drinking,  and fondly recalls someone dying in his sleep.  Aaaaah, the golden memories of childhood………..

It all started in a moment of pre-natal, hormone-induced weepiness.  I was reading a baby book one night (like every night the previous 16 months) when I realized, in a rush of horror,  that my husband was not  bonding with our fetus!  He couldn’t know the beauty and awe of growing a brand-new human being inside yourself!  He didn’t get to share the kicks and hiccups that were an endearing reminder of the bond I shared with our unborn child.  He didn’t even get to experience the vomiting and heartburn that made the whole thing so magical.  So, I turned to him in tears and loudly cried, “You never sing to the baby!”  At which point, I dissolved into ugly sobs of accusation.

Shiloh sighed and gave me a loving look pf patient bewilderment.  His smile said “I love you, crazy woman.” but his eyes said “I have no idea what’s happening right now.”  Anyway, he weighed his options, took a deep breath, leaned in towards my huge belly, and started singing…………”On a warm summer’s eve, on a train bound for nowhere………”  And he proceeded to sing the entire song, verses, chorus, and all.  It was the most beautiful thing I ever heard.  You have to remember, Shiloh is the least musical person I have ever met.  I don’t even know how we ended up together.  He can’t clap the beat to a song even if I hold his hands and clap them for him.  He constantly leaves my car radio tuned to a country station.  And he knows the words to exactly 3 songs:

1. The Gambler

2. Amen (which technically only has one word)

3.  Silent Night

(He thinks he knows the words to “On Wisconsin” too, but you really only need the first four words to this song, the rest is just fist-pumping.)

So, the fact that he choose The Gambler to be Solon’s theme song is no real commentary on his feelings about impending parenthood.  It was the most appropriate song he knows.  And it’s beautiful.  We sang it to Solon each night before he was born and we sang it at the hospital on his first day of life.  I rocked him to sleep hundreds of times with that song.  I could feel his tense little body melt into my arms every time I started singing.  I would sing the song at the top of my lungs as he screamed in his car seat on long trips.  The Gambler was HIS song.  We tried using it on Gage a few years later, but it backfired.  Cuz every time I tried to sing Gage to sleep with it,  Solon would join in loudly from the other room and scare the baby.  So Gage got a rotating succession of Indigo Girls tunes for his lullaby.

Anyway………..the boys got older.  My hormones let up.  Naptime become a non-battle.  Gradually The Gambler faded out of use.

But earlier this summer, as my extended family sat around the campfire at the lake house, Shiloh started singing The Gambler.  Loudly.  It was totally out of the blue.  (Actually, it was out of a woodsmoke and beer-induced spiral descent into well-deserved vacation mode).  The adults all smiled, remembering nostalgically those baby days.  The days of walking the floors with a feverish baby or rocking a little one to sleep when the rest of the world was already sleeping.  But, by the time Shiloh had reached the first chorus that night by the campfire, Solon had joined in!  I think he surprised himself by knowing all the words to a song he doesn’t ever remember hearing.  It triggered something buried deep in his 10-year-old memory.  He had that same bewildered look on his face of “I have no idea what’s happening right now” that Shiloh gave me all those years back.

Shiloh and Solon went on lie together in the hammock and sing the song at least 20 more times at the top of their lungs.  I’m sure all the lake neighbors appreciated it.  I don’t know because I went to bed after the second round.  But the fact that I could sleep with all that howling going on speaks to the power of The Gambler………

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Life Lessons Learned

Try to ignore the flat screen above the door. We did.

My family and I just got back from our Ramos Road Trip 2010.  I wanted to take the kids to the Rockies, but we decided that was just too much driving (thanks Laureen).  Instead, we drove south through Illinois and Indiana and camped in the woods of Kentucky for 4 nights.  Ok,  so our “camping” involved hot running water and Direct TV.  But I know you would never judge me for that.  It did involve unpleasant smells and vermin, so it was almost like real camping.

I like vacation.  I like it for the obvious reason that it’s a chance to rest and relax. (Although, despite practice, I’m not very good at either of those things.)  But I mostly like our vacations as a chance to build memories and to learn things about your country and about yourself.

Our cabin came with the important essentials.

You learn about history and geography when you stop at State Historical Sites.  But you also learn a lot about humanity by stopping at scary Interstate truck stops.  And by (accidentally) stopping in Gary.  These are the life lessons I take away from vacations.

The view from our hotel.

1. I learned that every bad thing I have heard about Gary, Indiana is true.  My apologies to Michael Jackson and anyone else from Gary.  What an  indescribably depressing place.  We accidentally stopped there at 10PM on our drive south.  The hotel desk clerk warned us not to leave anything in our car overnight “cuz someone stoled his shotgun right out his truck last night.”

2.  I learned that here are a shocking number of McDonald’s between Wisconsin and Kentucky.  And we actually stopped at a shocking number of McDonald’s (9) on our 6-day trip.  Don’t judge.  A girl needs coffee.  And southwest chicken salad.

3.  I learned that Neenah really needs a Chick-fil-A.  But not a Waffle House.

I swear we didn't actually eat this. I just took a picture in the camp store.

4.  I learned that there exist entire “dry” counties where you can’t buy alcohol.  And that these counties are usually very large and not worth driving out of at 9PM to get a beer.  Except on your 4th night of camping and eating camp food.

5. I learned that Kentucky has a confused time zone identity.  Whatever time zone Kentucky is in,  Louisville is in a different time zone.  Mammoth Cave National Park has tons of signs warning us that it is in Central Time Zone.  Which we thought we were in already.  I asked the worker at our campground what Time Zone we were in .  He said he didn’t know.  So, I asked him what time it was.  He said he didn’t know.  I left it at that.  The clock at the Ranger Station said 5:20.  My iPhone said 6:20.  The clock in our cabin said 3:47……..

6. I learned that 6-year-olds only care a little bit about the Civil War.  And that 9-year-olds do not care at all about the Civil War.  People in their 30’s are newly fascinated by the Civil War.  And people in their 90’s that you meet in the parking lot stopped caring either way about that war.

I had to bribe him with chicken McNuggets to get him to smile. But he's 9 and it's a Civil War mural, so this was the best he could do.

The Green River through Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky.

7.  I learned that Kentucky is really beautiful, with green rolling hills and a rich, fascinating history.  Wisconsin is beautiful too.  The more I travel, the more I appreciate Wisconsin.   Indiana is….. meh.  Indiana does have a lot of windmills.  And colleges.  I guess Indianans aspire to bigger, more beautiful things……..

8.  I learned that Subey-stores are worth 20 points and that Subey-commercials are worth 10 points.  This is VERY important.  And watch out for pseudo-Subey-stores.  They’ll wipe you out.  (See previous blog post.)

8.  I learned that sometimes the best part of going on vacation is the drive home.

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Last summer, the Ramos family got a new family truckster.   I introduced Lucy the Subaru in a blog post.  Turns out, the name “Lucy” didn’t stick.  We call her “Subey”.  Subey rocks.  (Especially after that new head gasket….but that’s a whole other blog post.)

Once we got our Subaru, we started seeing Subaru’s everywhere!  I can’t believe I never noticed how many Subaru wagons are in this town!  I’ve counted at least 3 bajillion.  My kids love their Subey so much that they started calling out every time they saw another Subaru.  They’d scream “SUBEY!”.  Since my kids are ruthlessly competitive, they immediately turned a simple drive into a brutal contest.

The game SUBEY was born.  It’s kinda like “Spud” or “Punch Buggy”, except we’re looking for Subarus instead of VWs.  In the original version of this game, you would call out “SUBEY” and punch your competitor in the arm every time you saw a Subaru.  The referee (me) quickly called a moratorium to the punching.  Authorized violence is way more than my boys can handle.  Things were getting out of hand.

Along the way, SUBEY has evolved a complex set of rules:

1. The SUBEY in question must be in sight of the caller and must be verified by at least one other competitor.

2.  Competitors may call their own SUBEY but only if they are on their way to get into said SUBEY.  (You may not call your own SUBEY every time you pass your own driveway.)

3.  Competitors may call the same SUBEY more than once in a trip but only if said SUBEY leaves our sight and then comes back into our sight. (This comes in handy for the 2 Outback Wagons that live on our street.  We can call them both coming and going.)

4.  If you call SUBEY on a vehicle that turns out not to be a Subaru, you are penalized for a Pseudo-SUBEY.  You do not lose points since the shame is penalty enough.  (Usual culprits: Hondas, Volvos, Audis, and an occasional Ford wagon.)

5.  If you successfully call a silver or gray SUBEY, you get double points for a Silver-SUBEY.

SUBEY is a really fun game.  And totally exhausting.  You never get a break.  If you’re out of the house, you’re playing SUBEY.  You never know what’s gonna drive by the house.  My 6-year-old, Gage, rocks at SUBEY.  He is, far and away, the most observant family member.  He spots sleeping owls hiding in treetops.  He spies hot air balloons 100 miles away.  And he successfully calls SUBEYS obscured by lilac bushes, parked behind garages, and driving the opposite way on an 8-lane highway.  He scores SUBEYs when the rest of us forgot we were playing.  It seriously stresses out my 9-year-old, Solon.   He wants to take a time out from the pressure of SUBEY.  But he can’t as long as someone else is playing.  And Gage is always playing.  Solon tries to get us to agree to a break.  Or to agree not to call our own SUBEY.  But it never works.

SUBEY is impossible to stop.  I call SUBEYs all the way to work every morning.  By myself.  On my bike.  Out loud.  It makes me smile and think of my kids.  And wish they were with me.  So they could see me kick their butts at SUBEY.

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Look at me. I’m camping.

I did it.  I went camping.  It’s been a LONG time.  In fact, my kids have never been camping outside of my backyard.  We do have a firepit and a big muddy backyard, but it’s stretch to try and call it camping.   As a family, we love to hike and swim and have bonfires and get dirty.  But, after a few bad camping experiences early in my marriage, I was forced to enact the Great Camping Moratorium of 1999.  It decreed that Adria (that’s me) would not be spending the night in a tent or a car with Shiloh (that’s my husband) unless we were stranded on a distant highway or our house was very recently burned down.  I didn’t say that Shiloh could not go camping.  Just that I would not be going with him.  It sounds harsh.  But we had some rough camping trips.  One involved 4 bottles of Boone’s Farm wine, an angry park ranger high on his own power, and a silent drive home at 6AM.  One time,  Shiloh and I went to the Dells and actually forgot our tent.  I can see forgetting a can opener or a toothbrush, but the actual tent?  Each one of us blamed the other, but it was a joint effort in stupidity.  And a long long night in a small small car.

Anyway, the Great Camping Moratorium was only supposed to last 3 years.  I figured that by 2002 I would be ready to camp again.  But 3 years stretched into 10 years.  We had kids.  We stopped drinking Boone’s.  We bought a bigger car.  It seemed like the time was right to try again.  For the kids.  So last Friday, with a long vacation weekend ahead of us and no firm plans, we packed up the car and headed to Door County to do some camping.  We actually got a walk-in spot in Peninsula State Park and……we camped.  I think we did pretty good for our first time!  We remembered the essentials: matches, flashlights, tent, iPhone.  We did forget a few things: cooking pot, clothesline, can opener.  One of my kids  forgot his shoes.  Seriously.  How can you go anywhere, especially camping, and forget to wear shoes?  We bought him new shoes at the camp store but, as punishment, we chose him pink and lavender aqua socks.



We had a great weekend of hiking, reading, roasting marshmallows, and just enjoying Wisconsin.  I kept saying “Look at me!  I’m camping!”.  It was surreal.  I was surprised by how much fun I had.  I don’t hate camping.  But I do struggle to understand it.  Why is it fun?  That’s not sarcasm….I really want to know.  Why is it fun?  You work hard to pack up every single thing you need to enjoy the comforts of home.  Everything you would already have if you just stayed home.  You cram it in your car and haul it across the state, you set it all up, you get it all wet and dirty, you pack it all up again, you haul it home, you unpack it again to dry it off, and you pack it up one more time and put it in your basement.   Seems crazy when you look at it like that.  Most of the time, just living in my house is kinda like camping: the floor is covered in dirt, the bathrooms are kind smelly (I have boys), and you’re probably only getting hot dogs for dinner.

The day after the Great Door County Monsoon of 2010. Every single thing we brought was soaked. We hung it all up to dry. On a clothesline we had to buy at the camp store.

I can’t deny that I had a great time this weekend.  And I’m looking forward to our next trip!  We spent quality time together.  No TV, no grocery lists, no internet connection (I know because I checked my iPhone every 35 minutes just in case).  Who doesn’t love a bonfire at night?  And lying in a warm sleeping bag listening to the wind blow through the treetops?  I guess I don’t have to be able to explain camping to enjoy camping.  It is lots of work.  It is vaguely damp and smelly.  Yet, it is strangely rewarding.  It’s not logical, but it’s fun.  Just like life.

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Vegas Hits

These toddler-sized Play Packs are insulated to serve as lunch and snack bags! Perfect to carry your sippy cup or Laptop Lunch Box.

New Tub Toys from Alex Jr!  Cute toys for stacking, squirting, washing, and playing!

New Tub Toys from Alex Jr! Adorable washcloths, squirters, stackers, and tub mirrors are in stock now!

A new line of insulated, stainless steel drinking containers from Foogo (a division of Thermos).  Their line of sippy cups, toddler cups, and straw cups are all double-walled to keep drinks cool and inhibit germ growth.  All the tops are BPA-free and fully interchangable.

A new line of insulated, stainless steel drinking containers from Foogo (a division of Thermos). Their line of sippy cups, toddler cups, and straw cups are all double-walled to keep drinks cool and inhibit germ growth. All the tops are BPA-free and fully interchangable. Watch for Foogo next month.

The new Flip diapering system from Bumgenius is totally, well, genius.  Each diaper comes with a waterproof cover and the option to stuff it with a super absorbant cloth insert OR a biodegradable disposable insert.  You can flip between cloth and earth-friendly paper at any time!  Genius.  These diapers will be available the end of October.

The new Flip diapering system from Bumgenius is totally, well, genius. Each diaper comes with a waterproof cover and the option to stuff it with a super absorbant cloth insert OR a biodegradable disposable insert. You can flip between cloth and earth-friendly paper at any time! Genius. These diapers will be available the end of October.One of the world's smartest diaper companies has come out with a detergent perfectly formulated for cloth diapers! No more wondering if your detergent is right. Bumgenius detergent should be in stock in October.

The Ergo Baby Carrier is such a perfect product that the company doesn't usually have any improvements to announce!  They just keep coming out with new, fabulous colors and accessories.  This year's offering include this Sienna carrier and another style in light gray with embroidered stars.  Ergo also debuted a new infant insert to use with tiny babies.  We will have our new Ergo products in stock later this year.

The Ergo Baby Carrier is such a perfect product that the company doesn't usually have any improvements to announce! They just keep coming out with new, fabulous colors and accessories. This year's offering include this Sienna carrier and another style in light gray with embroidered stars. Ergo also debuted a new infant insert to use with tiny babies. We will have our new Ergo products in stock later this year.New dishes, cups, and silverware from Sugar Booger. My favorite: super-functional divided plates! These items are on the way for October!

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What Happens in Vegas…….

Las Vegas, here we come!!!!  Again.  Man, this is getting old.

I’m off to Vegas for the annual ABC Kids Expo, the biggest trade show for people (like me) in the baby products industry.   Everybody in the world who makes toys, diapers, bedding, car seats, baby carriers, books, or anything for babies sets up a fancy booth and tries to convince us specialty retailers that their product is THE one that will fly off our shelves year after year.  And we retailers play hard-to-get.  This is where I discover all the baby carriers, cloth diapers, and toys you love so much.  It’s my chance to see new products, visit with other retailers, and order fabulous new stuff for Mom and Pop Place!  And stay in a hotel.  Without my kids.  You know what I’m talking about.

This year, I’m taking my mom with me.  Awesome!  We’re gonna hit this town hard.  Until 8PM.  Then we’ll probably be pretty tired. This is work after all.  According to what my accountant tells the IRS, at least.

This will be my 3rd year attending the trade show.  It’s in Vegas every year.  Have you ever been to Vegas?  No?  Good, stay away.  It’s a terrible, terrible place.  It’s fun for about 12 hours then it eats away at your soul little by little.  Just the place for a baby expo!

Seriously, I am looking forward to this week though.  I love meeting new business people and getting new ideas for Mom and Pop Place.  There are over 800 companies exhibiting and over 1 million  square feet of exhibit space.  That’s a lot of walking.  All for you!  So we can bring you the best products at the best prices from the best companies.  Is there anything you want me to look for?  Let me know your thoughts!


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